Saturday, April 3, 2010

Architecture, stained glass, organ tour at Druid Hills Presbyterian

The sanctuary ceiling at Druid Hills Presbyterian Church is dark and beautiful.

This is the only Phoenix Flies Event I did: the sanctuary, stained glass, and organ tour. It was first class and memorable. For architecture tourists, a drive-by only scratches the surface.

Francis Palmer Smith, the first director of architecture at Georgia Tech designed the sanctuary. He was draftsman for the architect W. T. Downing; he taught Philip Shutze, Ed Ivey, Lewis Crook, Flippen Burge, and Preston Stevens. Mr. Smith designed my favorite art deco building in Atlanta, the W. W. Orr Doctors Building. He designed the Gothic Cathedral of St. Philip at "amen corner." This is certainly the finest Atlanta architecture pedigree.

It's not too showy and doesn't look too big from the street. But it's big. They call it French Gothic.

The "jewel glass" rose window sets the tone for all the stained glass inside.

One of my ambitions is to see all the great stained glass in Atlanta. This is a great start. My words and pictures fail me.

Henry Lee Willet designed and executed the glass. Mary-Elizabeth Ellard of Druid Hills Church told us about it: the jewel glass of the rose and passion windows, the grisaille glass of the aisle windows. We touched the windows, saw the witty bits. We learned why they didn't use the opalescent "Tiffany style" glass popular at the time.

Mary-Elizabeth produced a book documenting the windows. It available from the Church.
A Soft Radiant Light

The Stained Glass Windows of Druid Hills Presbyterian Church
Atlanta, GA

by Mary-Elizabeth Ellard, photography and design by Cader Howard.

I gave up trying to get good pictures. You can get a sense of the aisle windows framed in Gothic arches, beneath hammer beam trusses.

Then Cliff Frierson, organist at Druid Hills Presbyterian, explained and demonstrated the Aeolian-Skinner organ.

Cliff had us climbing in the pipe rooms.

Architect Howell Adams gave us part three: How to maintain, preserve, and adapt the building for today and tomorrow.

Did you know that Druid Hills and Cathedral of St. Phillip had similar leak problems? Howell explained that and more. The ceiling decking isn't wood. At the time the acoustic style was sound absorbing echo-free panels. There are craftsmen who specialize in moving and scribing church pews so they don't rock; shims just don't do the trick.

Howell lectures into a blur. Have a look at the "Passion Window" behind him.

The choir has the best seats in the house.

We begged
Cliff Frierson to play the organ for us while we were in the choir between the two pipe rooms. I didn't tell him I was videoing. He claims he made a few mistakes. My JoAnn offered him a second take.

To me the only mistake was not being there to hear it. Thanks Cliff, Howell, and Mary-Elizabeth and Druid Hills Presbyterian for a wonderful tour. "Toccata-of Charles-Marie Widor's Fifth Symphony for Organ in F Major"

Thanks and happy Easter,
terry @

Druid Hills Presbyterian is part or Ponce de Leon's own "amen corner" with 2 other extraordinary churches. Here is Druid Hills Baptist

and Druid Hills United Methodist by Ivy and Crook.


  1. Happy Easter, Terry.

    I think I could spend hours listening to restoration and preservation details.

  2. Gorgeous- thanks so much for the tour, Terry!


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