firm active: 1907-1921

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Westminster Presbyterian Church,  alterations
Purcell, Feick and Elmslie
Minneapolis , Minnesota  1910

Text by William Gray Purcell
Parabiographies entry, Volume for 1910

Job Date (in Parabiographies): February 10, 1910


Working drawings, August 25, 1911

Draughting: Wider, G.F., Jr.

Design of this work was not begun until summer of 1911.

Making Local History

This was a Sunday School room for the Kindergarten and we made an especial effort to avoid the institutional atmosphere and make it intimate.  This character was centered about a very large, quiet fireplace with a hearth raised to low seat height and extended well beyond either side of the opening, so that the teachers could sit on those ends with the children gathered about the fireplace. I had observed little children seating themselves on all sorts of furniture and upon curbs, steps, and so on, in their play, and it struck me that a child seldom found a really comfortable seat, at any rate, not in the usual furniture of homes. It was plain that little chairs for children were simply grownups' chairs made smaller. Now a child's body is not that of a small-sized adult, it is a different creature entirely and sits naturally and simply with respect to its organism, as grownups do not. With this in mind I told the Board that suitable furniture for the children was the most important item in connection with the room, and received approval to proceed with its design.

In pursuit of my thesis for ideal chairs, I borrowed four children representing four steps among the child sizes that would use this room. Different sorts of book piles and boxes were arranged for them to sit on, and after considerable measuring of the children and their sitting preferences, measurements were established for four sizes of chairs, which we had made in quantity. The results were surprising and impressed everyone who saw them in use. The children were plainly comfortable and free from the usual squirming and fidgeting.

We used a warm tone of Roman brick, a little rosier than chamois, with clean edges and flat surfaces. They were laid with a fine joint and we tried to get a wall area rather than to emphasize the bricky-ness and sense of masonry. The whole room was very quiet and appealing--nice soft, sunny glass in the windows in very simple square patterns--a satisfying room. The wall area over fireplace was designed for a mural processional. To our regret, this last touch in a very charming room was never executed.

Bees in Amber

That the room was and continued to be a success was attested by the new building program of 1937 (George D. Dayton Foundation). In building the new Sunday School rooms, offices, chapel, and so on, a $150,000 project, the old Sunday School wing of the church was entirely demolished excepting only this room of ours, which was preserved intact and carefully working into the new fabric.

   Collection: William Gray Purcell Papers, Northwest Architectural Archives, University of Minnesota [AR:B4d1.4]
research courtesy mark hammons