Architectural Twins: Two Overstreet Churches

Here’s a little light fare for Friday.

I can’t claim any credit for today’s post, as I came across images of these two buildings while reading David H. Sachs’ 1986 Ph.D. dissertation, The Work of Overstreet and Town: The Coming of Modern Architecture to Mississippi. Unfortunately the dissertation has never been published, but nowadays with the internet providing access to previously unattainable resources, scholars and just interested folks alike can find these little gems with just a few clicks. This dissertation really opened my eyes to the inner workings of the architectural community in the 1920s and 1930s, a period when the Mississippi chapter of the AIA was finally formed, and when Overstreet and his fellow architects (let’s not forget them) were transforming the cities and towns of Mississippi.

The two churches pictured in the dissertation are not that far apart geographically, but I had never noticed the similarities. The Bolton church is mislabeled “Edwards Church” in the caption, whether from a mistake in the original rendering or just a mistake in the caption, I don’t know. I knew that there was no such church building was in Edwards, so I assumed that the rendering never got built, but then one day I was driving through Bolton, passed the Methodist church and thought, “hmmm, that looks familiar.” I would have guessed that Jackson’s Central Presbyterian was built first and then scaled down a bit for the small-town Bolton, but apparently it’s the other way around. I would have also guessed that the two church buildings were built for the same denomination, but that’s also not the case. Guess I should stop guessing and just let the facts hit me as they will.

(old) Central Presbyterian Church (1925), now Stewpot, W. Capitol Street, Jackson

Memorial United Methodist Church, Bolton (1922)

Memorial United Methodist Church, Bolton (1922)

Both buildings display that combination of classicism and Prairie/Arts and Crafts styles that Overstreet really perfected in the 1910s and 1920s. I’m not sure if it’s the dark brick or what, but even though Central Presbyterian has big ol’ columns lining the facade, it seems more Prairie/Craftsman-ish than the Bolton church. Maybe it’s that cast-concrete cornice that provides such a heavy horizontal emphasis on the Presbyterian church but is missing on the Bolton building. Both buildings are still occupied, although the Capitol Street building is now occupied by Stewpot Services, and as you may recall from a news roundup earlier this year, they are in the process of renovating the sanctuary.

Alright, now that you’ve learned something new today, it’s time to get out there and finish your Christmas shopping! Or maybe start your Christmas shopping. Or start thinking about starting your Christmas shopping. Whatever you do, have a great weekend-before-Christmas!



Categories: Architectural Research, Churches, Cool Old Places, Jackson

6 replies

  1. Well, they are beautiful, but so different we have in my country in Finland. Check it, if You do not believe.

    Have a wonderful day!

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  2. That dissertation is a great resource on Overstreet and Town. Luckily, MSU has a few copies, at least one of which is a circulating copy in the architecture library. Despite the poor production values (the photographs look like they were Xeroxed but it is a dissertation afterall, not a published book), I would encourage people to find a copy and read it. The dissertation shows just how prolific Overstreet and Town were, and how one firm was able to make such a large mark on the architectural landscape of Mississippi.

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  3. It is a shame about the photo quality. Most of them you can still make out, without the details, but a few are just so dark there’s nothing to be gleaned. I had thought it was just my copy, but I guess not. One thing I’m thankful for about the advance of technology is the better photo quality available to practically anyone now, and the quantity of photos that can be taken and reproduced easily.

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    • There may be a “master” dissertation copy somewhere with better illustrations than the copies we have seen, but most copies probably suffer from the poor Xeroxing. Despite the technological advancement of mass-production copy machines, the Xerox machine caused a “dark age” of photographic reproduction from the 1970s through the 1990s when looking at the publication production through the ages. Up until the Xerox machine’s widespread adoption in the 1960s and 70s, photographic reproduction in publications were photogravures and other, similarly high-quality methods. Compare architectural publications before the 1970s and those from later decades.

      However, considering that so few published sources are available on Overstreet and Town (other than 70-year-old magazine articles and the monograph on A. Hays Town’s later work, the only published book on Overstreet that I know of is the rare and out-of-print Overstreet & Overstreet exhibition catalog from the Mississippi Museum of Art), the unpublished dissertation is better than nothing.

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    • There’s a microfilm copy in the Archives that is of rather good quality actually.

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