Architect Designs Building in Chatt, 1904

What building did an architect design in Chattanooga, Ohio, in 1904?

I was recently asked that question, which took me by surprise.

A building designed by an architect in our little village of Chattanooga? Really?

Let’s face it. The buildings in downtown Chatt are not complicated architectural marvels and I can’t think of one that would have been designed by an architect.

I always thought that most old buildings in the area were erected by a local crew who framed and constructed the building, without the help or advice of an architect. Maybe my thinking is too simplistic. You can tell I am not a carpenter.

Perhaps blueprints were used when those old buildings were constructed and the blueprint creator was probably called an architect.

Architect: a person who plans, designs, and oversees the construction of buildings.

So the question is, was it customary, around the turn of the century, to hire an architect to draw up a blueprint and oversee the construction of a frame structure in a village like Chatt?

I guess so.    

Which building?

The following was brought to my attention by Jodi, from Berne, Indiana. She is restoring an historic house in Berne that was designed by architect Abraham Bagley, sometimes spelled Boegly. Jodi has been researching architect Abraham Bagley and some of the area buildings he designed, which include several in Berne. She sent me the following information.

From The American School Board Journal, 1904, Vol. 28, p.27:

…Chattanooga—Plans by Architect A. Boegly, Berne, Ind., for parochial school….

A parochial school in Chatt. Interesting.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t believe the Methodist Church in Chatt had a school, so that leaves the other church in town, Zion Lutheran.

In the late 1800s and after the turn of the century there was a frame church school south of Zion’s church, in the lot across the road from the church. The frame school stood between the church and the parsonage, which was also a frame building at that time.

Zion Lutheran School, Chattanooga, Ohio (c1904)

My understanding has always been that Zion’s church school was for teaching the Bible, catechism, and German a couple half days a week during the summer, not like today’s parochial schools that operate on a full schedule.

The following excerpt, taken from a narrative written by one of Zion Chatt’s ministers, Rev. Reuben Valentine Smith, gives information about Zion’s school. Rev. Smith was Zion’s pastor from 1899-1905 and he wrote this narrative in 1955:

“…one of the [church council] members said…our preacher teaches a German school for our children every summer…I was to teach school several months every summer…three half days a week… if they really wanted an effective school I would give them one: five days a week, full time from July to Christmas, and in alternate years the catechumens would go on until Easter…that arrangement was accepted and carried out for the six years of my incumbency…we had a real school. The children came, an average of 35 to 40 a day, ages 6 to 14…” 

When Rev. Smith came to Chatt in 1899 it appears that he started a full-time school, five days a week. A real parochial school at Zion Lutheran, Chatt for six years.

He goes on to describe the school:

“…The school house was something–it was an old building about 28 by 14 feet. Some of the weather boarding was loose and part of the plastering was cracked. Instead of desks and seats there were old oaken benches with writing boards, each bench seating four pupils. There was an old box stove and a small reed organ. Later, largely through the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Herzog, we got an adequate building…”

That last sentence could be the answer. It appears that Mr. and Mrs. Herzog funded either the renovation of the old building or a whole new school. It sounds like a new school building was built, probably designed by architect Abraham Bagley.   

It all fits. The time period coincides and the architect Bagley was local, from Berne. The above photo, taken about 1904, could be a photo of the newly-built parochial school. The building does look rather new and pristine, unlike the old structure Rev. Smith described.

Rev. Reuben Smith

Who knew that Zion Chatt had a real, full-time parochial school at one time! There are some old church records and minutes from that time period, but unfortunately they are written in the old German script and I cannot read that much German. Anyone who may have attended that school is long gone. My grandpa Miller, born in 1896, or some of his siblings would have been about the right age to attend, but I never heard that they attended a parochial school in Chatt. In addition, it would have been a little hike for the Millers, since they lived over 2 miles away.

I would love to hear from anyone who has any knowledge about Zion’s parochial school. Did anyone have any relatives that attended? What happened to the old church school building?

Next week, more about architect Abraham Bagley and some of the other local buildings he designed.      

[1] The American School Board Journal, 1904, Vol. 28, p.27, “New Schools;”

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