February 20, 2017

Modernism Discovered

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I am on a quest to search out parts of Baltimore where I’ve never been. So, I am taking the back way home, turning left instead of right and carrying around the Guide to Baltimore Architecture in my car. But with all of that, I still make unexpected discoveries.

As I was returning from a Sunday brunch overlooking Baltimore’s harbour, I decided to take an alternate route back to my house. I wound my way through one of Baltimore’s many parks and came out on the other side. In the near distance, something caught my eye, so I took a couple of turns and came across a mid-century modern church that was such an anomaly in the area that it made me gasp!IMG_5585

I hated that there were phone lines across the view, so I drove around the block to check out the other side of the building. On this side, it’s about one level higher than on the other side. And there’s a building attached to the side which was originally separate, but is now connected.Processed with Snapseed.

Luckily, church was just getting out, and when the pastor saw me taking pictures, he beckoned me over. I asked him about the history, but he only knew that it had been built in the early 1960’s. Allegedly, an “Indian” woman who lived in the area gave the funds to build the church, but wanted it in the shape of a teepee. Hard to believe that’s true.IMG_5592

The pastor kindly invited me in to see the interior of the church, and I was completely shocked!Processed with Snapseed.

The interior is wood, with sweeping vertical beams. The interior is amazingly intact, which was a surprise, since many buildings of this era have been sliced and diced, and all of the original details have been destroyed. There are some windows that have been filled in, but that’s easily corrected. The skills needed to build a structure like this are incredible, especially with the ribbing and the wood cladding. IMG_5598

The pastor told me that the church could hold 1,500 people, but I am a bit doubtful of that claim. Maybe 500, if people squish together…

The odd thing about this church is that I can’t find ANY information about it. I know it was constructed in the early 1960’s, but can find nothing about the architect, or the original congregation. Someone told me that their dentist had an office in the adjacent building. Someone else said that it might have been a Seventh Day Adventist Church, and the original pastor came from Kansas where Frank Lloyd Wright designed a church which was supposed to look like this, but which was never built. I’ve asked all of my architect and architecture-groupie friends, and no one seems to have any information about it. Do you???

16 comments:

  1. Hello Meg, If you researched city building records, you could probably find a lot of information--exact date of construction, architect, building permits, owner's name, etc. That might lead to newspaper records, press photos, etc. Admittedly a lot of work for a small project.
    --Jim

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    1. Searched the property records, but that didn't yield much.

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  2. Its a shame they don't know more about the history. I know my (occasional) church has a historian. Sometimes the history can be funny. My church, First Congregational in Madison, WI was a traditional design built in response to the wild, unorthodox, design of the First Unitarian Society building by Frank Lloyd Wright.

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    1. It's a pretty small church and they are way down the line of churches which have occupied the building. I find that most people don't have the interest in history/architecture that I and many of my readers do!

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  3. Meg, I may have sped-read and missed the address and/or name of this structure/church, so would you mind giving the name and denomination of the current church, and the street address of the structure. I'd love to do a deep search but can't proceed without current given name and address. Baltimore ZIP would be especially nice to have.

    -Flo
    Amelia Island FL

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    1. SO sorry! I missed this one... 3401 Mannasota Ave. Baltimore, Maryland 21213 They seem to have more than one website, but this is what i have at my fingertips. http://www.philadelphiabible.org/

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  4. I don't know if Maryland does this on a county basis or on a state basis, but you can check the Deeds Recording Office, sometimes known as the Register of Mesne Conveyance, but basically the governmental office where the deeds for Real Property are recorded, and often bound into books. It may even be online. You start by finding the present deed, which is often done by looking at the tax rolls. The tax bills refer back to the property whether by deed number or by property reference number, which is also associated with the present deed. Once you find the present deed, you can trace back through the conveyance transactions that were recorded each time the property changed hands. That should lead you to the original congregation for the building. Good luck :)

    - Michael in South Carolina

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    1. Thanks! I checked the on-line ones, which only go back to 1971, so that didn't help much. The funny thing is that I know one of my architecture/historian friends will know! But then, I sent it to my friend at the heritage organization and he'd never seen it!

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  5. "Someone told me that their dentist had an office in the adjacent building."

    Meg, one more thing: lacking name and address for this property, even the name of your friend's dentist would be a major clue in locating coordinates for the parcel. Best to you and Figue xo

    -Flo
    Amelia Island FL

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    1. I have the address for the property, but oddly, that hasn't been much of a help. The on-line records only go back to 1971! I need about 10 years earlier.

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    2. Go to the local post office ask a clerk or a letter carrier what route the chuch is on then find the carrier that has that route and perhaps they know some of the address changes over the yars or they may know of or they could ask around and don't forget the starbucks gift card. LOL

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  6. City Directories published by a city directory company may be found in a historical society, a news paper morgue, perhaps on the shelf in a mortgage title company??? A city directory has cross references and lists by street name and number.... this may help good old paper records gathering dust some where out there....

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    1. I see what you're saying. Looking at the street map, it's possible that the official mid-60s structure's numerical address faced onto Brehms Lane, Mayfield or even Lake Ave., rather than today's Mannasota Ave address. It's a funny little 4-sided parcel, who knows which street was the official searchable address.

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    2. The Mannasota address seems to be the most likely one, since it's where the original front door of the church it. It's right on street level, opposed to the Brehms Lane side which is on the other side, but a level down. The addition to the left, seems to have been purchased at a later date, since someone said they remembered going to the dentist there.

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    3. When I mentioned adress changes I meant that perhaps a letter carrier or say a business nearby might have the oral history of sorts " Oh that where the old XYZ used to be." A real estate agent that has been around a while may be helpful or a veteran Baltimore Sun reporter, or Microfilm at the library of the newspaper they did publish a religion section right?? This requires some leg work People that hang out at the book thing might you a heads up.

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  7. Gee whiz someone needs to call the baltimore library to ask if they have copies of the old city directories. (If they say no, perhaps they know of a source to find back copies) They then call the reference desk number and ask for the librarian to look up the address. It can't be that difficult to find the first occupant of that building. I am dying to know.

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