Akron Plan

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The 1911 First Christian Church in Eugene, Oregon, constructed according to the Akron Plan
A floorplan for a Sunday school building that includes an Akron plan "Junior Department" and enclosed classrooms for lower grade levels

The Akron Plan was a type of design commonly used for American Protestant Sunday School rooms in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the most elaborate examples, two or more stories of three-sided compartments form a horseshoe around a central rotunda, while simpler examples take the form of a large rectangular room with an interior balcony at each end.

This panopticon layout allowed children of different ages to be taught separate lessons without requiring a large staff of professional teachers: a volunteer led a class of similarly aged children in each compartment, while a professionally trained "superintendent," often a minister, led opening and closing prayers for the entire school from a platform in the central space and observed the volunteer teachers to ensure that their lessons were orthodox and prevent any other inappropriate behavior.

In many Akron Plan Sunday Schools, the compartments on each level were separated by sliding panels or curtains, allowing the room to double as an auditorium, and sometimes, especially in smaller churches, the entire wall behind the platform could be opened up, allowing the room to be combined with the sanctuary. By the 1920s, fully separate classrooms became more popular and many churches either removed the partitions (converting the room into a single-purpose chapel or auditorium) or fully enclosed the classrooms and the term came to refer to any church with a sliding partition separating the sanctuary from another large assembly space.

The plan was first used in 1872 at the First Methodist Episcopal Church in Akron, Ohio in a design by philanthropist Lewis Miller, Walter Blythe, and architect Jacob Snyder for church buildings and popularized by architectural pattern books in the USA in the late 19th and early 20th century. The design was especially popular among evangelical and Reformed denominations including Methodists, Congregationalists, Baptists, and Presbyterians, as well as Christian Scientists and rarely if ever found in churches built by more liturgically oriented groups.[1] (The church burned in 1911 and the site was re-purposed for the Akron Armory.)[2]

The system was copied in England, including at the Union Chapel, Islington and the Tabernacle in Shoreditch.


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