Facilities — The Sanctuary


The sanctuary seats 1,200 on the main floor and in the crescent-shaped balcony. Dotted about the stone floor are decorative tiles representing the many designs of ecclesiastical crosses.


These were some of the early works of Mary Chase Stratton, who became world-famous for her iridescent glasses and Pewabic tiles.


The great span of the roof contributes to the majesty of the sanctuary. It is supported by hammerbeams and is exceeded in width of span only by London’s Westminster Hall.


The congregation is seated in hand-carved black walnut pews, facing the chancel with its rich paneling, rose window and Swift Memorial Organ. Some carved stone angels in the chancel are now almost hidden by the organ.


The organ was built by Wangerin-Weickhardt in 1914 and incorporates a small portion of the original 1855 organ. This immense instrument contains four manuals and 3,253 pipes ranging in length from 16 feet to a quarter-inch. The soaring design of the sanctuary provides ideal acoustical conditions for the organ. Pierre Cochereau, E. Power Biggs, Virgil Fox, and Karl Richter, among others, have appeared in recitals at the church.


Two memorials stand at the front of the church: A baptismal font of Gaen stone, Mexican onyx, carved with walnut and brass (1887) and a solid brass lectern in the shape of an eagle which was on exhibit in 1893 at the World’s Fair in Chicago, IL.


The Fort Street Presbyterian church is built of limestone in the style known as Decorated Gothic. Its lacy look comes from elaborate stone tracery, towers, pinnacles, flying buttresses, carved stone faces and a generous sprinkling of crockets — those small projecting ornaments that look like foliage.


The spire rises 265 feet above the street, supported by flying buttresses atop a tower copied from a 15th century English cathedral in Louth, England. Above the central entrance, a stained glass window provides the north light for the sanctuary.


The side windows are in keeping with Gothic Revival architecture. They are a special type of stained glass known as Grisaille. This was developed in the 13th century, and had the advantage of letting in more light.


The bulk of the glass is white, with colored glass used in the borders. The surface is ornamented with delicate patterns in painted line scroll work. The effect of this old glass is very beautiful, and in time, has become itself a treasure.

Photo credits: Chris and Michelle Gerard