Want to hold on to the holiday season a little longer this year? The Downtown Boise Christmas Church Walk can help.
The self-guided tour, hosted by the Les Bois Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, will be held the day after Christmas. This is the fourth holiday church tour in the past five years.
“This event brings people into churches they might have walked past for a long time, but never gone inside,” said guild member Michael Civiello.
Organists will play live music at each church, and the tour ends with a public singalong at St. John’s Cathedral. The tour will offer something for lovers of music, architecture, holiday decor and spiritual spaces, Civiello said.
Here are some cool things you might not know about the churches on the tour:
IMMANUEL LUTHERAN , 707 W. FORT ST. (1908-1910)
Æ The building began life as the Swedish Lutheran Church, with services in Swedish. The congregation began holding services in English in 1918.
Æ Charles Hummel I of Tourtellotte and Hummel, the celebrated Boise firm, designed the church, as well as St. John’s nearby (also on the tour).
Æ The church was expanded in the 1950s, creating a compound with a curious mix of architectural styles. The congregation named the original structure the Augustana Chapel.
Æ The Augustana Chapel follows European gothic style (seen in the pointed shape of its windows and off-center steeple). Its sandstone foundation is from a local quarry.
Æ The Augustana Chapel is notable for its compact size — it’s only 38 feet by 64 feet. Except for a heating vent or two, its interior is a time capsule, unchanged in the past century.
FIRST UNITED METHODIST, 717 N. 11TH ST. (1958-60)
Æ This “Mad Men”-era building is the newest home of a Boise congregation that began meeting, 43 members strong, in 1872.
Æ The building is “cruciform” — shaped like a cross. Its vertical elements are a modern take on gothic style.
Æ The local quarry that provided the church’s sandstone reopened some years ago so that new additions at the church would match the original building, said Dan Everhart of Preservation Idaho.
Æ The church is notable for its stained-glass windows made by Willet Studios in Philadelphia. The studio also created windows for Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and the Church Center for the United Nations in New York City, among others.
The windows present a bit of a “history mystery,” said Doug StanWiens, Preservation Idaho board member and head of the Boise Architecture Project. They picture the usual figures one would expect in a church. But they also feature George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Why the curious mix? Turns out each man is associated in some way with Methodism, said StanWiens.
ST. JOHN’S ROMAN CATHOLIC CATHEDRAL, 775 N. 8TH ST. (1904-1921)
Æ Architect Charles Hummel I (grandfather of the architect Charles Hummel, who still lives in Boise) intended the church’s imposing square towers to be steeples, said Everhart. That would have given the building a gothic look.
But lack of funding cut that plan — and the towers — short. It also meant the church remains a solidly Romanesque structure characterized by rounded arches, thick, massive walls and a sense of solidity.
“My perception of St. John’s is that it’s about as close to a European cathedral as you can get in Boise,” said StanWiens.
Æ A detail to note: Windows were installed in 1920, with the exception of the modern Holy Spirit window directly above the high altar. It was added during a 1979 restoration.
Æ One nice connection: Charles Hummel oversaw the restoration of the church his grandfather designed, continuing the family’s deep ties to the building.
ST. MICHAEL’S EPISCOPAL CATHEDRAL, 518 N. 8TH ST. (1899-1902)
Æ According to “Saints and Oddfellows” by J. Meredith Neil, Boise’s C.B. Little built the church based on designs provided by the national Episcopal Church.
Æ The congregation built its corner “Memorial Peace Tower” in 1949. The tower was part of the original plan.
Æ The church’s fine woodwork is worth noting, said StanWiens. The interior is more contained and warm than one might expect from outside, he said.
“I like that it’s not overpowering,” he said. “You wouldn’t film the ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ there. It’s cozy.”
Anna Webb: 377-6431