Forgotten Fenestration




One of the most charming architectural features of Shadyside Church is the Pastor's Study Tower.  We have looked at its form and functional location in Professor, Judge, Pastor.  We have recently rediscovered that the window pattern there was not always as we see it today.  Executive Pastor Reverend Jim Tinnemeyer, in following progress of the Building Community capital program, noticed a slight variation in stone color in the cloister/atrium, a clue to changes made during the 1937/38 church remodeling.  Jim also discovered the same gray and rust hue in stones above the windows in the Pastor's Study Tower.

At first, we thought the sections of window removed might have fbeen round Romanesque arches, seen on many windows and doors in the church.  I consulted with an internet friend, G. G. Launchbaugh, who has studied historical architecture and made some designs of his own (including one with many features reminiscent of Shadyside Church with its lantern tower).  He made a sketch suggesting how it might have looked and pointed out a similar feature at First Presbyterian Church in Detroit (a "lantern church" with a sanctuary space much like Shadyside's)

Sketch courtesy of G.G. Launchbaugh  Photo credit Burton Historical Collection

Close inspection of the pattern of in-filled stone, however, indicates that the size and proportion of the space would not have suited round arches.  This is a little easier so see in the early 1960s view of the tower, before the church's walls were cleaned.  The close-up on the right shows the "L-shaped" cut stone that formed the sill for the window that was removed.

 (Left) Tower photo before surface cleaning   (Right)  Close-up of infill with original cut stone sill above existing window

Rectangular upper windows would fit the space in question.  To get a rough idea of how that might appear, below are a sketch I made a few years back of the tower and a photo-edited version showing rectangular openings.

So, is there any evidence that suggests a rectangular shape for the windows, other than the pattern of the in-fill stones?  Perhaps.  Architects sometimes use a similar "composition" for spaces of similar function.  A case can be made that both the Pastor's Study Tower and the Chapel are subsidiary spaces to the main sanctuary building.  All these were designed by Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge with the Chapel completed within two years of the sanctuary building.  A pattern of fenestration similar to that conjectured here for the tower can be seen on the Chapel.  The proportions of the windows are similar (though not identical). Both locations employ a dressed stone belt course above the lowest band of windows.  In fact, the gable of Chapel dormer and the conical roof of the Tower (each sporting a finial) make their appearance in elevation nearly congruent.

Similar window pattern and proportion and overall form of Tower and Chapel dormer wall

An intriguing question remains.  What about the interior space of the Tower would justify such high windows?  The present-day Pastor's Study is a quite tall room.  If the ceiling was originally higher than the upper rectangular windows, it would seem to have been an awkward proportion.  Could it be that the original ceiling was between the middle and upper window banks - with a skylight panel like that which may have been in the Chapel?  This question might be answered if the upper space is accessed - and it might not.  Such questions must remain puzzling, since no photographs, architectural drawings or detailed descriptions are known to exist of either the interior or exterior of the Pastor's Study Tower from the time before the 1937-38 church remodeling.

If anyone has early information on this subject or can offer opinions, an EMAIL would be welcome.