Churches North St. Louis O'Fallon

Help Turn a Vacant Church Into a Community Center

From the Acts Partnership

The former Full Gospel Apostolic Church, built in 1913 as the Bethany Evangelical Church.

The Acts Partnership is partnering with Alderman Antonio French to purchase a beautiful, vacant, historic church building to house services for youth and seniors. The response has been great since we first put out the call for help last week. We’re almost there! But time is running out. THE SALE CLOSES ON MONDAY! So if you haven’t yet, please make a donation today to help a great 21st Ward non-profit purchase this historic vacant church building to make it a home for services for youth and seniors.

Channel 2 covered the effort this week:

The building, located in the O’Fallon neighborhood just a block away from O’Fallon Park, stands on the corner Red Bud and Rosalie Streets. The Incarnate Word Foundation, a great partner and supporter of north St. Louis, has agreed to matching generous donation so if you can donate $50 today, The Incarnate Word Foundation will match your donation with another $50! So give today and help us stabilize the community and provide services to seniors and youth this summer.

Detail of bay on the church.

Donate here.

Benton Park Churches Events

Pot Pies for Preservation

From Jeanette Mott Oxford:

Epiphany United Church of Christ at 2911 McNair in Benton Park will host a Chicken and Vegetarian Pot Pie Dinner on Saturday, April 10, from 5-7:30 p.m. Reservations may be made by calling 314-772-0263. We had had quite a bit of building repair and maintenance lately and want to preserve our beautiful church as a resource for the community. Please help us meet our expenses while enjoying wonderful food and conversation with others who are committed to the City.

Tickets for adults and children over 12 are $8. Children under 12 may have a reduced price ticket at $5, and children under five eat free. We are a Just Peace, Open and Affirming, Whole Earth congregation. For more information, visit

Churches Demolition St. Louis County

Bethany Deaf Church in Kirkwood Demolished

by Michael R. Allen

Kirkwood’s local historic district ordinance did not prevent the new owner of the Bethany Deaf Church (photograph via link) at 310 E. Argonne from demolishing the building around Christmas. A reader writes that the wreckers destroyed the front doors rather than salvage them, but that the rose window may have been saved.

Churches Fire Fountain Park

New Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church Suffers Christmas Fire

by Michael R. Allen

On Christmas, terrible tragedy struck the New Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church in Fountain Park: the church caught fire and was severely damaged after the morning service. The Fire Department considers the four-alarm fire suspicious.

Pastor Hosea Gales told the St. Louis Globe-Democrat that the church found a home for its Sunday service and that it will rebuild. What is uncertain is the fate of the historic church building at 1260 N. Euclid Avenue, built in the late 1890s as the Euclid Avenue Baptist Church. The preservation community should offer all possible assistance to the congregation.

Churches Fire North St. Louis Old North

Inside Fourth Baptist Church

A Flickr photographer has posted despressing photographs from the interior of the Fourth Baptist Church at 13th and Sullivan in Old North St. Louis. The worst part of these photographs is how much combustible material is evident.

Readers may recall that the church was struck by a huge fire on September 20, 2008. The fire severely damaged the sanctuary, while firefighters’ hose spray caused structural damage to an adjacent house and an attached annex. To date, a fence has been erected on the sidewalks around the wrecked church, but the windows are not yet boarded and evidently the interior is accessible. The small congregation has promised that stabilization work will begin in the spring, and assistance from the St. Louis Baptist community is on the way. Hopefully this promise holds true, because the Fourth Baptist Church, founded in 1851, is one of the region’s oldest congregations and deserves wide support in a heroic effort to save the church building.

The photographer concludes that “even after such a gigantic disaster, one can still see how reposed and fine it once was.” I concur, although I hold little hope that the entire complex will be rescued from tremendous damage. The sanctuary is vital, however, because it anchors not only the corner but site lines from the south on 13th Street and east on Sullivan Avenue. One can see the church from as far south as Warren Street, and from the east at Ames School. To have that view opened would be a tremendous loss to Old North.

Architecture Churches Fire North St. Louis Old North

Beautiful Fourth Baptist Church

by Michael R. Allen

Here are photographs from December 2005 of beautiful Fourth Baptist Church at the northwest corner of 13th and Sullivan in Old North St. Louis. The church’s presence truly anchors the immediate area.

The interior was as wonderfully austere as the exterior, with the sanctuary auditorium a voluminous space lit by large southern windows. Here are images from October 2006.

No matter what the fate of the church, all who passed through or by its doors saw in it the incarnation of certain faith and a wonderful sense of architectural economy. The building served well and long, and was awaiting a new call to service when struck by fire on September 20, 2008.

Abandonment Churches Fire Historic Preservation Old North

Fourth Baptist Church Struck by Devastating Fire

by Michael R. Allen

This post is a frustrating and sad one to write, even though its eventuality has crossed my mind before. Living across the street from the church, I have felt deep sorrow and needed time to grieve before writing about this weekend’s tragedy.

On Saturday morning at around 9:45 a.m., a large fire erupted at the vacant Fourth Baptist Church at the northwest corner of 13th and Sullivan avenues in Old North St. Louis. After several hours, firefighters extinguished a fire that left the three buildings of the complex in various states of instability, a small congregation with a huge difficulty and a neighborhood that has enjoyed much progress and positive publicity with a stern reminder of the reality of urban abandonment. The congregation moved out in 2002 after a boiler break-down, and has not been able to find funds to repair the building and return. Nor has a buyer been found for the church complex, which needed extensive rehabilitation. Now Fourth Baptist joins plentiful ranks of the near north side’s many handsome institutional buildings wrecked by fire and severe weather.

No one yet knows the fire’s cause, which is under investigation. Although the church has been unsecured in recent months (see “How Now to Board Up a Broken Window,” February 27, 2008), Fourth Baptist had been tightly boarded for the last six months. Usual points of entrance in the rear seemed secure after the fire was over. Still, neighborhood speculation fingers ever-present metal thieves working with torches or other spark-creating devices, arsonists looking for kicks and brick thieves looking to get a new project underway. Another possible cause is the electrical service, which may or may not have still been live on Saturday. (The service was active as recently as winter 2007.)

As with other landmarks left similarly crippled, cause is not as important as result. Fourth Baptist’s condition had been stable; there were small roof failure points and minor masonry issues, but overall the buildings comprising the church complex — four in number — were intact and clearly ready for renovation. The fire leaves behind an uncertain structural condition yet to be formally assessed. Some damage is obvious: the roof structure of the sanctuary is damaged badly at the crest, and the interior wood structure seems severely compromised; the “annex” (actually an older sanctuary later expanded) had half of its front elevation knocked off by firefighters’ aggressive hose work; there is a hole in the old house at 1309 Sullivan Avenue connected to the church. However, much stability is obvious, too.

The city is poised to issue an emergency demolition order, which Fourth Baptist pastor Richard Taylor vows to fight. The condition of the three buildings absolutely does not warrant demolition of the entire complex, as examination of the individual parts makes clear.


The sanctuary, completed in 1924 in a modern Greek Revival style, is one of the starkest and most urban churches in north city. The dark machine-raked brick walls are placed right at the sidewalk line, with simple white terra cotta pilasters and spandrels providing ornament. The congregation made the best use of a constrained site, building the whole plot out to connect with an adjacent house and their earlier building. This is anathema to today’s climate, where city churches build mega-plexes with pristine green lawns and plenty of parking.

The fire hit the sanctuary the hardest of the buildings, although its robust masonry walls were scarcely scratched. Alas, the sanctuary seems to have been fully gutted by the fire, with wooden joists and floorboards scorched beyond salvage in many places. Given the age of the building, it’s possible that steel beams were used across the floor joists. Even the ornamental soffit running along Sullivan Avenue was not completely destroyed. What is most troubling is that the roof suffered intense heat, and most of its shingles burned away or fell off. The exposed decking shows sections near the crest that are gone, other areas that are severely burned, and some sections that are intact. The trusses on the western end are failing, but those on the eastern half seem solid.

The sanctuary’s walls are in no danger of collapse. The 2004 theft and return of the church’s stained glass windows led to their storage elsewhere, so all but one that remained are intact. One possibility for the sanctuary is swift repair of the roof and boarding of all openings; such mothballing could buy time. Another option is removal of all wooden structural elements and bracing of the masonry walls, but that only makes sense of permanent stabilization would come in the near future.


The “annex” north of the sanctuary on 13th street is actually an earlier sanctuary. Fourth Baptist had its start in 1859 on the site now occupied by Grace Hill’s campus. In 1892, the church hired architects Matthews, Clarke and James to design a one-story front-gabled church at this site. That building, became the first story of the present annex. In 1937, after completing the new sanctuary, the congregation raised this building up one story and combined the sections with an orange-brick Georgian Revival front elevation. Through the windows of the first floor, one can see the original front wall of the church. The structure served as the Sunday school and church office, among other things.

The annex suffered the worst damage of the church buildings, but not necessarily due to the fire. The fire damaged the roof structure and second floor, but did not cause the second floor wall to collapse outward. While the roof fire ate away the wall’s connection to the roof, the pressurized spray of fire hoses after the fire was largely extinguished caused the wall to fall outward into the street.

Unfortunately, that damage may lead to the sure loss of this section. Without a plan for rebuilding the front section, or some temporary shoring, weather and wind will cause further failure of this building. Neighbors have banded together to remove and safely store bricks piled at the base of the building, in case rebuilding will ever begin.

1309 Sullivan Avenue
This modest brick house with dentillated cornice and side mousehole is shown on Compton and Dry’s 1875 Pictorial St. Louis; construction could date to the late 1850’s. The church acquired the house while building the sanctuary, and connected it internally for use as a parsonage. In 1952, the church built a long two-story addition at rear to house more classrooms and a basement kitchen. That steel-framed section was not significantly damaged by the fire, although it is the only section considered noncontributing to the Murphy-Blair Historic District. The house seems to have escaped extensive fire damage, although again pressurized spray damaged the masonry on the front elevation, precipitating additional brick loss and weather infiltration.


Immediately following the fire, the church complex was boarded back up. However, an immediate need for stabilization and roof repair would prolong the period for careful decision-making. The annex requires an immediate plan for masonry reconstruction and roof repair if it is to survive the coming year. The house at 1309 Sullivan, meanwhile, would survive indefinitely with immediate masonry repair of the front elevation, secured openings and a new roof. The sanctuary’s walls should be braced immediately.

The Old North St. Louis Restoration Group is still working to complete stabilization and repair of the Mullanphy Emigrant Home, and is an unlikely party to take on ownership of the church. Now seems to be the time for the region’s Baptist churches to rally around Fourth Baptist and help raise the funds needed to stabilize their beleaguered home. Fourth Baptist’s active membership is probably less than 20, and its financial ability not in the league needed to face this challenge. Still, the story of Fourth Baptist’s buildings should not end with total destruction. At the very least, whatever can be saved should be saved for the future of a neighborhood Fourth Baptist has called home for nearly 150 years.

Architecture Churches Granite City, Illinois Illinois Metro East Mid-Century Modern

Exuberant First Assembly of God Church

by Michael R. Allen

Located at 2334 Grand Avenue in Granite City, Illinois, is the former First Assembly of God Church. While the congregation, which has roots dating back to 1909, has moved to a larger building on Madison Avenue, it still maintains the exuberant mid-century church building.

Basically, this church is the average center-aisle front-gabled church form that has persisted in America since the colonial period. Yet it is adapted to the formalism of its era. The gable is not symmetrical. The entrance is not centered on the gable end but placed to one side on a glass addition.

Most prominent, though, is the use of colored glass. This church comes from a period in the late 1950s through the mid-1960s when modernist architects were abuzz with large, loud color experiments. In 1961, Plaza Square Apartments opened in downtown St. Louis; architects Hellmuth Obata Kassebaum and Harris Armstrong gave each of the six multi-story apartment buildings vertical metal stripes in different vivid, bright colors. Googie designs in restaurants and bus depots abounded. Homes has bright garage doors in green, red, blue and yellow. Young John F. Kennedy was president, the Russian threat seemed diminished and all was well. Why not play with churches, homes, schools and office buildings?

The architect of this church sure did play. We have a beautiful asymmetrical tapestry of aluminum-framed colored panes on the front elevation and striped of color on the sides. Obviously, the colored panes also provided an economical alternative to stained glass, but in way no less stylish.

The church remains a festive point on a tidy, quiet street of well-kept houses. A steel city, Granite City welcomed modernism with open arms, as evidenced by the iconic Granite City Steel Building downtown. This church is one of the best-kept examples of the mid-century modern period in Granite City.

Churches Collinsville, Illinois Googie Metro East Mid-Century Modern

Heavenly Bar-B-Q

by Michael R. Allen

This quintessential A-frame work of Googie-tecture stands at the northwest corner of Vandalia (State Highway 159) and Clay streets in downtown Collinsville, Illinois. According to the Conestoga sign on the pole in front, this is Bert’s Chuck Wagon with “Open Pit Bar-B-Q.” The high pitched roof overhangs the building to almost conceal the sides completely. Splayed columns add a whimsical touch, and the gabled entry overhang creates enough head space for a person to walk into the building through the door.

What is most striking is the large gable end facing the corner. The open glass wall provided exposure and a contrast to the heavy, almost foreboding side elevations. Now, that gable end provides a backdrop for religious expression.

The windows of the gable end display a rather expressionistic scene of Jesus Christ on the cross, done in bold colors with dark shadow lines. Disconcerting, though, are the white open eyes reminiscent of the “Little Orphan Annie” comic strip.

Churches Demolition Historic Preservation North St. Louis

Demolition of St. Stanislaus Kostka School Underway

by Michael R. Allen

Demolition of the St. Stanislaus Kostka School at 1413 N. 20th Street is now underway (see “St. Stanislaus Kostka School Deserves a Reprieve,” April 6). Aalco Wrecking is the demolition contractor and Bruce Gerrie has salvage rights.