First Presbyterian Church, Dennis Hall

The First Presbyterian Church has been a landmark in downtown Corvallis, Oregon for nearly 100 years. The original sanctuary was completed in 1909, and is one of the few examples of late English Gothic buildings in the Corvallis area. It was designed by noted Portland architect John Bennes, who also designed most of the first buildings on the adjacent Oregon State University campus. The original sanctuary is composed of a large circular auditorium flanked by two square bell towers and is has an exterior of red brick with cast stone accents. In 1928, the church added a gabled addition to the south of the existing sanctuary known as Education Hall. Both buildings are listed by the City of Corvallis as Historic Landmarks. SERA designed and completed a historic renovation of the existing sanctuary and Education Hall in 2005. In 2009, the Church approached SERA with a desire to build an approximately 6,000 SF addition.

The two existing buildings are challenging as the styles are similar but not completely matched (the sanctuary being more gothic and the 1928 wing addition being more Jacobethan) but yet are compatible in materials and spirit. The design intent was to use the gabled massing of the 1928 wing for the new addition. This effect “frames” the sanctuary viewed from the prime corner of Monroe and 8th street with two gabled brick wings bookending the dominant curved corner of the sanctuary. Common materials and architectural elements were employed from both buildings on the new addition to achieve a unified architectural composition. By framing the sanctuary with two gabled buildings at either side, the prominence and architectural significance of the main sanctuary is established and amplified while all the materials and architectural elements are stylistically compatible.

The new addition includes a 3,000 SF fellowship hall that can be subdivided into three classrooms as well as a new kitchen and restrooms. The interior of the new fellowship hall utilizes exposed wood trusses and extensive dormer windows to create a contemporary version of an English dining hall with abundant natural light. A sequoia tree that existed on the site was re-milled for all the interior woodwork in the fellowship hall. A new west entry was created with a covered porte cochere drop off.

The firm went to great care to create an addition worthy of the existing historic buildings. The project received a special award from the City of Corvallis for a sensitive addition to a historic structure that is to be a model for future development.