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.