Charles E. Stade, Architect

He’s most famous for his magnificent chapel at Valpairaso University, south of Chicago. But Park Ridge architect Charles Stade designed dozens (reportedly hundreds) of churches, across Chicagoland and across America, from the early 1950s until his retirement in 1981. He worked with many denominations, but his own Lutheran faith gave him the largest number of commissions.

It’s not hard to spot a Stade church: just look for the big A-frame building with a random checkerboard of colored glass squares, with gill-like stacks of sloping wood mullions. It’s a style that was heavily influenced by the angular styles of Frank Lloyd Wright, particularly his Unitarian Meetinghouse in Madison, WI.

Charles E. Stade church
Winnetka Presbyterian Church – Willow Road, Winnetka, IL

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Immanuel Lutheran Church – Des Plaines, IL

St. Timothy Lutheran
St. Timothy Lutheran Church – w. of Logan Square, Chicago

Hillside Free Methodits
Hillside Free Methodist Church – Evanston, IL

Trinity Lutheran
Trinity Lutheran Church – Lombard (York Center), IL

Ashlar-cut gray stone end walls are also pretty diagnostic of Stade’s stock style.

St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran
St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church – SW Chicago

Elston United Methodist
Elston United Methodist Church – NW Chicago

Stade was a consumate Modernst. He designed simple, elegant, geometric buildings, largely bereft of ornament, that relied on the magic of light and space to bring them to life. Also in keeping with the Modernist ethos, he was not at all ashamed to recycle ideas for building designs, to the extent that many of his smaller churches are totally interchangeable.

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Trinity Lutheran – Lombard

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Elston United Methodist

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Faith Lutheran Church – NW Chicago

Immanuel Lutheran Church
Immanuel Lutheran, Des Plaines

And yet, none of them are clones. Each is uniquely designed. Each contains an original floor plan, each has unique glass patterns, each has custom-designed liturgical furnishings.

Stade loved his angles. Some of the most hypnotic moments in his designs are where angles repeat and pile on one another.

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And he loved his grids. Nearly every Stade church has a wall that’s a grid of randomly sized openings in different colors.

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Bethel United Church of Christ – Elmhurst, IL

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Stade even designed doors in this style, sometimes setting the handles in a deeply recessed grid of thin wood elements. There’s definitely something memorable about reaching your hand into that grid to grasp and pull the handle.

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A fourth Stade element is simple concrete sculpture plaques, displaying symbols of the church along with short quotations.

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And a final Stade signature is the cornerstone – usually rendered in limestone, with a simple, raised sans-serif font announcing the year of construction and nothing else.

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One can see him settling into his trademark style with the 1953 St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, an early work up on Northwest Highway which already contains several of the signature elements. St. Andrews has red brick, a solid end wall, and boxed-out stained glass windows with faceted glass, all of which mark it as unique from the stock style that Stade would be mass-producing in by 1958.

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Saint Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Park Ridge, IL

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Stade was one of the second-generation Modernists, bringing contemporary design to the masses, making good, serviceable buildings that were affordable, handsome, clean and elegant – ideal for the suburban frontier. His work was not necessarily scrutinized by the glossy high-end magazines, but it was certainly worthy of it.

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15 thoughts on “Charles E. Stade, Architect

  1. I did some research on Stade recently, this is a good place to post it. A partial commission list (where city is not noted generally means Des Plaines). Stade attended Concordia College, University of Illinois for Architecture, graduated 1946, Princeton for his Masters, graduated 1948, and followup in 1949 at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. He came from a family that was long prolific in construction in the Northwest Suburbs and particularly Des Plaines, and his brother was the pastor at Immanuel Lutheran, which explains why that one is unusually elaborate.Charles Edward Stade & AssociatesStade & CooleyStade, Dolan and AndersonStade, Dolan, Enrick and AssociatesStade, Dolan, Anderson, and BonezStade, Dolan & AssociatesStade, Dolan, Smith & AssociatesCharles E Stade1951 – 1639 Campbell, Des Plaines, Charles Robinson Home3-1953 – St. Paul Lutheran Church, Oak Lawn1953 – Christ Church Parish Hall1953-6 – St. Andrew's Church, Park Ridge, Ill – Your Church 11 Best 19591954-7 – Immanuel Lutheran, Des Plaines1954 – Redeemer Lutheran, Freeport1954 – Hope Lutheran Church, Park Forest1955 – Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Palos Park (awarded)1956 – Valparaiso University – Moellering Library, Brandt Hall, Linwood House, Science, De Witt Student and Cultural Center, Chapel of the Resurrection (Church Architectural Guild Award)1956 – St. Nicolai Evangelical and Reformed, Kedzie & Wellington, Chicago1956 – Our Savior Lutheran, Norwood Park1956 – Elston Avenue Methodist Church, Elston & Marmora, Chicago1956 – Zion Evangelical Lutheran, Kalamazoo, MI1956 – Church of the Ascension, Birmingham, MI1956 – Pilgrim Lutheran, Marysville, MI1956 – Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Yardley, PA1957 – First National Bank1957 – St. Peter Lutheran, 8600 S Kedvale, Chicago1957-1959 – St. Matthew Lutheran, Barrington1957 – Bethel Evangelical and Reformed Church, Elmhurst1957 – Community Presbyterian, Bensenville1957 – Edison Park Lutheran, Edison Park1957 – First English Evangelical Addition, 3062 Palmer, Chicago1957 – Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church. Arlington Heights1958 – First Congregational, Lombard1958 – Bethany Lutheran, Naperville1958 – Immanuel United Church of Christ, Bensenville1958 – Trinity Presbyterian Church, Oak Lawn1958 – St. Paul Lutheran, Mount Prospect 1958 – St. Timothy Evangelical Lutheran, 2100 N Kildare, Chicago1958 – Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit, Elk Grove (first EG church)1958 – Our Redeemer Lutheran, Prospect Heights1958 – South Church Community-Baptist Education Bldg, Mount Prospect1958 – Mount Prospect Community Presbyterian Education Bldg, Mount Prospect1958 – Lutheran Church of the Ascension, Atlanta, GA1959 – First Free Methodist, Evanston1959 – Glenview Presbyterian Church, Glenview1959 – Martin Luther Evangelical Lutheran, Chicago1959 – St. James Lutheran, Western Springs1959 – Acacia Park Lutheran, Norridge1959 – Villa Park Christian, Villa Park1959 – St. Peter Lutheran, Arlington Heights1959 – Bethany Biblical Seminary, Oakbrook Terrace1959 – Northlake Lutheran School Addition, Northlake1960 – Lake View Lutheran, Chicago1960 – Our Savior Lutheran, Lansing1960 – Ashburn Baptist, 3647 W 83rd, Chicago1960 – Our Saviour Methodist, Hoffman Estates1960 – Christ Evangelical Lutheran, Palatine1960 – Good Shepherd Lutheran, Wheeling1960 – First Presbyterian, Arlington Heights 1960 – Winnetka Presbyterian Church, Winnetka

  2. 1961 – First Lutheran, Harvey1961 – Our Savior Lutheran, Joliet1961 – St. Luke's United Church of Christ, Morton Grove1961 – St. John Lutheran, Niles1961 – Lewis College, Lockport1961 – Peace Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, IN1962 – St. Paul Lutheran, Arlington Heights1962 – Concordia Memorial Chapel, River Forest1963 – Good Shepherd United Methodist, Park Ridge1963 – St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Glen Burnie, MD (Baltimore Association of Commerce Award)1963 – First Presbyterian Church, La Grange1963 – Methodist Retirement Home, Bradenton, FL1963 – St. John's Lutheran Lincolnwood (American Society for Church Architecture Award, 1965 Citation of Merit from Chicago Association of Commerce and Chicago AIA)1964 – Christ Church1964 – Temple B'Nai Torah, Highland Park1964 – St. John Evangelical Lutheran, Forest Park1964 – First Evangelical Church, Lake Geneva1964 – Wesley Woods Tower, Druid Hills, GA1964 – Hatheway Hall, Monticello College1964 – Thiel College, Passavant Center, Greenville, PA1965 – Aurora College Master Plan1965 – Mennonite Biblical Seminary Chapel, Elkhart, IN1965 – Messiah Lutheran, Burlington, IA1966 – Hope College International Education Center & Master Plan1966 – Monmouth Fraternities, Dorms, Science Building1966 – Martin Luther Chapel, East Lansing, MI1966 – Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Bannockburn1967 – Shimer College Library, Playhouse, Dormitory, Master Plan Mount Carroll1967 – Otterbein College Library, Health Center, Fieldhouse, Westerville, Ohio1967 – Eden Green North Apartments, Chicago1968 – First Evangelical Lutheran Church, Decatur1968 – St. John's Lutheran, La Grange1968-1973 – Northeastern Illinois State College Commuter Commons & Science Building, Chicago1969 – Great Lakes Electronic School1970 – St. Joseph Catholic, Summit1970 – High Point Plaza, Hillside1971 – St. Mary's Catholic, Des Plaines1972 – St. Lawrence Seminary in Mount Calvary, Wis819 Busse HighwayNursing Home, Americus, GASt. John's Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, Westfield MAPinecrest Village, Oregon, IL16 Nursing Homes

  3. Hi, thanks for these great posts. I'm working on a book that includes a section on Stade and would love to communicate directly with the person who wrote the post, BW Des Plaines. Are you also working on Wm. Cooley? Please contact me at Gretchen.Buggeln@valpo.edu.

  4. Stade worked closely with two liturgical artists whose work is evident in these churches. Ernst Schwidder, who for a time was on the art faculty of Valparaiso University, carved much of the decorative woodwork. Reinhold Marxhausen, of Concordia College, Seward, Nebraska, designed many of the square stone panels on Stade's church exteriors.

  5. Thanks BW DesPlaines for your listing of Charles E. Stade's work, but your forgot ONE: Zion Lutheran Church in Kewanee, IL. My godfather was on the building committee and worked directly with Mr. Stade.

  6. I believe Stade also designedOur Redeemer Lutheran in Wauwatosa, WI.(c.1968) I live next door to it! Also am the former Pastor of Immanuel, Des Plaines, IL.A great story you gave us! Thank you! Rev. Richard W. Patt

  7. BW Des Plaines said Charles Stade's brother was pastor at Immanuel Lutheran in Des Plaines, That is not correct. The family were members there and the brother was a pastor, but he was a missionary to Nigeria. Charles' father, Christ, constructed the church in Des Plaines.An Immanuel member.

  8. We have just realized that our home designed in early 1951 was by Charles E. Stade. I would like to find information on other private residences that he would have done in the early 50s. If you can hlep with any sources, please post here or email me at irispr51@comcast.net. Thank you.

  9. Thanks for you blog. Our church was designed by Stade as well, First Lutheran Church of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Built in 1960. We have the blue prints and State's signature is on them.–Virginia M., Admin. Assistant-First Lutheran Church, Chattanooga

  10. Thanks for this. You have an old picture of our church, Hillside Free Methodist Church in Evanston, IL. Check out our website (www.hillsidefree.com) or our facebook page and you will see an updated photo of the exterior with a cross in the front like so many of the others, and better landscaping. I still have the original blueprints from when the church broke ground in late 1959. We had our first worship service in the building on Palm Sunday 1961. We still get many compliments about the building, especially because of the wood and stonework used. It would cost a fortune today to use those materials.

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