Historic churches offer tours and a glimpse of Bay City's past

If you like architecture and love old churches, Bay City has a lot to offer to warm your heart and refresh your spirit.

During the Bay City Fireworks Festival, two historic churches – Trinity Episcopal Church at 815 N. Grant St. and First Presbyterian Church at 805 Center Ave. – open their doors for tours of their century-old sanctuaries.

The tours are offered between noon and 4 p.m. on Thurs., July 4, and Fri., July 5. Volunteers are leading the tours at each building.

Photo courtesy of Trinity Episcopal ChurchTrinity Episcopal Church was built in the 1880s at 815 N. Grant St. If you want to take a look inside and learn more about its history, you'll get a chance during the Bay City Fireworks Festival. The church is open for public tours on July 4 and 5.The Historical Guild at Trinity Episcopal provided an abbreviated, written version of the tours. 

Built between 1885 and 1887, Trinity Episcopal Church was designed by Canadian-born local architect, Philip Floeter. In his early 30s when his design was chosen for the Gothic-Revival structure, Floeter based his design on 13th- and 14th-century English parish churches.

The floor plan is that of a Latin cross with a longer nave (central part of the church building) and transept arms extending east and west. The architect also incorporated a rose or round window in each transept.

As you walk up the pilgrim steps on Center Avenue, the words above the entrance from Leviticus 19:30 greet you: “Ye shall reverence MY Sanctuary."

At night, the stained glass crosses in the tower are illuminated and make true Trinity’s name as “The Church of the Lighted Crosses.” Red doors remind us of Christ’s blood shed for the sins of the world, and the church as a place of refuge.

Around the corner, in the middle of the block on North Grant Street, the original Stone Chapel is visible in the form of a Greek cross (like a plus sign) with the arms of the cross being equidistant.

Photo courtesy of Trinity Episcopal ChurchOrnately-carved Reredos carved in oak depict the Crucifixion (center), Supper at Emmaus (left), and the Transfiguration (right.)That part of the church complex was built in 1881 and 1882 for approximately $9,000 and served as a center for Sunday School with up to 300 scholars when this part of the city was still rural.

In 1924, the church added the wing to the right with office space, additional Sunday School and Guild meeting rooms. Bay Port stone from Bay Port in the Thumb was used to match the original stone of the church’s main structure.

Inside the building, Trinity Church continues to be a feast for the eyes and balm for the soul. The high-vaulted ceiling, hammer-beam trusses, and serenity of the space are moving.

Among the glories of the church are the windows above the High Altar and the Center Avenue facade window. Both windows were installed in 1886 in the midst of the construction of the church. Each serves as a memorial to children who died.

The window above the High Altar depicts “Worship in Heaven” from the Book of
Revelation and was given by the Sunday School children in memory of their classmates who had died.

Mr. Cranage, a member of the building committee, traveled to New York City to commission Cox, Sons, Buckley Company of London to create the window for $1,000. The window depicting Worship in Heaven from Revelation was installed in 1886.

Photo courtesy of First Presbyterian ChurchFirst Presbyterian Church, 805 Center Ave., open its doors on July 4 and 5 for tours its historic sanctuary.Another window is a memorial to Sarah Pitts-Cranage who died of scarlet fever when she was 10. The window was created by Mayer Studios of Munich, Germany.

While some sources say the church cost approximately $70,000 to build church archives reveal the window alone was $1,000 with an added installation cost of $53.27. The theme of “Jesus Welcoming the Little Children” is based on St. Matthew 19:14, “Suffer little children to come unto Me forbid them not for of such is the kingdom of heaven."

In addition to the European-made windows above the altar and on the facade, a wide variety of windows fill the nave with various themes of the life of Christ and the Christian faith. Stained glass studios such as Willet in Philadelphia; Lamb of New York City; Heaton, Butler and Bayne from London; and McCausland Studios of Toronto are represented.

Trinity Church also is blessed with an ornately-carved Reredos above the High Altar.

Made in oak, the wood carvings were executed by Bavarian-born artisan Alois Lang. The three central panels consist of the Crucifixion (center), the Supper at Emmaus (left), and the Transfiguration (right).

Each carving is is done in high-relief, which means more than 50% of the implied thickness is carved.

Two side sculptures of St. Peter and St. Paul, early pillars of the church, are executed as sculptures in the round, meaning the figures are carved all around.

Photo courtesy of Trinity Episcopal ChurchCreated by Heaton, Butler and Bayne of London, England in 1927, these windows depict Jesus healing a man, display vivid, bright colors, attention to minute detail, and an abundance of nature – all hallmarks of the 19th Century.Commissioned in 1923, the carvings were installed and dedicated in the fall of 1924. The cost of what has been called a “Wonder in Wood” was $3,300.

The sculptor, Alois Lang, came to the United States when he was 19, working in the Boston area and eventually migrating West, where he started to work for the American Seating Company.

Lang came from a family of woodcarvers who had specialized in ecclesiastical carving since the 1700s. The German city of Oberammergau, famous for its Passion Play since 1634, has a tradition of wood carving since the 12th Century.

For photos of some of the Trinity Episcopal windows, visit the church website. The church also details its history online.

Yea, we know Thy love rejoices
o'er each work of Thine;
Thou didst ears and hands and voices
for Thy praise combine;
Craftsman's art and music's measure
for Thy pleasure all combine.

- From “Angel Voices Ever Singing”
Francis Pott, 19th Century Anglican Priest

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