The architecture of Saint Stephen’s Church may seem familiar today, as many churches have been built on a similar model. This church, however, was the first. The design by architects Theodore Brooks and Gilbert Coddington incorporates steel, precast concrete slabs, brick, poured concrete, plate glass, oak paneling and furnishings, ceramic roof tiles, and rubber membrane roofing.
Designing Saint Stephen’s Church and then executing the design was a long project. The initial designs were developed in 1947, and ground was broken in July of 1950. The building was ready for use in 1954, and was consecrated in 1957. Much of the slow pace of completion reflects the intensive care and attention to detail that occurred. The architectural firm of Brooks and Coddington were awarded the project based on their combination of engineering excellence and crisp, clean design. A major force in the decision making process was the Bishop of Southern Ohio, Henry Wise Hobson. who launched a campaign to raise over a million dollars to fund the development of facilities at each of the major public universities within the boundaries of the Southern Ohio Diocese. The construction of a new Saint Stephen’s Church was the largest project undertaken by this initiative.
The charge from both the bishop and the congregation to the architects was that the new church “should convey an open message of warmth and welcome to the students and faculty of the university.” An additional intention expressed by both the bishop and the congregation was that the design should exhibit a vital and contemporary faith while preserving continuity with essential elements of the past. The message the design conveys is that the religion practiced in the space is open, welcoming, and inclusive.