Monday, November 06, 2006

The Sunday School

My final comp over the Sunday school movement is complete! I think I did fine on it, as well. There were some good questions, and I find the Sunday school to be incredibly intriguing.

I'm especially interested in the architectural results of Sunday schools. After the 'Akron' style was passing, many churches began building classrooms directly off the main sanctuary (or, more properly, adjoining the nave) with sliding partitions, either coming down from the ceiling or out from the wall. Others built two large rooms, divisible by large partitions lowered from the ceiling, with a pulpit in the corner that would be viewable from both. Both of these were partially attempts to draw children into the main worship service of the church, rather than simply attending Sunday school.

Do any of you go to churches built like these? A great example is the Central Baptist Church in Atlantic Highlands, NJ (unfortunately with few pictures on their website, and none that show the architecture). What other ones are there? I saw a lot of pictures of various First Baptist Churches in a 1916 architectural manual. If anyone wants to send me a picture of your church built like these, I'd love it!
Here's a picture from the side of the Sunday school addition at the First Baptist Church of Hightstown to get you started! While it's not built using the ideas I was discussing (it has a separate Sunday school building, rather than classes adjoining the sanctuary), it's still a wonderful architectural example. It exemplifies some of the other classroom ideas, like small rooms, a large assembly room for "departmental work", and easy access from classes to the sanctuary.


Pastor Michael Jordan said...

Hi Lance--glad to hear your comp went well.

Sorry I don't have any pictures, but the Parkesburg Baptist Church in PA (near my home) is built this way. This is the church pastored by the legendary Bob Coats!

Bob stands on a corner of an L to preach--one branch of the L is the original sanctuary and the other branch has a balcony with classrooms in the upstairs. If I can track down pictures, I'll send them your way.

Congratulations on finishing comps--I'm so jealous. Maybe next November (sigh)...

millinerd said...

Coolest thing Lance: I was in Owen Sound, ON for Christmas Eve and visited a church that is an amazing example of the Akron plan:

Lance said...

There is one picture of the sanctuary at the bottom of that page. Are there better ones? I'd be interested to see why it's considered Akron. The description seems a bit vague. It's certainly beautiful on the outside!

millinerd said...

I'll see if I can snap some pics before I go. The pastor says it's ideal Akron because of the glorious inside, with the auditory layout and and the moveable doors.

millinerd said...

Check it out!

Lance said...

Thanks, millinerd!

David Shearman said...

I was a pleasure to discover millinerd's photo record of his visit to Central Westside at Chrostmas. He can thank his family for clueing me in. I'm the minister at Central Westside.

Central Westside is an Akron plan church, dedicated in 1911. We have a hand coloured post card of the church just after it opened (I have a scan of the card and can share it if anyone wishes) and the details have survived the last century remarkably well.

The Akron plan churches are reasonably uncommon in Ontario. They are mostly Methodist in origin (which became the United Church of canada in 1925 along with most of the Presbyterians and the Congregationlists).

We do not know the original architect. We know the contractor, but not eh designer. Curiously, the United Church in Meaford, Ontario, 15 miles east of Owen Sound, is of exactly the same design (though not as well preserved in the details). The only difference is that it is 2/3 the size of Central Westside! I actually get claustophobic when I go there, though I find it quite funny to find everything in the same place, right down to the washrooms!

This coincidence makes me think that there was a master catalogue of plans from which this church was designed. We know the details (cast caps pn support pillars for example) were catalogue items. Even the wood detail work is identical.

If there are questions about the church I would be only too happy to answer them. The exterior of the church is designated as a historic site in the city of Owen Sound.

Lance said...


Thanks for chiming in! Could you post a couple of things on the Akron Plan post (it's currently the top)?

I find your record of identical united Church (although 2/3 size) really interesting! I have seen architecture plan books, but I've never noticed two identical churches myself.

I do have two questions—through the sliding door to your left at the pulpit, what are the classrooms like? (I assume they are the classrooms through there). And, what's your pipe organ like? Maker? Stops? I'm our church organist, so that always interests me, too.

Thanks! Your church is beautiful. Oh, I thought of one other question. I would like to see your postcard, if it's easily available. Do you have any pictures of the interior as it was originally (assuming it was different)?

Anonymous said...

The classrooms have been filled in and the original two story classroom area has been made into a one story lower hall that opens onto the sanctuary and an upper hall that is lit beautifully through high windows with a north light. I can imagine how the original was, as it hasn't been changed at Meaford United Church.

The organ was originally a Woodstock, rebuilt by Keats in the 1930's and rebuilt again in the 1970's by Keats Geisler ( I don't have the details of the stops, but I can probably root them out. You can see a poor repro of the postcard here (

I have only seen one or two photos of the interior of the building. The details were slightly different, but much of the interior is largely intact, unlike Meaford, where they have removed the central pulpit and opted for a split pulpit on a lower platform. They have also redone their organ to allow for a moveable console. We are looking seriously at a new console, as the wiring in the current console is old and dates from the 1930's. But it's a CDN$50,000 job...