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Split Decision Plantersville’s historic church takes drastic measures to makes room for more worshipers by PAUL LODHOLZ, AIA

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we stretch the original church to accommodate more worshippers?” To find the appropriate answer, the Worship Place Studio of Ziegler Cooper Architects and Fretz Construction Company were hired to explore options. The architects suggested that the historic building be split in two and expanded by 30 feet to seat another 140 parishioners. Working with Cherry House Movers, the team devised a strategy that also updated the church yet imposed minimal visual effect to its structure. New fenestration matches the Gothic leaded-glass windows and new seating corresponds with the rustic pews. The renovated church – now air conditioned – features a glass connector that joins the historic building to a new addition containing a lobby, restroom block, and a new reconciliation room. Completed last November, St. Mary’s re-opened to a crowd of 5,000 parishioners and visitors. Paul Lodholz, AIA, is a senior principal with Ziegler Cooper Architects.

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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: JOHN C. LINDY; COURTESY OF ZIEGLER COOPER ARCHITECTS; AND JAMES SMOCK

SINCE 1917, THE QUAINT ST. MARY’S CATHOLIC CHURCH in Plantersville has long provided an intimate place of worship for the families in this rural corner of Grimes County. The small, wood-frame sanctuary’s simple axial plan terminates in a traditional apse that gracefully encompasses a beautifully detailed reredos. The interior, elegantly detailed by local craftsmen with cherubs and other Christian motifs, reflects an earlier time. Recently, under the leadership of Father Ed Kucera, a major renovation brought new life to the church’s historic interior. The work revealed elaborate stenciling below the white-wash finish of the bead board and that discovery led to an aggressive effort to restore the interior to its original hand-painted glory. Subsequent growth in membership prompted parishioners to ponder the future of St. Mary’s, and then an episode of The History Channel’s Mega Movers series motivated church leaders to ask themselves, “Can


Texas Architect May/June 2011: Context