Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Corning church, Chariton architect

Monday's trip to the French Icarian Colony historic site west of Corning included a late afternoon side trip into town to visit the recently restored Opera House. And gave me a chance to take a few quick photos of Corning's First United Methodist Church, among the few remaining churches designed by Chariton architect Oran Alonzo "Lon" Hougland still standing basically as Hougland designed it.

Hougland was a prolific architect who designed many churches and other public buildings across Iowa, as well as in Chariton, but it is extremely difficult to document his work for a couple of reasons, including the fact he died too young (of a heart attack at age 52 during 1912). He also left few descendants to sing his praises. In Chariton, his work has been obscured, too, by that of William L. Perkins, who did not arrive in town until 1917.

Houghland designed this building for the congregation of Corning's First Methodist Episcopal Church during 1908. The plans were accepted during September of that year, according to The Engineering Record of Sept. 26, 1908, and construction began shortly thereafter. Estimated cost was $20,000.

To my eye, this wonderful old church reinforces the theory that Chariton's smaller but no less innovative First Presbyterian Church also was designed by Hougland, although that congregation has rather carelessly lost track of who designed its building.

The Corning church also retains Hougland's signature dome, although it is necessary to view the building from high ground in order to see it. Chariton's First Presbyterian was built with a similar dome but the congregation decided many years ago in a fit of something or another to remove it (the stained glass dome liner remains intact, however).

Corning has another wonderful old church, built to honor an Irish patron, St. Patrick in a fanciful Spanish revival style. But it was getting late and we needed to head home, so no photos for now.

Here's how Chariton's First Presbyterian looked this spring. Try to imagine it with its dome. It's a great building now, but once was greater.


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