Friday, November 13, 2015

Architect Charles C. Cross & First Presbyterian

First Presbyterian Church, as built.

Attributing a building to an architect can be tough --- blueprints were not kept in many instances, records are sketchy and memories are short (unless the designer rose to prominence). So I've fussed for a number of years about who designed Chariton's 1907 First Presbyterian Church.

My best guess was Chariton architect O.A. Hougland, who designed a number of documented churches similar to it across southern Iowa --- including Promise City, Grand River, Leon and Corning (of these, only the 1908 United Methodist Church in Corning remains intact).

Then along came digitalized images of newspaper back files --- and related search engines. A couple of years ago, using these resources, I discovered that credit for the church actually goes to the Des Moines firm of Charles C. Cross & Son. Then I forgot the name of the architect and had to search again. I repeated the process yesterday.

So here, for the record, is a little information --- and not much is available --- about that firm. Now at least I'll know where the information is, unless I forget about this post.

First Presbyterian Church, now come undomed.

That's how the church looked in 1907, top. Sadly, the dome was removed years later by efficient Presbyterians. Fortunately, its stained glass liner remains intact, although no longer lighted from above.

The surviving art glass dome liner.

Charles C. Cross practiced in Des Moines from 1891 until 1925, when he packed up and moved to Florida. During many of those years, his son, Herbert, was his partner in a firm known as C.C. Cross & Son. The firm specialized in residential architecture --- publishing a catalogue of 50 residential designs that was sold to builders in Iowa and beyond. But it also designed churches, schools and commercial structures.

Here's the text of one of the newspaper articles that links Cross and First Presbyterian, from The Chariton Patriot of July 25, 1907:


By August 1st, Mr. C.C. Cross, architect, will have completed the plans and specifications for the new Presbyterian church building to be erected. Plans will be for examination by any one contemplating bidding on the construction. The building is to be of the dome style, an art glass dome twenty feet in diameter in the center of building, giving light from above. Foundation will be concrete and Bedford stone, and lime sand block with stone face. Basement will contain kitchen and large dining room. Sunday school room will open into the auditorium.

It seems likely that Cross also designed some houses in Chariton, but while poking around for further information the only house in the area that I could connect him with was in Humeston, built by George W. McKinley during 1900. Construction began in the spring in "Moon's Addition" to that town and the family moved in during December.

It was described in a prospectus as 34x48 feet in size, two-story with a stone foundation, steam heat, fully plumbed, oak and yellow pine interior finish, art glass and at least one fireplace. Reports in the Humeston New Era described it as one of the best houses in town. I'm trying to find out if it's still standing --- but someone more familiar with Humeston than I will have to help me out here (although there may be something in my Humeston history book --- when I find it).

1 comment:

Don Hixenbaugh said...

At some time in the 1960s the dome was lighted from above with floodlights. One of the lights was focused thru a missing pane of glass in the dome onto the communion table at the front of the sanctuary making a very interesting effect. The area above the dome was accessed from a trap door in the ceiling of the entrance way at the back of the church. I used to have to crawl up there and change the bulbs.This was great training for the next 40 years of hanging television lights from the ceilings of churches and auditoriums all over the state of Iowa. Who knew back then?