This weekend I rephotographed two churches from the early Dutch “kolonies,” both near Holland, Michigan. Borculo Christian Reformed Church was founded in the early 1880s, worshiping in a home and then the local public school. Its first building was dedicated in 1885. Drenthe Christian Reformed Church dates to the 1840s. It was part of the Reformed Church in America at its founding, but the congregation split in 1853. By 1886 both halves of the split church had joined the CRC. It’s current building dates to 1875.
The images I have from the past for the two churches date to the early twentieth century (1900-1920) and are from the Heritage Hall photograph collection. The structure of the original buildings is still there in both cases, or at least parts are. I did more images of the Borculo church; and then, since I was in the area, swung by the Drenthe building as made a few there.
The continuity with the original structure is more obvious with Borculo CRC. Here are two sets of images, with the historic and present day photos paired.
The remodeling over the years included more cosmetic changes, such as a new combined entryway, rather than two distinct doorways. But they also included major additions, which cover over some of stained glass windows on the side of the church. Here are a few more contemporary photos that let you see the current larger structure and some of the features of the older part of the building.
First is a wide view, which includes the parsonage.
And then some from the back.
In the first image, you can see a few of the old windows not covered up by later additions. In the second, you get a better sense of the structure of the original. And finally, a shot from the back of the parsonage. As you can see, the house has had some remodeling done too, notable changes to the covered entrance, with tall, sort of classical looking columns.
The transformation of Drenthe CRC is more dramatic, but some of the bones of the original are still there, hidden in the structure of the current building.
The flagstone foundation of the original structure and the hand-hewn beams of its structure are still there. And the steeple is another element of continuity. Here’s two more images, from the back, to give you a sense of how the building has changed.
The shape of the back of the sanctuary looks something like the original. But you also can see that some of the original style windows are there.
Sequences of images like these are common for “frontier” church as frontier gives way to settled community and then the community grows in size and wealth. A rough-hewn church, sometimes built with logs, gives way to a more sophisticated wood-frame building and then to brick. Some late-nineteenth century churches even took on a neo-gothic “cathedral” like look.
The Borculo and Drenthe buildings are more modest than that. But nonetheless, we can see in the buildings continuities with their “colonial” origins and evidence of growing population and prosperity.