Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Little Frank Lloyd Wright in Stafford, America

When I walk through the doors of the Stafford First United Methodist Church every Sunday, I'm not thinking about the architecture. For me, the church is the people - not the building. 

But sometimes, as I sit in the choir loft, I see the stained glass ceiling reflected on the glass top of the altar, mingling with the reflection of the lighted candles. There is beauty not only in the people, but in the surroundings.

From the outside, it doesn't look like your typical Midwestern church building. There's no steeple, and you don't see the stained glass from the outside.
The church was built in 1927 and was designed by architect Don B. Schuler. 
Schuler worked for the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright and incorporated some of Wright's design aesthetics into the building. The exterior of the building is an English Collegiate Gothic style, said to represent the secular, outside world. 
Frank Lloyd Wright believed that "light is the beautifier of a building." Though Wright didn't build the Stafford church, his student obviously carried that principle into the interior design. 

In planning the Stafford church, Schuler was inspired by Wright's sanctuary design used for the Unity Temple in suburban Chicago. The ceiling is accented with 36 stained glass boxes called sunlight glass. The predominate color is yellow and the warmth of that light illuminates the whole sanctuary and is said to reflect Jesus as the Light of the World.
In the sanctuary, there are four pyramid lamps with yellow stained glass and green, red and yellow chevrons patterns. Smaller pyramid lights hang in the church narthex.

There is rich walnut woodwork throughout the sanctuary. Just one example at the front of the church, where the wooden panels cover the organ pipes. 
This was not the first church for Methodists in Stafford. A simple frame design was built in 1883 at the church's current location even before Stafford was incorporated in 1885. In 1904, the frame building was moved to the north and a new brick building was built at a cost of $9,000. 

The present building was begun in February 1925, 89 years ago, and the completed building was dedicated in May 1927.

Our congregation is raising funds to refurbish the southern steps and entrance to the church. Since the church is on the National and the Kansas Register of Historic Places, we had hoped to receive a grant that would help with the funding. But, our application has been turned down twice, so we are continuing to raise the funds privately. We hope to begin the project this summer. 

For most of us, the church is much more than a building. It's the people. It's the memories. 

Randy's parents, Melvin & Marie Fritzemeier, were married there in 1951.
Then, in 2009, 58 years later, Jill and Eric stood under the same lighted cross at the front of the sanctuary to say their wedding vows.
Photo by Gina Dreher
Photo by Gina Dreher
It's where we said goodbye to Marie during funeral services. It's where Randy and our children were baptized and confirmed. 

So, for us, it's much more than an architectural wonder. It's home.


  1. Another Stafford building with many memories, especially of the people who were such an important part of our lives. Even now, walking back into the church I feel at home because of the people. Thanks for a beautiful piece.

    1. And we're always glad to see you walking back through the door, Debora. See you the next time!

    2. Wow! I love your photos. I remember this church being beautiful inside but didn't remember all of the details and did not know about the Frank Lloyd Wright connection. So glad to discover this. Thanks! Meta Newell West SHS class of 1965