The First Baptist

In the early years of Laurium – then known confusingly as Calumet – one of the first churches to arrive to the scene was the First Baptist, formed around 1895. The congregation elected to build itself a small wood framed church along Hecla Street around the same time. The new church would only serve for just a decade before being outgrown by the congregation that built it. By 1907 plans were drawn up for a brand new church, one more fitting to the booming metropolis that the newly rechristened Laurium had become. With space within village limits at a premium and its current corner of land too small for the new building, the congregation looked to neighboring Hecla Location to build its new structure.

In 1908 the new regal structure was completed, its brick and sandstone bulk standing tall at the corner of Depot and Laurium Streets. The land was donated to the church by C&H and had previously been occupied by a lumber company. It was also built just a short distance from the old Mineral Range depot, whose line into town ran just to the west. It joined Faith Lutheran Church, which had already been built across the road.

The new First Baptist Church was a rather unique structure, built to look like no other church in the region. The most noticable difference was the lack of any type of bell tower, its front facade instead dominated by a large portico embellished by four large Corinthian columns. The result is a building that looks more like some type of government building then a place of worship.

Such municipal impressions are even more evident when one glances up at the portico’s pedimented top. There an over abundance of victorian flare almost gushes out of the woodwork in the form of brackets, dentils, and scrolled capitals. Though looking a bit out of place on a building with such religious purpose,  its an impressive architectural flourish none-the-less.

Speaking of architectural flourish, here’s a closer look at one of those capitals atop the columns. Though a little worn and rugged, the plaster embellishments look pretty good considering its century-old age.

Up above those columns sits a large pediment, its inside facade inscribed with the church’s name built from large seriffed gold letters.

Below the pediment those soaring columns outline the structures main entrance, a massive pair of wood doors topped by a gothic-arched stained glass window.

In addition to that entrance the church’s front facade also features four large stained-glass windows, all sharing the same design as the one seen above. Each is topped by a pointed arch built of smooth-faced sandstone blocks along with a narrow sandstone sill along its base.

Along the church’s side walls are even more windows, openings that no doubt illuminate the nave inside. A series of smaller openings can also be found lining the building’s raised sandstone foundation. These most likely provided light for a downstairs meeting space, but today are all sealed up with wood.

Taking center stage, however, is a massive stained-glass window centered within the brick facade. This oversized window extends several feet above the building’s walls, its extra girth accommodated by a gabled extension atop the roof-line.

The church would continue to serve the congregation for the next century, and is in use still today. In that time the structure was expanded twice, first in 1968 and once again in 1994. Those additions combine to form a massive 100 foot long extension to the building’s backside, seen above. Though not built of stone in any way, the new wood structure was at least given a few architectural flourishes meant to mimic features of the original building. Most notable of which is the extended gable with recess above the addition’s main entrance.

Today the First Baptist continues to stand proud along its Depot Street perch, its grand portico greeting visitors as the travel along M26 through the hold mining village. It has survived the years remarkably well, no doubt to a congregation dedicated to keeping its place of worship as beautiful as the day it was built.

 

Discuss…

  1. Nice article..our family has been talking about this article…passed from daughter to mother and aunt to cousin. Thanks for sharing!

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