Saturday, April 21, 2012

Lon Hougland's churches


Here's how the Methdist Episcopal Church of Promise City, designed by Chariton architect O.A. Hougland, looked not long after it was completed and dedicated during 1910.

Small things make obsessive-compulsive people happy --- and if I could prove that Oran Alonzo Hougland was the architect of Chariton's First Presbyterian Church I'd be a happy camper, at least for a minute or two.

Although William L. Perkins, who practiced in Chariton from 1917 until his death in 1957, overshadows Hougland, he was our first architect --- at least so far as anyone knows. Lon, as he was known, arrived in Chariton from Moulton about 1875 and lived and worked here until his untimely death at age 52 during 1912.

He began as a carpenter, builder and contractor, but at about the turn of the century his career as an architect took off. We know that he was the architect of the Lucas County Home, built during 1903, but it is extremely difficult to link other Chariton buildings to him.

Part of the problem is that he died relatively young and all four of his children predeceased him. Although his widow, Ida,  remarried and lived until 1947, there  is no general accounting of his work. It's easier, using online resources, to track down his work involving public buildings elsewhere.

First Presbyterian Church was burilt during 1908 and dedicated during February of 1909. The design  dates from 1907, however.

The Presbyterians had the misfortune of tearing their old church down during early October of 1907 in anticipation of the new building ---- then seeing funding for the new building vanish with the failure of First National Bank as the month ended. It took months to recover and re-launch construction.


 This postcard view shows how it originally looked, complete with dome. The dome has been removed, although the interior stained glass dome liner remains with necessary supporting structure protected by a shed-like roof invisible from ground level. Unfortunately, there is no record of its architect.


Hougland, however, can definately be linked to First Methodist Church of Corning, designed during 1908, the same year. The Engineering Record of Sept. 26, 1908, reported that "The trustees of the (Corning) M.E. Church ... have accepted the plans of A. Hougland of Chariton for a new edifice to cost about $20,000." Here's how that church looks today in a small photo lifted from the Web. To me, at least, the similarities to Chariton First Presbyterian are striking.

The year 1910 was a banner one for Hougland so far as churches were concerned --- six in various stages of planning and construction at the same time in Promise City, Humeston, Carlisle, Milo, Clearfield and Grand River.

During August of 1910, Hougland bragged a little as follows in The Chariton Leader:

"Let the good work go on. I certainly am busy in the missionary field erecting temples of worship and extending the kingdom of the Lord. I was awarded the contract for furnishing plans, the other day, for a new church at Grand River. That makes (six) of which I am now supervising architect, Carlisle, Clearfield, Promise City, Humeston and Milo (plus Grand River). D.A. Enslow has the contract for the construction work of some of them. You will notice among the list there are temples to be erected at Clearfield and Primose City. This is certainly assuring. --- O. A. Hougland, Architect."

The Milo church burned during 1921 and the Clearfield church has been torn down and replaced. I could find images of neither. Nor could I track down the Carlisle church.

But a good deal of information is available about the twin Promise City and Grand River churches, as well as the Humeston church.

Here's how Ortha Green described the Promise City church (at the top of this blog post) in her undated book, "Churches of Wayne County."

"In 1908, Mrs. Julia Conner passed away and left $100 to be used in building a new church. In 1909, they decided the build. The contract was let for the new building on April 10, 1910, and the cornerstone was laid in May 1910.

"Mr. O.A. Houghland (sic) of Chariton was the architect and drew the plans of the unique building, patterned after ancient Greek or synagogue architectural design, adding here and there a touch of the modern.

"The exterior walls are of dark red pressed flint brick surmounted in the center of the roof by an oval dome directly over the center of the main room. The interior walls are frescoed in beautiful colors. Leaded glass memorial windows costing $300 each were purchased from Bowman Glass Co. of Des Moines, adding a beautiful and sacred addition. A very unusual building costing $7,300."

Although the Promise City church building still stands, it was closed some years by the Iowa United Methodist Conference and much of its interior detail removed.


In September of 1910, The American Contractor reported that Hougland had designed this nearly identical building for the Methodist Episcopal Church of Grand River (immediately above). This building has been torn down and replaced with a newer structure, however.

And here's a photo of the Humeston Christian Church, demolished after the Christian and United Methodist churches of that Wayne County city merged and built an entirely new building.


The cornerstone of this building was put into place on November 5, 1910. Ortha Green descrited the building as being of  "Grecian type architecture of porcelain finished brick, (built) at a cost of $9000."

So these are some of Lon Haugland's church. I'm still looking for something beyond similarity to tie them to Chariton's First Presbyterian.

1 comment:

J Det said...

The Grand River church was unfortunately not replaced after it was torn down. The Van Wert Methodist church is also identical to the Grand River church. Not sure when. The Van Wert church was built compared to Grand River's and Promise City's. The church in Diagonal is also very similar.