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North Christian Church - National Fund For Sacred Places
2016 Cohort

North Christian Church

(Disciples of Christ)

Columbus, Indiana

North Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana, was the last building designed by leading Midcentury Modern architect Eero Saarinen, who completed the plan two weeks before his death in 1961.

North Christian Church by Greg Hume

North Christian Church by Greg Hume

2016 Cohort

North Christian Church

(Disciples of Christ)

Columbus, Indiana

North Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana, was the last building designed by leading Midcentury Modern architect Eero Saarinen, who completed the plan two weeks before his death in 1961.

Saarinen was the son of Eliel Saarinen, designer of First Christian Church in Columbus, which is also a National Fund participant. Three other prominent architecture and design professionals—landscape architect Dan Kiley, interior designer Alexander Girard, and organ designer Walter Holtkamp Sr.—worked jointly to design the church for a progressive congregation founded in 1955 that originally met at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. North Christian Church, completed in 1964, is the only building in the world that combined the talents of these four historically important designers. The design returned to the model of the traditional church while using Modern architecture to meet the needs of the congregation. The hexagonal building emphasized the importance of the sanctuary by moving the school, meeting rooms, auditorium, and kitchen to a hidden basement. This layout created an all-encompassing worship space as well as multipurpose spaces that the congregation has called a “beacon of welcome and hospitality to the community.”

The congregation maintained strong partnerships in the local community and beyond. The Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, and the Columbus Children’s Choir hosted meetings and events in the church. The Columbus Visitors Center conducted daily tours of the sanctuary and baptistery for visitors to the city, which the American Institute of Architects deemed the sixth most architecturally important city in the United States and National Geographic Traveler magazine ranked the 11th best historic location to visit worldwide.

A National Fund grant of $100,000 with $1.5 million in matching funds raised by the congregation allowed North Christian Church to replace the air-conditioning system. Work required completing asbestos abatement before a new system could be installed. This project helped the congregation maintain its Holtkamp organ, which is sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity, and attract additional groups to use the space in the future.

Note: In July 2022, North Christian Church hosted its final worship service. Local leaders are considering reusing the building as community programming space.

 

North Christian Church: A Capstone of the Community

In 2012, the American Institute of Architects named Columbus, Indiana, the 6th most architecturally significant city in the United States, just below Washington, D.C. According to Preservation Magazine, this city is an enclave of Midcentury Modern architecture. Nothing illustrates this more than the North Christian Church, which Reverend Tonja Gerardy states is “the capstone of the community.”

North Christian Church by James Caulfield

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