Before and After: St. Stephen's in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Continuing on with yet another instalment in our popular "Before and After" series, we turn today to the parish of St. Stephen's in Grand Rapids, Michigan. While the parish itself was founded in 1924, the present church building stems from additions and renovations which took place in the 1960's and 1970's -- and suffice it to say, the 'before' configuration had all the usual features (which is to say, faults) typical of the period.

David B. Meleca Architects were engaged and brought about a design plan which revivified the church, utilizing traditional colour schemes, art and materials, also drawing inspiration from the original pre-war church building itself.

Here are a few side by side views for quick and easy comparison:

Sanctuary (Before / After)
Main Altar (Before / After)
Tabernacle (Before / After)
As you will see, the differences are quite substantial. While the prior church was characterized by a kind of minimalism and sterility, the new church is not only more beautiful, it also has a much more inviting and qualitative feel to it.  Perhaps most importantly, the altar is now much more clearly the central focal point and the sanctuary feels much less chaotic and cluttered than it was in its previous incarnation.

Here are a few closer looks.


Before: Main Altar


Main Altar
Tabernacle / Altar of Reservation
Sanctuary ceiling
Details from the ceiling in the narthex
As noted, Meleca took at least some of their inspiration from the original pre-war church building. In particular I would point our readers to triple arches that now, once again, frame the sanctuary, as well as some of the stencilling work seen on the back walls:

The pre-war church prior to its expansion and renovation

While it is not precisely identical of course, the new church is certainly a much closer echo of the original and a vast improvement from the later 20th century version of it.

Photo credits: All "before" pictures are Copyright Mary Lea McNutty 

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