Lafayette Park United Methodist Church

I knew there was something peculiar about the beautiful Lafayette Park Methodist Church on Lafayette Avenue, at the corner of Missouri Avenue. More about that below. The church is a real survivor; it just avoided being demolished for the construction of Interstate 44.

Lafayette Park Methodist Church Easter 1914 Pin, St. Louis Pin Company, Missouri History Museum, SMX03289

It is a beautiful example of Romanesque Revival, as we’ve seen for the last two days, but what I love about American architecture is its breaking of rules. Look at the tower below: that is not a Romanesque spire in form, it is Gothic Revival! It looks inspired by one of the two towers of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which is wholly Gothic. But that’s what happens in America.

I particularly like this octagonal tower; the small, rounded windows are typical of the Romanesque Revival style.

But my suspicions came when I went around to the Missouri Avenue elevation. Why is it so obvious that the masonry style, and the color of the limestone, different? I turned to Mike Jones, of the Lafayette Square Neighborhood Association Archives (their link is now added on the right), who filled me in on the history of this famous church.

It turns out the smaller building mass on Missouri is actually the original church (this is by far not the first church like this: see this church on Washington Boulevard) built in 1888, and it was damaged by the Great Cyclone. It is a survivor in more than one way. August Busch Sr. was a member and sang in the choir, and after the church lost its roof, the congregation banded together (and probably with a large donation from Mr. Busch) expanded the church to the north according to designs of architect J. Stephen Conn, reaching Lafayette Avenue. The new cornerstone was laid in 1900 for the new sanctuary, and the old one became a gymnasium. What a fascinating story!

Above, you can see the original front door of the church, and above and below, you can see the obvious older stonework in coursed rubblework, and to the right, alternating bands of ashlar and rusticated stone coursework of the new expansion. Ironically, the newer stone is darker than the older stone! Due to the heavy sulfur content of the coal burned in St. Louis, it is usually the other way around.

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