Churches, Temples and Mosques

Greensboro Buddhist WAT
2715 Liberty Road
Converted in 1960s Smaller faith groups adapt to spaces, and the Greensboro Buddhist temple on Liberty Road that started as a 70-year-old residence has done that with colors and sounds of an ancient culture.

A close second would be the 16th Street mosque, which is in a renovated commercial building, with separate floor space for women and men to pray. The mosque doesn’t fall into an architectural style that’s recognized today.

“It looks like a house from the street and has blue trim, but when you go in you feel different, like I’m going to be respectful and quiet ... a sense of calm,” Briggs said of the Buddhist temple, whose wooden frame has been overlaid with aluminum siding.

“It’s just a different way of experiencing architecture that we may not be used to,” Briggs said.

Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church
2205 W. Market St.
Built in 1952 Our Lady of Grace is in the same family as other local European-looking churches, but it is framed with its own detail.

“The inspired history of many centuries,” wrote Ethel Arnett in 1955 in the book “Greensboro.”

The Catholic church is largely hand-carved, with a pink granite exterior, high ceilings and period sculptures. Above the main entrance rests a statue of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus.

Human skill reflective of that used in other landmarks known around the world, such as Notre Dame in Paris, crafted the church, Briggs said.

“It is among the monuments left to us by the success of past generations,” Briggs said. “It should be called a cathedral.”

More than 30,000 pieces of cut stained glass were imported from Belgium for the construction, along with chiaro marble from Italy for the sanctuary and side altars.

Skenes Chapel Holiness Church

(Formerly Asheboro Street Friends Meeting; that congregation moved to Friendly Avenue in the 1950s.)
350 Martin Luther King Drive
Built in 1910 In only some ways did the structure reflect the simplicity of Quaker values: enjoying space for the simplicity of space, with clean lines and no stained-glass windows.

The brick church lacked a steeple and a grand entrance, but it remains one of the few of its type for other reasons. It is one of the earliest examples of a Quaker meeting house with columns in the front, a neoclassical style of architecture.

“The Quakers were trying to join mainstream society a little more than they had in the past, so they went with grand architecture, ” Briggs said. “Quakers, for the first time, were beginning to show off a little — they were incorporating music and hiring pastors. Part of that was to say, ‘If we can have our organ, we can have columns.’ ”

Buffalo Presbyterian Church

803 16th St.
Built in 1827 Early images of the Scotch-Irish Buffalo Presbyterian Church offer insight into interactions of differing faith traditions.

Buffalo Church, a congregation established in 1756 and one of the oldest churches in the area, is similar in construction to the German Reformed Brick Church in eastern Guilford, which has a congregation that dates to the 1740s.

Their houses of worship looked similar — brick, almost barnlike structures that might have started on other parts of the property as log buildings and built before the popularity of steeples — even as they didn’t speak the same language.

“They were not blind to each other,” Briggs said. “They still drove past each other’s houses of worship, and they knew what they looked like. They still knew the language of each other’s building, and they built in a standard.”
The older section of the present sanctuary, including some of the pews, dates to 1826. The building has had minimal renovations in the past 180 years.

Evangel Fellowship Church
2207 E. Cone Blvd.
Built in 2003 Built for affordability and utility, more recent structures such as Evangel Fellowship focus more than ever on teaching space and parking.

Newer structures are less likely to make architectural statements and are more likely to handle lots of tasks.

“We couldn’t build them today because we wouldn’t have the craftsmanship or the material,” Briggs said of the older churches and the shift in American religion and taste to megachurches that resemble elementary schools or auditoriums.

First Presbyterian Church

617 N. Elm St.
Built 1929 First Presbyterian employed the same architect as its Greene Street neighbor, Temple Emanuel.

But it was six years later, and a definite shift had occurred in architectural taste for more exotic-looking buildings. Houses in the suburbs had taken on the styles of Italy and France — Tudor-style with a medieval look — and so did the church.

The building’s French Norman Revival style is modeled on an existing cathedral in Albi, France.

A northwest stained glass window with a Star of David overlooks the synagogue, reflecting the close relationship between the two.

When the church ran out of money during construction, the synagogue’s congregation paid the last $30,000.

Greensboro Historical Museum
130 Summit Ave. l Portions built as early as 1892 The reverse of faith groups adapting to available space is the Greensboro Historical Museum, which is located in what was First Presbyterian Church and has a large window of the congregation’s original stained glass, featuring a rendition of Jesus surrounded by children.
Four prominent Greensboro women purchased the brick buildings in the 1930s, during the Depression, for a community center that eventually housed the public library as well as the museum. In 1964, the museum became the only tenant.

Of historical significance is a letter from a Union soldier to his fiancee describing “blue and gray uniforms intermingled” inside one Sunday after the war. The letter was dated May 18, 1865.

Providence Baptist Church
1106 Tuscaloosa St.
Built 1967 “Tragically, a lot of African American churches in Greensboro that dated before World War II were destroyed during the 1960s and 1970s” under the banner of urban renewal, Briggs said.

“In the context of the 1960s, the general thought in society was modern was better, old is bad.”

Providence Baptist Church began under an arbor tree in 1866, a year after the Civil War ended. The small congregation got its first home, a single-room frame building, in 1871, and at the same site built the first brick-and-mortar church for African Americans in the state in 1875.

The building was destroyed in 1962 when the city tore up most of the East Market Street area.

Providence and others are “fantastic” examples of modern architecture, with sloped roofs and steeples that are sort of like prisms, Briggs said. “We don’t have right now a good inventory of these modern buildings because until quite recently they were not considered historic,” Briggs said. “But we are now beginning to understand this tells an important chapter of American architecture.”

Temple Emanuel
713 N. Greene and 1129 Jefferson Road
Built 1923 and 1999 The Greene Street campus was built when American history — the Colonial Revival period — was popular, so the exterior of Temple Emanuel takes a traditional appearance with columns and tall ceilings. The red brick exterior is similar to historic buildings in Boston, Baltimore and Charleston, with a hand-carved marble portico.

“There are synagogues in Charleston and Boston and Newport, Rhode Island, that go back to ‘George Washington visited them,’ so I think they were looking back and reflecting on their own American history,” Briggs said.

When the congregation built a new sanctuary on Jefferson Road, the Temple imported the sand-colored stones for an 18-foot-tall rock wall. “The congregation didn’t just go for biggest utilitarian space; they went for meaningful,” Briggs said.

West Market Street UnitedMethodist Church

302 W. Market St.
Built 1893 (photo above) Greensboro’s growth during the 1880s and 1890s, the Victorian period, was exemplified by picturesque architecture that looked like castles and monasteries, with elaborate details.

West Market Street’s building with the famous windows, recycled from the German pavilion at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, is often overlooked by drivers maneuvering through the city’s main downtown streets.

In the Richardsonian Romanesque style, West Market Street is built around a main massive tower surrounded by lots of smaller towers, stained glass, carved stone, rounded arches and gables.

Many of the big urban congregations from this period have almost all been lost in places such as Charlotte because of high growth.

Compiled by Nancy McLaughlin, News & Record Staff Writer - published June 14, 2009

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