Neo-Classicism Lives on Along Rosalind Avenue Orlando’s Own City Beautiful Landmark George Foote Dun
First Church of Christ, Scientist
(Now St George Antiochian Orthodox Church)
24 North Rosalind Avenue
George Foote Dunham, Architect
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Building Name: First Church of Christ, Scientist
Now St George Antiochian Orthodox Church
Address: 24 North Rosalind Avenue
Orlando, FL 32801
Link to location on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/MQq86gCvg9QWrFm7A
Year Built: 1927-1928
Architect of Record: George Foote Dunham
Design Architect (if different): Same as above
General Contractor: not known
Other Contributors: None
Noteworthy Architectural Features: An effective and noteworthy example of neo-classic architecture in downtown Orlando, the church building makes the most of a small footprint, in providing a handsome addition to the City Beautiful. The building exhibits many features that are hallmarks of a design style that harkens back to ancient Rome. A columned portico, pediments, arched windows, and a dome overhead set it apart as a structure that packs a lot of impact into a compact package. Nearly 100 years old, it continues to serve its original purpose as a place of worship, and is it is a chief feature of its neighborhood and well-maintained by the congregation it serves.
How to Visit: Open for prayer and reflection on weekdays, and for worship on Sundays. Visit the church website for details. Contact information: 321-663-4003
Architectural Style: Roman Classical Revival / Neo-Classicism
Neo-Classicism Lives on Along Rosalind Avenue
Orlando’s Own City Beautiful Landmark
George Foote Dunham’s Orlando Gem
There’s a slice of ancient Rome on a busy street in Orlando, Florida. On the National Register of Historic Places, it is also a century-old Neo-Classical house of worship that contributes to the beauty of the built environment of its neighborhood. Situated directly across Rosalind Avenue from Lake Eola Park, this church has a public presence that manages to impress even the casual passersby. But when considered more thoughtfully, its merits become clear.
The architectural style of the church has been characterized as Italian Renaissance Revival or Roman Classical Revival. Stylistic antecedents include Palladio’s Villa Rotunda, with its central dome and symmetrical harmonies, and the Baths of Caracalla of antiquity, whose arches and tripartite arched windows have inspired many later buildings, as well as the more recent (1910) Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, by Charles Folium McKim of McKim, Meade and White, the portico and dome of which are quite similar to Dunham’s design for First Church of Christ, Scientist. Both are examples’ of what has become known as the “City Beautiful Movement”, stemming from the Columbian Exposition of 1893 and its “White City” of impressive buildings almost all of which were inspired by the architecture of ancient Greece and ancient Rome. What better place than The City Beautiful – then – to have such a fine example of the City Beautiful Movement.
The main façade faces ultra-busy Rosalind Avenue, and has a commanding presence. It consists of a shallow central porticoed pavilion, with three doors set amid six Doric columns, above which is a pediment with centrally placed half circle window of three part design. High above this pediment, the central dome can be seen when the church is viewed as a distance, for example from Lake Eola Park across the street.
To each side of the portico are impressively unadorned walls that rise to the second floor clerestory, where the windows there continue the harmonious line of the clerestory windows in the portico.
The Wall Street façade, which is the side of the building most drivers on Rosalind see first, is dominated by the pedimented central section, in which are three arched windows of heroic proportions, tied together by a false balcony balustrade at their sill level, beautifully executed. Below them at street level, are three square windows, continuing the three-bay emphasis. The East Washington Street façade – currently quite visible thanks to the empty lot on the corner - duplicates the Wall Street design. To the rear, the building continues symmetrical, but is unadorned. Only the windows, which are for the most part evenly spaced, create a modest utilitarian pattern for that façade.
One enters the church via the central doorway, which is elevated from the street level by stairs. The narthex is narrow in depth, but runs the entire length of the building, creating both a sense of arrival, and a compression of space from the outdoors to the indoors, which is then relieved when one enters the beautiful sanctuary.
The transition from the narthex to the sanctuary holds a surprise that I will not spoil by revealing it here. If you do visit (and I hope you will) you must experience it first-hand. When architecture has the ability to surprise and delight, we can say that the architect was more than clever, and the design, more than successful. Some observers see similarities in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. It would not be a mistake to assume that Wright (who was a fellow member of the Chicago Architectural Club with Dunham in the early years of the twentieth century) must have been aware of Dunham’s masterful manipulation of such worship spaces.
The sanctuary is essentially a cross set within a rectangle, in plan. When you look at the room’s key elements, the broadly spanning arches, the large wall surfaces, the many windows brining in a filtered, mystical light, and the dome overhead, you understand that the room was made to feel spacious, as it does even today. Special mention should be made of the shallow balcony, whose railing repeats some of the elements of the Wall Street exterior façade, and the arched central chancel, which holds visually a pride of place, as well it should.
Remembering that Christian Science church buildings were spare in decoration and did not depict any type of human representation, the beautifully sumptuous and art-filled sanctuary of today is much more of a feast for the eyes than the original must have been. Even so, one can both enjoy the sanctuary in its present iteration, and sense what it may have been like with a more subdued original decorative scheme.
The church is lovingly cared for by its current congregation, who welcome visitors for prayer and reflection during the week, and on Sundays for worship. .
George Foote Dunham
George Foote Dunham was born in Burlington, Iowa, on September 17, 1876. His parents were Frank Reese Dunham and Harriette Moseby (Foote). George was a descendant of notable persons from America’s past: Nathaniel Foote, Roger Williams, and John Adams. Dunham graduated from the Armour Institute of Technology (now IIT) in 1900, and the Chicago Art Institute in 1901.
Thereafter Dunham engaged in architectural work in Chicago for about a decade, and was well-connected within the famously innovative Chicago architectural milieu. He was an active member of the Chicago Architectural Club, among a remarkable collection of notable architects, such as Daniel Burnham, William D. Gates (of Teco Pottery), Walter Burley Griffin, Fred Purcell, Dwight Perkins, T.E. Talmadge. and Frank Lloyd Wright. It was a lively and creative atmosphere in which to engage in the practice of architecture.
Dunham began his career as a draftsman under Solon Spencer Beman, a fellow Christian Science architect, His assistance on Beman's design of the First Church of Christ Scientist in Portland, Oregon, took Dunham to the Pacific Northwest, and there he stayed for the next nineteen years.
Dunham established his architectural office in the Lumbermen’s Building in 1910. In Oregon, Dunham was responsible for many religious and residential buildings. In most of the towns where they can be found, there is an awareness and appreciation of them to this day. Dunham was a Christian Scientist and it is said he limited his commissions for religious institutions to those of his own denomination, creating a number of large impressive buildings in the Roman Classical Revival style, including:
*First Church of Christ, Scientist (Bellingham) 1027 N Forest Street, Bellingham, WA 1910
*Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist (Portland) 109 N Emerson Street, Portland, OR 1913 16 *Second Church of Christ, Scientist (Portland) 531 NE Holladay Street, Portland, OR 1914- 1920 *First Church of Christ, Scientist (McMinnville) 806 N Davis, McMinnville, OR 1916
*Christian Science Society of Woodburn Address unknown, Woodburn, OR 1916 *Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist (Portland) 4224 SW 62nd Ave, Portland, OR 1917 *First Church of Christ, Scientist (Victoria) 1205 Pandora Avenue, Victoria, BC 1919-1920
*First Church of Christ Scientist, Fernwood, British Columbia, 1919-1920
*Second Church of Christ, Scientist (Spokane) 806 W Indiana Avenue, Spokane, WA 1921 (now Holy Temple Church of God in Christ)
*Third Church of Christ Scientist, Portland 1922
*Fourth Church of Christ Scientist, Portland, 1922
*Third Church of Christ, Scientist (Seattle) 4740 17th Avenue NE, Seattle, WA 1921-1922
*Fourth Church of Christ Scientist, Seattle (Now Seattle Town Hall), 1916 & 1923
Dunham is said to have designed fifty Christian Scientists Churches ranging from British Columbia to Florida. Dunham also designed a number of residences, which are considered highly desirable by realtors and their customers to this day, including:
* Jacob and Sarah Creath House, 1526 N Thompson Street, Irvington, Portland, Oregon, 1914
*George H Watson Residence, Portland, Oregon
*George Foote Dunham Residence, Portland, Oregon.
Dunham served as the treasurer of the Oregon Chapter of the AIA. Around 1926, George received the commission to design the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Orlando., Which is the subject of this article. After working in Portland for 19 years (1910-1929) George and his wife Violet relocated to Orlando Florida. Presumably one of the factors that prompted this was his very successful completed design for the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Orlando. And even though the Depression was nationwide, the possibility for work in Central Florida was also a key factor in their relocation. It’s interesting to know that the journey itself became a matter of public interest. Mrs. Dunham wrote about it. In 1929. Crossing the country by automobile was certainly an adventure for anyone, and especially for a woman who it seems, was traveling with several other women, or by herself. George, having already begun establishing their life in Orlando.
By this time Dunham was considered one of the leading architects in the USA. Orlando is the site of a number of completed works by Dunham, including: * The Hand Funeral Home,
* Commercial Building at 63 East Pine Street, Orlando (perhaps a renovation, as the building stood there from 1916 onward), 1930.
*First Church of Christ, Scientist (Orlando) 24 N Rosalind Avenue, Orlando, FL 1928
Dunham was an influential leader in the work of the American Institute of Architects, in Portland, Florida, and nationally. He was highly respected by his peers, and somewhat of an authority figure in the profession. He is said to have designed thousands of homes for returning GIs following WWII. George Foote Dunham passed away on June 11, 1949, and was buried in the Aspen Grove Cemetery, Burlington, Des Moines County, Iowa. His widow Violet would live on for many years, until July 11, 1974, and is also buried in Aspen Grove Cemetery.