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Lot next to church gets unveiled

In this blog’s previous post, “Lot next to church gets a makeover,” we didn’t yet know what used to be on the site next to the burnt-out church. One of our scholarly readers, Gary Tetley, who has been researching Theodore C. Link for the last two years, commented that the spot once held the prominent architect’s 1905 townhouse. Tetley agreed to elaborate on this in a post:

Theodore C. Link’s Midtown Residence

Gary R. Tetley, AIA
 
One of the most prominent St. Louis architects at the turn of the Twentieth Century was Theodore C. Link. In addition to the usual successful architect’s portfolio of churches, schools, galleries and residences, Link also built on a monumental scale. By 1903 he had completed the St. Louis Union Station and the Mississippi State Capital. During the next twenty years he would complete the massive Barnes Hospital – Washington University School of Medicine Complex and the entire campus of Louisiana State University.

Less known is his personal residence located in midtown St. Louis and completed in 1905.  Link designed and built a brick two story L-shaped apartment house on the southeast corner of Delmar Avenue and North Spring. The building actually contained three separate units and was in a style similar to his Barr Branch Library completed around the same time.

One of the units faced Delmar with the address of 3746 and was occupied by Link’s son Edwin, his wife Virginia and their children. The corner unit at 628 Spring and was occupied by Theodore and Annie Link.  The third unit at 626 Spring and was occupied by Link’s son Karl, his wife Catherine and their children.

This was Link’s permanent residence until his death in 1923. Annie Link was still listed in the St. Louis Social Register 1925 at the same address. She died in April1943. Sometime between then and now the building was demolished.

More Photos

Here are more photos taken by Rainer and Sebastian:

Also, you can see their website at http://www.commonlights.com/ .

More History of the Church

Here is an article that was sent to us from Tami Goldman, a manager at the Missouri History Museum:

 

“The Spring Church” – 620 N. Spring Avenue – A Brief History

 
The charred remains of a once handsome building are a token of the fragility we as humans face. At the same time, the strength of the stone and the traces of its beauty emit a tangible hope that what we value will survive. Here at this place of burnt-out disaster we tell stories about what it used to be and make it again a place of joy and celebration.

In 1884 a Baptist congregation built this church at 460 N. Spring Avenue. The story goes that the Garrison Avenue Baptist Church actually wanted to build its new home at Grand and Washington, but a prominent parishioner, Mary Wetzel by name, insisted on having the church nearer her home and generously if somewhat expediently donated the lot next door to the Wetzel home.

The Garrison Avenue Baptists had originally been members of the Third Baptist Church but left to form their own congregation. Third Baptist offered considerable competition, especially after their large and handsome church was erected at Grand and Washington. After less than a decade at the North Spring Location, Garrison Avenue, now called Delmar Avenue Baptist, was moving west. It was just a mile west, to Delmar and Pendleton, but in 1892 a mile was a significant distance. Descendants of this congregation in its latest configuration are the Delmar Baptist Church located in the municipality of Town and Country, more than twenty miles from the church’s origins.

A year after the Baptists’ departure, the Church of the New Jerusalem moved into the building. These were Swedenborgians, a denomination out of the Christian mainstream, with generally smaller congregations and an emphasis on doctrinal study and spiritual journeys. Most of the members lived some distance from midtown, which is one of the reasons that the Swedenborgians had generally little contact with the community in the area. But as the neighborhood changed, and the members of the Church of the New Jerusalem steadily moved their residences even further away, the church began looking for other property. In 1956 a new home was developed in west county.

The congregation was known by a variety of names during its sixty-three year tenure at 460 N. Spring, most of them having New Jerusalem in the title. Now, in 2008, these Swedenborgians are at the Church of the Open Word, with a garden chapel in west county.

By the 1950s the African American population of the area had increased substantially, so it was likely that the next occupants of the handsome place of worship would be a group compromised mostly of that race. National Memorial Church of God in Christ was a congregation of a Pentecostal church founded in 1897. Most of the congregants lived in the midtown neighborhood, and the church carried on a significant outreach program to the community, including a food pantry and some transportation service.

In the early morning of March 27, 2001, the generations of worship and service in this venerable building came to an end. Lightning or faulty electric wiring started a fire somewhere in the church –an Act of God, although the devil may have been roundly blamed by some parishioners. By the time a security guard in the nearby VA Hospital noticed, the blaze had overtaken the building, despite the determined efforts of some 75 firefighters.

Unable to restore their beloved building, the congregation prepared to move, finding new quarters on Primrose Avenue in Pagedale, where they continue to worship and serve as the National Memorial St. Louis Holy Temple Church of God in Christ.

Grand Center, Inc. finally bought the church, but refashioning it into an urban sculpture garden or other community structure proved a long and ultimately unsuccessful project.

In 2008 the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts inaugurated “The Lamp Project at Spring Church” as part of a series of exhibits in the Community Light Project. International artists Sebastian Hungerer and Rainer Kehres planned an installation in the roof space of the ruined church and have collected lamps and fixtures from throughout the St. Louis area. Each of the lamps has a story, and the artists have collected those stories as well, for the project is more than a pretty piece of artwork. It’s a means of examining the role of art and light in community and in some sense a tribute to the many worshippers who have in this spot brought light and hope to the community.

Tami Goldman
Cultural Tourism/Special Projects Manager Missouri History Museum

September 4 Footage

Opening Night

Even with the threat of rain, an estimate of 900 people came to the opening of The Light Project. The director of the Pulitzer, Matthias Waschek, remarked that it looked as if the crowd was the church congregation and had just stepped out after mass. For some, it was indeed a religious experience.