First Congregational Church

723 Court Street

 

Architecture:

    Style:                        Contemporary

    Description:              This is an asymmetrical structure consisting of a connected church, chapel, education center, and courtyard.  The unadorned walls are made of red brick, and the rooflines are flat.  An angled arch extends from the ground to the roof, framing the front doors of the church.  Rectangular colored windows fill the remaining space in the arch.  Farther from the street, the building widens in increments, the space being filled with narrow rows of colored glass from ground to roofline.  To the east of the church is a courtyard, enclosed by square brick columns supporting a narrow roof.  The connecting meeting area and education center are one and two story additions wrapping around the courtyard.  The chapel, which is of similar architecture, is connected east of this.

 

Significant Period:

    Construction Date:     1969

    Architect/Builder:       Harry J. Harmon

    Context:                    This history of this congregation began in 1838.  In that year, Alason Sheley, owner of a saw mill on Black River, and Dr. Justin Rice, physician at Fort Gratiot built a Sunday School building with the financial support of local citizenry.   Rev. Oren Thompson became the first resident minister in 1840.  The church organized and became the 23rd Congregational Church founded in Michigan.  In 1844 the building was moved to the southwest corner of Fort and Butler Streets and enlarged.  Membership grew, and a new brick church was built on the southwest corner of Seventh and Wall Streets in 1859.  Major renovations took place in 1886 and 1948.  A Christian Education Building and an All Faiths Chapel, designed by local architects Wyeth and Harman, were constructed in 1954.  The old church was demolished and a new church, designed by Harry J. Harmon, was built and dedicated in 1969.  Harry Harmon was a noted local architect.  His other projects included the St. Clair County Library, Clara E. Mackenzie Library, Al J. Theisen Science and Technological Center, McMorran Junior Sports Arena, Salvation Army Citadel, and other buildings.  Water H. Wyeths was a noted local architect, whose other works included the St. Clair Inn, Emory L. Ford Estate (Wingford) near Avoca, YMCA, Sperry Building, and other buildings.