Working to preserve historic architecture in La Porte, Indiana, since 1994.
#12 First Church of Christ Scientist
1008 Michigan Avenue
Built c. 1893
Written by Tim Stabosz and Michele Barber
Architect Unknown, expansion may have been
designed by George Wood Allen, La Porte
The original "core" of this stately Parthenon-
like structure was built in the early 1890s. The
Sanborn Fire Insurance map from 1895 describes
it as "Parish House, Episcopal Church." Indeed, it
was built for St. Paul's Episcopal Church, and in its
earliest years was used as a meeting house for
church members to gather.
There were documented activities of a
growing Christian Science movement in
La Porte as early as the 1890s. In 1899, the first
public Christian Science lecture was given by
Judge William G. Ewing, of the Mother Church
in Boston. By 1900, meetings were being held
at the Unitarian Church (today's Trinity
Lutheran) at 907 Michigan Avenue. The 1904
La Porte City Directory indicates Christian
Science Sunday services at 10:30 a.m. “in their new church rooms, 2nd floor, Odd Fellows Building.” Finally, in 1905, Articles of Association were formally executed, and the church was legally incorporated. Founding members included such luminaries as Arthur Lay, Mrs. O. P. Ludlow Jr., Emma and Mrs. Mary Lonn, and Mr. and Mrs. Hobart M. Cable of the Hobart M. Cable Company, piano manufacturers.
The Christian Scientists continued to meet at the Odd Fellows Building for a few more years until finally, with further growth, members decided to seek their own church building. 1008 Michigan Avenue was purchased from the Unitarians for about $4,000 in September of 1908 who had themselves bought the building from St. Paul's Episcopal Church several months earlier, Christian Science services were begun, and the building was dubbed the "First Church of Christ Scientist" for the next 80+ years.
In 1920, with the congregation flourishing, the building was significantly expanded, seating capacity was doubled, and exterior changes were made in the Colonial Revival style, so popular in the early 20th century. The changes gave the building a more "modern" look, while maintaining the classical influences of the original structure. These changes include replacing beveled wood siding with wood shingles, and the addition of architectural elements such as the front doors with fanlight above, the half-round window with keystone detail in the pediment, and the art glass windows throughout. The expanded structure is believed to have been designed by noted local architect George Wood Allen, as there is an entry for a "Christian Science Church" in his personal list of blueprints.
The Church remained vibrant for a number of decades thereafter. Unfortunately, in more recent times, a period of decline set in, and membership had dwindled to a few dozen or less by 1991. Formal dissolution occurred that year, and the building was sold back to St. Paul's Episcopal Church.
After 1991, St. Paul's Episcopal Church leased out the building to various churches and fellowships, but periods of occupancy were short, as the cavernous structure, albeit grand, was expensive to heat. The structure was vacant for years and threatened with demolition, as St. Paul's Episcopal Church was in a quandary as to what to do with it. People Engaged in Preservation stepped in and offered its assistance, seeking to help find an appropriate lessee for the building, and even offering to purchase the building outright. The initial offer to purchase by People Engaged in Preservation was declined, with St. Paul's Episcopal Church deciding to save the building and return it to use.
A renovation plan was drawn up by Community Preservation Specialist (and one time PBS television house restoration "guru") Bob Yapp of the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana (now Indiana Landmarks). Mr. Yapp conducted a successful "Window Restoration College," which began the important process of bringing the building up to a more modern level of energy efficiency, while providing St. Paul's Episcopal Church the necessary training to allow it to complete the windows using volunteer labor.
The plans by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church did not come to fruition and People Engaged in Preservation finally purchased the building with its two adjoining lots to ensure its preservation. Improvements to the building included a new roof, window repairs, and a fresh coat of paint on the exterior.
The church Puerta De Salvacion purchased 1008 Michigan Avenue in July of 2017.
Read more about this historic church, and many others properties in La Porte, in Preserve Historic La Porte’s book Historic Architecture of La Porte Indiana: The First 20 Years of the Candlelight Tour, available through Preserve Historic La Porte or the La Porte County Historical Society Museum.