Photo: Holly Ramsey
Columbus, Indiana is home to six National Historic Landmarks; the most junior among them, the North Christian Church.
Finnish architect Eero Saarinen began designing the structure in 1961. Funding for the project came from the Cummins Foundation — an organization started in Columbus in 1954 by Joseph Irwin Miller, head of the Cummins Engine Company.
The foundation was created to commission well-known architects to create significant buildings in the somewhat dilapidated city in order to attract young businessmen to his company. I.M Pei and Richard Meier were among the architects who left their mark on Columbus.
What turned out to be Saarinen’s final project, the North Christian Church is distinguished by its hexagonal shape, 192-foot spire, and central hexagonal sky light. The structure appears to blend into surrounding earth mounds designed by landscape architect Dan Kiley.
Using the hexagonal motif as a reference to the Star of David, Saarinen extended the religious symbolism of his architecture with the cross-topped spire that rises from the hexagonal church, representing the development of Christianity from the Jewish tradition.
Another key feature of the North Christian Church is its grand pipe organ, designed specifically for the site by Walter Holtkamp Sr.
Construction was complete in 1964. Saarinen’s monument, an important component of Miller’s legacy, became the sixth National Historic Landmark in Columbus on May 16, 2000.