Tenth tour highlights local history

Event switches to daylight hours to showcase painted and stained glass windows.

After a decade of sharing his love of Springfield’s architecture via the Holiday, Hymns and Holly Tour, Kevin Rose has finally seen the light. The sunlight, that is.

The tour, normally in the evening, will be in the afternoon to highlight the stained and painted glass windows at three historic churches.

The event will be Saturday, starting at 2 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church, 409 E. High St. Participants will then visit St. Raphael Catholic Church, 225 E. High St., and High Street United Methodist Church, 230 E. High St. The tour will conclude with a casual reception at Christ Episcopal’s parish house.

Tickets are available at the door; general admission is $10, but tickets for Springfield Preservation Alliance members are $8 and student tickets are $5.

The tour began 10 years ago as a way to increase awareness of the importance of downtown churches and other structures along North and South Fountain avenues and East High Street. Rose, who volunteers as events coordinator with the SPA, created the event but recognizes others for offering examples and ideas.

“We have incredible architecture and a great history of music in our community,” he said.

The three landmark churches exemplify that, and Rose has done his homework to offer specifics.

“Even though there are two Victorian churches (Christ and St. Raphael), they are so different, and High Street Methodist is such a grand example of the Craftsman style,” he said.

Christ Episcopal was designed by Gordon W. Lloyd, who created other grand edifices in Detroit, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Columbus. “I think it’s spectacular, even when compared to his work in other cities,” Rose said.

St. Raphael was designed by prolific local architect Charles Creager, who designed City Hall and the Arcade Hotel. “Creager didn’t live to see the completion of the church, but it is one of the most significant designs of his career. This church has some of the best, if not the best, windows in Springfield,” Rose said. The building was finished in 1898; Creager died in 1896 at age 38.

Rose is excited to share new information he recently uncovered about High Street. For years, he said, the architect of the building wasn’t known, but he discovered the architect was Frank L. Packard, who also designed Memorial Hall and the IOOF Home. “He was a key architect in Ohio,” Rose said.

For Charlotte Reed, priest at Christ Episcopal Church for 12 years, the tour is a way to expose residents to the beauty of her congregation’s home.

“The cornerstone was laid in 1874 and the congregation dates back to 1834. In the course of our busy lives, we tend not to see the great things in our city, so this is an opportunity to be reminded of what wonderful things we have here,” she said.

Christ Episcopal was the church of some important Springfield families. The Parish Hall was given by Ellen Ludlow Bushnell, the wife of Gov. Asa Bushnell. The baptismal font was given in memory of the children of Benjamin Warder, who, along with Bushnell, formed the Warder, Bushnell & Glessner Company. The sanctuary windows are painted, not stained glass, and the window over the altar was given in memory of Chandler Robbins, who was the first superintendent of the city’s public schools, Reed said.

“All three churches on the tour were built during a time when architecture was used as a way to move people without having to say a word, and that can still happen. They were not built necessarily to be practical, but by the virtue of their architecture, they were created to help people experience God,” she said.

She, along with Rose, hopes that those who tour the churches will walk away with the feeling that Springfield’s greatness is continuing, even though it may look very different today than it did during the early 19th century.

“Looking at these buildings gives us ideas as to what we can do to be successful in the 21st century,” she said. “The value in these historic buildings is not just that they remind us of the past, but in that they can be an inspiration for what we can become.”

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