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MCMM and Christ Covenant Church partner to restore Midland’s first Mid-Century Modern Church

MCMM and Christ Covenant Church partner to restore Midland’s first Mid-Century Modern Church

Mid-Century Modern Midland is proud to partner with Christ Covenant Church to launch a public fund-raising campaign to restore Midland’s first Mid-Century Modern Church.  By 1940, Alden B. Dow had already established himself as a leading architectural presence with over 53 structures to his name.  Having won a gold medal for his designs at the 1937 World’s Fair, Dow was recognized as one of the innovative architects defining a new American aesthetic in architecture and design that would become known as Mid-Century Modern.

Although Dow’s work in Midland up to this time was largely residential, he had designed other buildings such as the Midland Bandshell, the Biochemical Lab for The Dow Chemical Company, the Barrett School, Midland Hospital and his own home and architectural studio.  In February 1940, Dow was approached to design his first religious structure, the Reorganized Church of Latter-Day Saints located on the corner of Ashman and Mertz. The structure was designed in collaboration with some parishioners huddled around Dow at his drafting board.  They asked that their house of worship utilize natural and simple elements and would need to be a humble structure to fit their budget and their desire to do most of the actual construction themselves.

The elegant, rectangular, brick structure features three banks of floor to ceiling windows that are projected out from the building on each side of the sanctuary, connecting the congregation to the natural environment.  A low brick wall outlines the property and creates a buffer from the busy streets that surround it.  The interior, originally furnished with Dow designed furniture, is an open and adaptable space that accommodates several functions and activities.

Original Chimney and Chime Tower detail.
Chimney as it looks today.

The most prominent and sculptural detail of the structure was the original chimney.  It was designed to function as a “chime tower” to broadcast music as well as house a standard flue for the furnace.  A floating concrete pier was cantilevered atop three copper louvers, which served as part of the loudspeaker system, to ornament the chimney tower.  Several years ago, the projecting pier began to fail and the original owners removed it.

In 2019, Christ Covenant, the current and second owner of the building, was scheduling repair work to the chimney when Mid-Century Modern Midland approached them about the possibility of not only repairing the chimney, but also restoring the architectural detailing that once existed.  “We are happy to be working with MCMM to make the chimney safe and to preserve this important part of Midland’s architectural legacy,” said Pastor David Sarafolean.  The church has worked with McMillan and Associates to create the repair and restoration plan.

The church has completed other restoration efforts and is asking for assistance from the public to be able to complete the chimney project. “Donating to this project is a great way for everyone to be part of preserving and sharing one of the most identifying features of Midland, our architecture,” said Craig McDonald, MCMM founder.    Of the $50,000 needed to complete the project, we are hoping to raise $11,000 from a public campaign.”  The project has received grants from the Alden and Vada Dow Family Foundation and the Herbert and Grace Dow Foundation that total $30,000.

“This project, the first preservation partnership for MCMM.   Interest and desire to know more about these beautifully designed and built structures and to have access to them increases every day,” McDonald added.   “MCMM hopes to assist other Mid-Century public and religious structures as restoration is needed.  Although we just accept these 430 Mid-Century Modern Midland structures as part of our landscape, Midland is unprecedented with the predominance of one architectural style and the sheer number and quality of these original, one-of-a kind designs.”

The Christ Covenant Church Chimney Restoration Fund has been established at the Midland Area Community Foundation.  Those wishing to assist with the project can donate to the fund by accessing it online at https://www.midlandfoundation.org/fund/christcovenantchimney or by sending a donation to the foundation.

Preliminary sketch of the structure by Alden B. Dow, 1940
View of the church from Mertz Street soon after it was completed.
View of the church from Mertz Street today.

 

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