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First Presbyterian Church (Chapin Memorial Presbyterian Church)

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Chapin Memorial Presbyterian Church
1915, Tallmadge and Watson; 1927 fellowship hall. 13 S. 4th St.
  • (Photograph by Balthazar Korab)

The original First Presbyterian Church, erected soon after the church was founded in 1835, was a small meetinghouse with a seating capacity of 250. It was replaced in 1850 by a larger Greek Revival wooden church with enclosed pews. The estate of Charles A. Chapin provided a gift for the present church. Chicago School architects Tallmadge and Watson, noted for their ecclesiastic buildings, designed the church, and it is a good example of their work. Both men frequented southwest Michigan. Thomas Eddy Tallmadge (1876–1940), perhaps best known as the author of The Story of Architecture in America (1926) and Architecture in Old Chicago (1941), was also president of the Ox-Bow Summer School of Art, now Ox-Bow: School of the Art Institute of Chicago at Saugatuck ( AE13). Vernon S. Watson (1878–1950) eventually retired in nearby Berrien Springs. The Late Gothic Revival church is constructed of warm gray brick trimmed with buff Bedford limestone. A large, squat, square central tower topped by slender pinnacles and encircled with a relief of angels rises over the crossing. Stained glass windows by Charles J. Connick, Tiffany Studios, and Walter W. Pymn and stone tracery enhance the Gothic character. The auditorium seats 600 before a central pulpit and organ wall. The interior is trimmed in dark red oak. The church is linked by a cloister to the Sunday school and the manse.

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert

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