The Proposed CathedralA Matter of Faith

A Methodist Episcopal parish in Columbus, Ohio, had acquired a block of land in the business center, and upon it the congregation wanted to build the greatest church in the world. As the name of Ralph Adams Cram was associated with the design of the finest Gothic cathedrals of the day, the Pastor had been sent to Boston to interview him.

Mr. Cram was delighted to see the Pastor, who explained the plan they had in mind to build this church. However, the congregation was one of businessmen and the site was an extremely valuable one. Therefore, they wished not only to build the greatest church in the world, but to combine it with revenue producing enterprises including a hotel, a YMCA, an apartment house with a swimming pool, and so on. On the street level would be shops to bring in high rentals, and in the basement, the largest garage in Columbus, Ohio. The garage was very important, because, in giving his congregation a place to park their cars on coming to work on weekdays the Pastor would indeed make the church the center of their lives.

Mr. Cram was deeply distressed by the idea. He hastened to explain to the Pastor that if it was the congregation's intent to build the "greatest church in the world" it should be a cathedral of solid stone, built to last through the ages to the great glory of God. It was unthinkable that it be combined with hotels, apartments and retail stores. As for the basement, there would be no room for cars because this noble structure would be constructed on tremendous granite piers, thirty feet across, that would support the structure through all time as a monument to their faith.

The Pastor, though impressed by all this, didn't feel he could return to his building committee and tell them their basement would be full of huge stone piers instead of automobiles. So he came to New York to see Raymond Hood, related the problem and the reaction of Mr. Cram. When he had finished, Mr. Hood said, "The trouble with Mr. Cram is that he has no faith in God. I will design a church for you that will be the greatest church in the world. It will include all the hotels, swimming tanks and candy stores you desire. Furthermore, in the basement will be the largest garage in Christendom because," he continue, "I will build your church on toothpicks and have faith enough in God to believe it will stand up!"

But like many another architect's dream, this one also ended with the model.

Raymond Hood Links

Ralph Cram Links

Original account from Raymond Hood: Architect , as recounted in Unbuilt America.

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