Monday, May 24, 2010

Charles E. Stade, Architect

He's most famous for his magnificent chapel at Valpairaso University, south of Chicago. But Park Ridge architect Charles Stade designed dozens (reportedly hundreds) of churches, across Chicagoland and across America, from the early 1950s until his retirement in 1981. He worked with many denominations, but his own Lutheran faith gave him the largest number of commissions.

It's not hard to spot a Stade church: just look for the big A-frame building with a random checkerboard of colored glass squares, with gill-like stacks of sloping wood mullions. It's a style that was heavily influenced by the angular styles of Frank Lloyd Wright, particularly his Unitarian Meetinghouse in Madison, WI.

Charles E. Stade church
Winnetka Presbyterian Church - Willow Road, Winnetka, IL

Immanuel Lutheran Church - Des Plaines, IL

St. Timothy Lutheran
St. Timothy Lutheran Church - w. of Logan Square, Chicago

Hillside Free Methodits
Hillside Free Methodist Church - Evanston, IL

Trinity Lutheran
Trinity Lutheran Church - Lombard (York Center), IL

Ashlar-cut gray stone end walls are also pretty diagnostic of Stade's stock style.

St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran
St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church - SW Chicago

Elston United Methodist
Elston United Methodist Church - NW Chicago

Stade was a consumate Modernst. He designed simple, elegant, geometric buildings, largely bereft of ornament, that relied on the magic of light and space to bring them to life. Also in keeping with the Modernist ethos, he was not at all ashamed to recycle ideas for building designs, to the extent that many of his smaller churches are totally interchangeable.

Trinity Lutheran - Lombard

Elston United Methodist

Faith Lutheran Church - NW Chicago

Immanuel Lutheran Church
Immanuel Lutheran, Des Plaines

And yet, none of them are clones. Each is uniquely designed. Each contains an original floor plan, each has unique glass patterns, each has custom-designed liturgical furnishings.

Stade loved his angles. Some of the most hypnotic moments in his designs are where angles repeat and pile on one another.


And he loved his grids. Nearly every Stade church has a wall that's a grid of randomly sized openings in different colors.







Bethel United Church of Christ - Elmhurst, IL


Stade even designed doors in this style, sometimes setting the handles in a deeply recessed grid of thin wood elements. There's definitely something memorable about reaching your hand into that grid to grasp and pull the handle.





A fourth Stade element is simple concrete sculpture plaques, displaying symbols of the church along with short quotations.





And a final Stade signature is the cornerstone - usually rendered in limestone, with a simple, raised sans-serif font announcing the year of construction and nothing else.




One can see him settling into his trademark style with the 1953 St. Andrew's Lutheran Church, an early work up on Northwest Highway which already contains several of the signature elements. St. Andrews has red brick, a solid end wall, and boxed-out stained glass windows with faceted glass, all of which mark it as unique from the stock style that Stade would be mass-producing in by 1958.

Saint Andrew's Lutheran Church, Park Ridge, IL


Stade was one of the second-generation Modernists, bringing contemporary design to the masses, making good, serviceable buildings that were affordable, handsome, clean and elegant - ideal for the suburban frontier. His work was not necessarily scrutinized by the glossy high-end magazines, but it was certainly worthy of it.


BW said...

I did some research on Stade recently, this is a good place to post it. A partial commission list (where city is not noted generally means Des Plaines). Stade attended Concordia College, University of Illinois for Architecture, graduated 1946, Princeton for his Masters, graduated 1948, and followup in 1949 at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. He came from a family that was long prolific in construction in the Northwest Suburbs and particularly Des Plaines, and his brother was the pastor at Immanuel Lutheran, which explains why that one is unusually elaborate.

Charles Edward Stade & Associates
Stade & Cooley
Stade, Dolan and Anderson
Stade, Dolan, Enrick and Associates
Stade, Dolan, Anderson, and Bonez
Stade, Dolan & Associates
Stade, Dolan, Smith & Associates

Charles E Stade

1951 - 1639 Campbell, Des Plaines, Charles Robinson Home
3-1953 - St. Paul Lutheran Church, Oak Lawn
1953 - Christ Church Parish Hall
1953-6 - St. Andrew's Church, Park Ridge, Ill - Your Church 11 Best 1959
1954-7 - Immanuel Lutheran, Des Plaines
1954 - Redeemer Lutheran, Freeport
1954 - Hope Lutheran Church, Park Forest
1955 - Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Palos Park (awarded)
1956 - Valparaiso University - Moellering Library, Brandt Hall, Linwood House, Science, De Witt Student and Cultural Center, Chapel of the Resurrection (Church Architectural Guild Award)
1956 - St. Nicolai Evangelical and Reformed, Kedzie & Wellington, Chicago
1956 - Our Savior Lutheran, Norwood Park
1956 - Elston Avenue Methodist Church, Elston & Marmora, Chicago
1956 - Zion Evangelical Lutheran, Kalamazoo, MI
1956 - Church of the Ascension, Birmingham, MI
1956 - Pilgrim Lutheran, Marysville, MI
1956 - Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Yardley, PA
1957 - First National Bank
1957 - St. Peter Lutheran, 8600 S Kedvale, Chicago
1957-1959 - St. Matthew Lutheran, Barrington
1957 - Bethel Evangelical and Reformed Church, Elmhurst
1957 - Community Presbyterian, Bensenville
1957 - Edison Park Lutheran, Edison Park
1957 - First English Evangelical Addition, 3062 Palmer, Chicago
1957 - Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church. Arlington Heights
1958 - First Congregational, Lombard
1958 - Bethany Lutheran, Naperville
1958 - Immanuel United Church of Christ, Bensenville
1958 - Trinity Presbyterian Church, Oak Lawn
1958 - St. Paul Lutheran, Mount Prospect
1958 - St. Timothy Evangelical Lutheran, 2100 N Kildare, Chicago
1958 - Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit, Elk Grove (first EG church)
1958 - Our Redeemer Lutheran, Prospect Heights
1958 - South Church Community-Baptist Education Bldg, Mount Prospect
1958 - Mount Prospect Community Presbyterian Education Bldg, Mount Prospect
1958 - Lutheran Church of the Ascension, Atlanta, GA
1959 - First Free Methodist, Evanston
1959 - Glenview Presbyterian Church, Glenview
1959 - Martin Luther Evangelical Lutheran, Chicago
1959 - St. James Lutheran, Western Springs
1959 - Acacia Park Lutheran, Norridge
1959 - Villa Park Christian, Villa Park
1959 - St. Peter Lutheran, Arlington Heights
1959 - Bethany Biblical Seminary, Oakbrook Terrace
1959 - Northlake Lutheran School Addition, Northlake
1960 - Lake View Lutheran, Chicago
1960 - Our Savior Lutheran, Lansing
1960 - Ashburn Baptist, 3647 W 83rd, Chicago
1960 - Our Saviour Methodist, Hoffman Estates
1960 - Christ Evangelical Lutheran, Palatine
1960 - Good Shepherd Lutheran, Wheeling
1960 - First Presbyterian, Arlington Heights
1960 - Winnetka Presbyterian Church, Winnetka

BW said...

1961 - First Lutheran, Harvey
1961 - Our Savior Lutheran, Joliet
1961 - St. Luke's United Church of Christ, Morton Grove
1961 - St. John Lutheran, Niles
1961 - Lewis College, Lockport
1961 - Peace Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, IN
1962 - St. Paul Lutheran, Arlington Heights
1962 - Concordia Memorial Chapel, River Forest
1963 - Good Shepherd United Methodist, Park Ridge
1963 - St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Glen Burnie, MD (Baltimore Association of Commerce Award)
1963 - First Presbyterian Church, La Grange
1963 - Methodist Retirement Home, Bradenton, FL
1963 - St. John's Lutheran Lincolnwood (American Society for Church Architecture Award, 1965 Citation of Merit from Chicago Association of Commerce and Chicago AIA)
1964 - Christ Church
1964 - Temple B'Nai Torah, Highland Park
1964 - St. John Evangelical Lutheran, Forest Park
1964 - First Evangelical Church, Lake Geneva
1964 - Wesley Woods Tower, Druid Hills, GA
1964 - Hatheway Hall, Monticello College
1964 - Thiel College, Passavant Center, Greenville, PA
1965 - Aurora College Master Plan
1965 - Mennonite Biblical Seminary Chapel, Elkhart, IN
1965 - Messiah Lutheran, Burlington, IA
1966 - Hope College International Education Center & Master Plan
1966 - Monmouth Fraternities, Dorms, Science Building
1966 - Martin Luther Chapel, East Lansing, MI
1966 - Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Bannockburn
1967 - Shimer College Library, Playhouse, Dormitory, Master Plan Mount Carroll
1967 - Otterbein College Library, Health Center, Fieldhouse, Westerville, Ohio
1967 - Eden Green North Apartments, Chicago
1968 - First Evangelical Lutheran Church, Decatur
1968 - St. John's Lutheran, La Grange
1968-1973 - Northeastern Illinois State College Commuter Commons & Science Building, Chicago
1969 - Great Lakes Electronic School
1970 - St. Joseph Catholic, Summit
1970 - High Point Plaza, Hillside
1971 - St. Mary's Catholic, Des Plaines
1972 - St. Lawrence Seminary in Mount Calvary, Wis
819 Busse Highway
Nursing Home, Americus, GA
St. John's Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, Westfield MA
Pinecrest Village, Oregon, IL
16 Nursing Homes

Robert Powers said...

Fantastic!! Thanks for sharing all this - it's like hitting the jackpot.

JUSTIN said...

Really nice work man. I'm not as well informed as the others, but thank you for sharing. Good stuff!

Anonymous said...

Hi, thanks for these great posts. I'm working on a book that includes a section on Stade and would love to communicate directly with the person who wrote the post, BW Des Plaines. Are you also working on Wm. Cooley? Please contact me at

Gretchen Buggeln said...

Stade worked closely with two liturgical artists whose work is evident in these churches. Ernst Schwidder, who for a time was on the art faculty of Valparaiso University, carved much of the decorative woodwork. Reinhold Marxhausen, of Concordia College, Seward, Nebraska, designed many of the square stone panels on Stade's church exteriors.

Gretchen Buggeln said...

Here's a link to an article I recently wrote on Stade and the Valparaiso Chapel.

pringstrom said...

Thanks BW DesPlaines for your listing of Charles E. Stade's work, but your forgot ONE: Zion Lutheran Church in Kewanee, IL. My godfather was on the building committee and worked directly with Mr. Stade.

BW said...

Oh, I'm sure there are many more.

Anonymous said...

I believe Stade also designed
Our Redeemer Lutheran in Wauwatosa, WI.(c.1968) I live next door to it! Also am the former Pastor of Immanuel, Des Plaines, IL.
A great story you gave us! Thank you! Rev. Richard W. Patt

Anonymous said...

BW Des Plaines said Charles Stade's brother was pastor at Immanuel Lutheran in Des Plaines, That is not correct. The family were members there and the brother was a pastor, but he was a missionary to Nigeria. Charles' father, Christ, constructed the church in Des Plaines.

An Immanuel member.

Anonymous said...

We have just realized that our home designed in early 1951 was by Charles E. Stade. I would like to find information on other private residences that he would have done in the early 50s. If you can hlep with any sources, please post here or email me at Thank you.

First Lutheran Church said...

Thanks for you blog. Our church was designed by Stade as well, First Lutheran Church of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Built in 1960. We have the blue prints and State's signature is on them.--Virginia M., Admin. Assistant-First Lutheran Church, Chattanooga

Anonymous said...

Stade designed the Pilgrim Lutheran Church in 1955 for an Indianapolis congregation. One of the most beautiful churches of any style I have seen. It was lovingly cared for and looked as new as when it was built the day they tore it down last week. I worked for years to keep it from the wrecker but Indianapolis is a very backward place.


Anonymous said...

Stade designed the Pilgrim Lutheran Church in 1955 for an Indianapolis congregation. One of the most beautiful churches of any style I have seen. It was lovingly cared for and looked as new as when it was built the day they tore it down last week. I worked for years to keep it from the wrecker but Indianapolis is a very backward place.

Vess Ruhtenberg

Anonymous said...

Was anything even salvaged? What a gem to have been lost! -Fort Wayne, IN