In 1866, the corner of South Jefferson and Hayden (the site of First Congregational Church) was at the center of Saginaw society. The Church's immediate neighbors were the opulent homes of Saginaw’s movers and shakers … as well as the more modest houses of the city’s rapidly-growing labor pool.
So it was fitting that one of the period’s most prominent up-and-coming Michigan architects was engaged to design a church of prominence in an up-and-coming city.
Gordon W. Lloyd lived in Windsor and had an office in Detroit. He was 34 years old – and just establishing his reputation as a designer of churches and cathedrals. By 1866, he had completed significant churches in Detroit, Erie, Pa. and several other cities. Then he was engaged to design First Congregational Church.
The contractor was C.S. Chapin of Buffalo, New York. The new Church was dedicated on June 14, 1868. Described by the Saginaw Daily Courier as “an ornate structure,” the solid red brick Italiante building contained accents of the English gothic architecture Lloyd had studied.
Aside from its architectural merit, it is best known today as home to a stained glass window by Tiffany and Company, installed in 1912, and 11 other stained glass windows by A.J. Timler installed in 1969.
Additions began with the construction of Bradley House, our fellowship hall, in the late 1920s.
In 1954, the congregation purchased the house next door. The striking modernist home was designed for Mary E. Dow by her brother, prominent Midland architect, Alden B. Dow. Built in 1936, the house bears many Dow signatures, including its concrete Unit Block construction. Most recently, the Dow House was the parsonage for our Senior Minister who opened his home for tours and visits. It is now awaiting a bit of restoration back to its original state.
During the Church’s centennial year in 1957, the congregation authorized the construction of Suttner Hall (the Christian education building) and Bethlehem Chapel (now known as the John Iliff Chapel); the remodeling of the Mary E. Dow home, once called Plymouth House and now called the Dow House; and a new glass foyer connecting the Iliff Chapel and the Dow House all into one structure.
Many changes have occurred through the years – some by design, and some not. The choir loft was moved, and seating for the congregation has gone from pews to opera seats and back to pews again. A 1973 fire destroyed the roof and much of the nave furnishings, including the organ console, but the walls, organ pipes, and Tiffany and Timler windows were saved. The congregation voted to rebuild rather than to relocate.
Alden B. Dow
Son of the founder of The Dow Chemical Company, he established his own studio in 1934 after a year-long apprenticeship with Frank Lloyd Wright. Some of his most significant works include:
- Midland Center for the Arts, Midland
- City Hall, Ann Arbor
- University of Michigan Fleming Administration Building, Ann Arbor
- The town of Lake Jackson, Texas
- Alden B. Dow Home and Studio, Midland
Gordon W. Lloyd
The English-born architect established his office in Detroit in 1858.
Among his works are:
- The Whitney House, Detroit
- Building 50, Northern Michigan Asylum
- Traverse City
- Central Methodist Church, Detroit
- Parker Block, Detroit
- Trinity Episcopal Church, Columbus, Ohio
- D.M. Ferry & Company Warehouse, Detroit
- Grace Episcopal Church, Galion, Ohio