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Arts & Architecture of
Fountain Street Church

Fountain Street Church was originally established in 1869 as a main-line Baptist church. Over time, FSC developed a progressive theology through a succession of embattled, yet enlightened, ministers. Today, visitors will discover a Romanesque building full of Byzantine art housed in a 21st century liberal religious institution.

In 1917, a fire destroyed FSC's original American Gothic church building. The congregation voted to rebuild on the same site, but in a more authentic architectural style known as "Romanesque." Its present edifice was dedicated in February 1924, and remains one of Grand Rapids' pre-eminent downtown institutions.

vintage postcard

Among the art that pervades the entire church building is an Italian Romanesque narthex at the entrance to the sanctuary, replete with intricate mosaic medallions, a Mercer-tiled floor and an ornate coffered ceiling. Adjacent to the narthex, visitors will find the Memorial Tower Room, which honors Kent County soldiers who died in WWI. It features a mosaic and gold-leaf domed ceiling, which portrays four guardian angels symbolizing justice, liberty, peace, and fraternity.

The majestic sanctuary, with seating for approximately 1,500 people, features one of the largest and most dynamic organs in the midwest. The sanctuary's architecture reflects the beginnings of historic Christian church design. During the 1920s and 1930s, FSC's basilica, the largest inside gathering place in Grand Rapids, served as the city's civic auditorium and as a forum for free discussion. Its architectural features include a Roman arch, a timbered roof with ornamental Byzantine wood trusses, an Italian marble pulpit, and a massive baldacchino that rises high above the chancel. Prominent throughout the sanctuary you will find intricate mosaics, paintings, wood carvings, and stone sculptures. The crowining glory of FSC is its stained glass windows. On the east side are represented the great teachers and poets of the Bible; in contrast, on the west side are images of great leaders such as Plato, Da Vinci, Erasmus, Gallileo, Darwin, Paul, Luther, Roger Williams, Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln. Throughout the building, visitors will discover an abundance of artistic symbols - from diverse crosses to symbolic numbers; from sacred birds, animals, and foliage to bronze sconces and tiles on the floor.

This brief description is far from complete. For all who enter this place, we encourage everyone to make their own discoveries, to enjoy FSC's art and architecture for its history, its mystery, its hallowed space, and its new expressions of the spirit.

Fountain Street Church offers tours of its sanctuary, narthex, and Memorial Tower Room. To schedule a tour, please click here or contact the Church Office at (616) 459-8386.

Photo gallery

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Please take a moment to read the comments below from the Caledonia High School teacher and students who took a tour of FSC in June 2012:

"I would like to thank Fountain Street Church again for setting up our tour of the church! The students loved it - they were in awe of the beauty and history of the facility, and they could not say enough wonderful things about the tour guide. She certainly captured their attention and kept it during the entire visit. Please thank her for us! I think that sharing some of their comments from their response journals will communicate their reactions more clearly than I could."

"Fountain Street was a really beautiful church to see. There was so much artwork. Our tour guide was a really nice person, giving us background on the church. But the thing I really heard was how they invite and accept everyone into their church, even if you have a different religion. It doesn't matter who you are, you welcomed in that church. It made me feel like home."

"This has been my favorite location we have visited so far. Our tour guide was the best I have ever encountered in my life. I love how the church itself was open to every faith, religion, sexual orientation, etc. I felt so welcomed and so happy that I got to experience the church itself and our guide. She explained everything about the church and its history so well, and made sure we understood."

"Right off the bat, when I saw the rainbow post in front of Fountain Street Church, I knew I was hooked. The fact that they accept everyone and anyone really surprised me. I never knew there was such a place, let alone a church! I am such a huge supporter of GSA, the fact that they supported it too made me so happy! I also love that they have a WWI Memorial that included women. I really loved today - mainly experiencing the Fountain Street Church!"

"Fountain Street Church was by far my favorite place we visited so far. All of the artwork really caught my attention. The guide was very nice and entertaining. She made it so that we could learn new things while having fun. I really liked it and I may just return to visit again."

"The Fountain Street Church was amazing and gorgeous. The little pagan symbols hidden in the crosses were awesome! I love the Rose Window. The fact that it is open to everyone of any faith or denomination was simply amazing. I wish more places were like this."

"This church was beautifully constructed on the outside as well as the inside. I loved the history of the building. Their Memorial to WWI was very interesting because it included women as well as men. I also like the quote on the window from the 1800's that said 'Evolution and the Bible could co-exist.' I also found it very cool that they had scientists on the stained glass."

"Something beautiful that the guide said to describe her church was, 'this church takes the walls down from Grand Rapids and shows a much wider world.' I just thought that meant so much, because when I stepped into that church I just felt so much good energy and love."

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