Crescent Hill Baptist Church

Notes on Some of the Architecture of CHBC


The Architects of the Early Buildings

1910 building

Architect: Brinton B. Davis
cornerstone ceremony:.........July 30 1910
dedication ceremony: ..........January 15, 1911
cost:.....................................est. $17,000.......................actual. $24,036

Notes on the building: Samuel Thomas, in Crescent Hill Revisited, notes that "the Classical Revival styling and scale...was an obvious reflection of the Branch Public Library [built across Birchwood in 1907] and that "even though this structure...was by far the most impressive in Crescent Hill, thoughts of a better equipped church to be constructed on Kennedy Court surfaced in the early 1920's." From 60 charter members the church grew to a membership of 394 by 1918. This building's seating capactiy was only 400, with no restrooms or furnace.

1910 Building


1926 building

Architect: Otto Davis Mock
cornerstone ceremony:..........August 22, 1926
dedication ceremony:............May 1, 1927
cost:......................................est. $263,928..................actual. $346,438
membership in 1927:.............668

Notes on the architect:Otto D. Mock (1888-1958) was born in Hardin Co, Ky and became interested in the construction trade. As a self taught architect he and his son, Kenneth (d. 1996), were the last licensed architects in Ky not to have been formally trained in a school of architecture. [Kenneth was the architect for Highview Baptist Church.] Otto was a member of the Ky. Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. He lived in Parkland on Dumesnil St while building the 1926 CHBC structure and was 38 years old at the time. In 1927 he published, Modern Church Design, in which he featured several sketches of Crescent Hill. He discussed how the classroom wings under the towers were designed as a sound buffer for the sanctuary, from the noise of street cars on Frankfort Ave, and how the basement floor should be no more than five feet deep to allow adequate light and ventillation, etc.

Among other structures Mr. Mock designed were Freedom Hall, part of the Gold Vault at Fort Knox, a Lutheran Church which is now Emmanuel Baptist Church, and Carlisle Baptist Church. He often attended the churches he was engaged in building, and, thus may have visited CHBC on many occasions. Another son of Otto's, George W. Mock "Goucho" (1915-1983) worked as a printer at the Courier-Journal for 43 yrs. George's son, Otto, is a fire prevention officer for the Camp Taylor Fire Dept and member of the Board of Trustees for Highview Baptist Church.

1926 Building


Exterior Molded Concrete Embellishments

Rackle Artstone
The Geo. Rackle & Sons Co.
Cleveland, Ohio
established 1870

Advertisement notes from the 1927, Otto Mock book (pg. 51):
"Rackle Artstone...for building Churches. There has never been a time in fifty-seven years of his history when there were so many church organizations using Rackle Artstone for their buildings as right now. This fact speaks more than volumes of argument in favor of this beautiful, economical, everlasting material.
"Louisville Churches trimmed with Rackle Artstone include the Memorial Evangelical Lutheran Church [now the Emmanuel Baptist Church at 39th & Broadway] and the Crescent Hill Baptist Church both designed by Mr. Otto D. Mock, architect."

Rackle concrete moldings make up the decorative panels of angels around the two tower wings as well as the Corinthian columns and decorative musician angels and open Bible which adorn the pediment. It's possible that the floors and ceiling were also made of Rackle pre-cast concrete.


George Rackle graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, Germany where he and his brother William learned to be sculptors. At the age of 20 he immigrated to Galveston, Texas during the period of America's Civil War. Initially he worked as a granite cutter, but during his years at the Royal Academy, he learned how to use cement in the making of concrete, and, rather than pursuing his stone cutting career, "found it far more practical and accurate to create a glue mold impression of his models, and then cast them in concrete."

In 1870, he found the heat of Galveston unbearable, and set out to get as far North as he could, eventually settling in Cleveland. He established his artstone company and in the late 1920's perfected the technique of making pre-stressed concrete beams and related products. George Sr. died about 1925, and ownership of the company passed to son George II, and then to George P. Rackle III whose widow now lives on Hilton Head Is, S.C. In 1955 the company employed 150 workers in Cleveland and another 100 in Houston. The Rackle Co was sold in 1971 to Texas Industries of Dallas.

Several sections of concrete moldings form the panel of musician angels in the pediment of the church building. According to William Penna, whose family made the windows, these panels were already in place when the decision was made to "de nude" the ladies. Scaffolding was erected with canvas enshrouding the workers until the job was completed.

Interior Plaster Relief Ornaments

Grisanti Statuary Company
304-308 S. Campbell St.
Louisville, KY.

Advertisement notes from the 1927, Otto Mock book (pg. 48):
"Manufacturers of Plastic Relief Ornaments for Interior and Exterior Decorations"

The "ornaments" are plaster of Paris moldings which form the Corinthian column heads and ornamental moldings as well as the burial urns atop the columns on each side of the baptistry and the ornamental grill work above the choir loft and other relief structures in the sanctuary.


Zeffiro Grisanti grew up in the Italian town of Gromignana, Lucca, Tuscany where he learned the art of making plaster of Paris moldings. His family had produced these for churches and other buildings for over a thousand years. A declining economy in Italy caused him to answer the solicitation of builders in Louisville to immigrate to the Falls of the Ohio and set up a shop here. His sister and her husband Innocente Mattei, also in the same trade, had previously settled in New York City in 1892 and spoke well of the opportunities in America. Thus, in 1905 Zeffiro moved to Louisville and established the Grisanti Statuary Company.

Grisanti brought with him his cousin Ricardo Casani, a sculptor who did many of the models from which the molds were made. It could be that the old photo in the basement of the Crescent Hill Public Library of an "Italian statuary molder" is of one of these early artisans. The sculptor created a clay model which was shellacked and then covered with gelatin. Once the gelatin dried it was peeled off the model and used as mold to create the Plaster of Paris figures. Decorative beams on the sanctuary ceiling were done on site.

Dominico Mattei, a grandson of the earlier Mattei noted above, worked in the Grisanti Statuary Company before forming his own business, the Mattei Novelty Company. Mr. Mattei's company recently completed most of the interior plastic relief work for the newly renovated Cathedral of the Assumption and Brown Theater. In September, 1998, Dominico visited Gromignana where a 1000 year-old church contains his family's work.

Zeffiro's brother, Pacifico Grisanti, assisted him with the work until the business closed in 1959, and Pacifico's son, Ferd Grisanti, turned the former statuary studio into Grisanti's Restaurant which operated in a distinguished manner for many years on East Liberty. Ferd's son, Paul Grisanti,  operated Ferd Grisanti's Restaurant (now closed).

Stain Glass Windows

Louisville Art Glass Co.
Edwin Penna
123 South Twelfth St.
Louisville, KY.

Advertisement notes from the 1927, Otto Mock book (pg. 43):

caption: Window in Main Auditorium Crescent Hill Baptist Church.
"For years we have had the distinction of serving the Baptist Churches in Louisville and the surrounding territory, doing practically 100 per cent of all their Art Glass work."


Edwin Penna founded the Louisville Art Glass Company about 1900. He was the son of William Penna, a farmer from Land's End, County Cornwall, England, who immigrated to New Brunswick, Canada in 1879 bringing sixteen year old Edwin with him. Edwin decided against farming as a career and moved to Chicago in the 1880's to learn the art of making stained art glass. He subsequently moved to St. Louis, MO, Ft.Wayne, IN, and then Anderson, IN trying unsuccessfully to set up a glass making business. He moved to Louisville about 1900 and set up shop at 12th and Market.

He obtained his glass from Kokomo, IN, and the lead for the framing from the National Lead Co. of Cincinnati. In the height of the art glass business before the Depression there were 25 employees, and during the period of 1926-27 they constructed and installed the stain glass windows of Crescent Hill Baptist Church.

Following the Depression of the 1930's, the number of employees was cut to as few as four including Edwin's son, Edwin, Jr. who later took over the operation. The business continued in the family when Edwin Penna III and his brother, William began working there. William Penna and his wife Beverly Crosslyns attended Crescent Hill for awhile and were the second couple whom Dr. Rollin S. Burhans married.

Today the company is called Architectural Glass Art, Inc. and is owned and operated by Edwin Penna III's son-in-law, Kenny Von Roenn.

In addition to the 1927 Crescent Hill Baptist Church building, Edwin Penna's company supplied art glass for the Crescent Hill Methodist and Christian (now Korean) Churches as well as many other Methodist churches around the South and Washington, D.C. Architectural Glass Art, Inc. has recently supplied the art glass for the Marine Memorial at Paris Island, S.C.


Dale Tucker  composed the following essay about Crescent Hill Baptist Church's Architectural Symbols


The Exterior Molded Concrete Embellishments were done by Rackle Artstone of Cleveland, Ohio. The Bible is central to worship and instruction; This book could represent literacy or scholarship. It may represent the Book of Life and is often shown as a bible. A popular form is the book as a double page spread.

Music was and is a large part of our worship and celebration of faith. Pictured are horns, flutes, harps and cymbals.


keystone above doors

Leaf borders and scroll motifs were used extensively in the art and architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. Foremost of these was the acanthus motif. Some say the acanthus, one of the oldest flowers in the Mediterranean area, represents long life. The symbolism and meaning associated with the Acanthus is that of enduring life, and the plant is traditionally displayed at funerary celebrations. In Christianity the thorny leaves represent pain, sin and punishment. Acanthus symbolizes immortality in Mediterranean countries.



Wreath or Garland - The use of garlands, wreaths and festoons dates back to ancient Greek times and it was adopted into the Christian religion as a symbol of the victory of the redemption. 

angel kneeling in prayer

This angel kneeling in prayer backed by acanthus leaves may represent the power of prayer. The symbolism and meaning associated with the Acanthus is that of enduring life, and the plant is traditionally displayed at funerary celebrations.


In Christianity the thorny leaves represent pain, sin and punishment. Acanthus symbolizes immortality in Mediterranean countries.


Angel with outstretched wings and hands which enfold cherubs or children. Perhaps this represents the guardian angels Christians have traditionally believed are assigned to children. At the base again are found the acanthus leaves. Angels are seen as the agent or messenger from God,

Angel/Cherubim - Guardians of a sacred place, servants of God; divine wisdom or justice.

Corinthian columns


In this Corinthian column the top or capital contains the acanthus leaves around the lower part and ferns at the top. The  volute is a spiral, scroll-like ornament that forms the basis of the Ionic order, found in the capital of the Ionic column. It was later incorporated into Corinthian order and Composite column capitals. The word derives from the Latin voluta ("scroll"). It has been suggested that the ornament was inspired by the curve of a ram's horns, or perhaps was derived from the natural spiral found in the ovule of a common species of clover native to Greece. (Wikipedia) Here you might interpret it to be a fiddle head fern; ferns represented sincerity or sorrow.

Interior stained glass windows and doors done by Louisville Art Glass Company.

stain glass squares

A square may be used as a symbol of many things, all primarily related to the number four. It may represent the four corners of the earth. It may represent the four Evangelists - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Since four is sometimes considered the "number of the earth," is may be used as a halo, or "nimbus," to distinguish living persons from departed saints.

stain glass purple

The quatrefoil is a symbol of the four Evangelists — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

bottom of stain glass

The fleur-de-lis is a stylized representation of the lily, a symbol of purity, and so is a common reference to the Virgin Mary. The fleur-de-lis is also a symbol of royalty, made so by its adoption by kings of France. The triune representation of the fleur-de-lis has also led to its adoption as a symbol of the Trinity. This flower may also be a lotus.

bottom of another window

The olive branch is widely recognized as a symbol of peace. In the story of the Great Flood, a dove returned to Noah with an olive branch to let him know that the flood waters had abated, and that the episode of God's judgment was over. The olive tree produced great quantities of oil, itself a symbol of the Holy Spirit and His anointing, as well as of consecration to the Lord. The olive branches are topped by a fleur de lis or a lotus blossom. A lotus represents purity, resurrection or potential and is commonly used in ancient Egypt and in Hinduism, the flower is sacred in Buddhism

stain glass garland

Wreath or Garland - The use of garlands, wreaths and festoons dates back to ancient Greek times and it was adopted into the Christian religion as a symbol of the victory of the redemption. Note the olives above the garland of olive leaves.

stain glass leaves

The Christian symbol of Palm Branch symbolizes victory and also represents a martyr who sacrifices his/her life for the sake of faith in God. The Palm Branch is often seen in the hands of Jesus Christ and is considered a symbol of resurrection that depicts supreme triumph over death. Palm branches were waved and laid out on the path when Jesus entered Jerusalem.

In early Christianity, the palm tree was even used as the Tree of Life.

top of stain glass


Note the arc of palm branches over a lotus blossom. Because a lotus blooms above the water from roots anchored in the mud, it it sometimes used as a symbol of the sanctifying power of Christ's Holy Spirit. It can also borrow its meaning from Greek mythology to refer to spiritual sleep or stupor.


The symbol of the incense bowl with the incense smoke rising up found on both sides of the upper windows In the Old Testament, God commanded His people to offer incense in worship.

Pure incense is the resin from certain trees found in limited areas of the Middle East like Ethiopia and Eritrea.  In ancient times it was obtained only at great expense.

In the book of Exodus (Chapter 30), God commanded Moses to make an altar of acacia wood for the burning of incense.  Aaron is to burn incense morning and evening.  Moses is given special instructions for making the incense to be used exclusively for the worship of God (Exodus 30:34-38).  One of the many ingredients given in God's list was frankincense.

Among the gifts of the Magi given to the baby Jesus was frankincense--a gift worthy of a king.

Incense is a symbol for the prayers of God's people.

"Let my prayer be counted as incense before thee, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice. . . ."  -Psalm 141:2

Inside the sanctuary is plaster work done by Grisanti Statuary Company.


In the alcove above the choir is a grill. Note that the grill is made up of many candles.

grill with candles


 In the border below the grill are some 100 vertical candles each in their own alcove.

A candle calls to mind Jesus' words, "I am the Light of the World" (John 8:12). When two candles are placed on an altar, they represent Jesus' human and divine natures. Believers are also called to be the light of the world:

funeral urn

The funeral urn symbolizes death. Urn - Greek symbol of mourning, the body as a vessel of the soul, originating as a repository for the ashes of the dead in ancient times - a popular symbol of mourning. Most represent an ossuary.

fish and candles


Ichthus (ikh-thoos) or ichthys is the Greek word simply meaning “fish”.  The Greek spelling for ichthus is -- Iota, Chi, Theta, Upsilon, and Sigma. The English translation is IXOYE. The five Greek letters stand for the words meaning, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.” This symbol was used primarily amongst Christians of the early church years (1st and 2nd century A.D.) The symbol was introduced from Alexandria, Egypt; which at the time, was a very heavily populated seaport. It was the port in which many goods were brought over from the European continent. Because of this, it was first used by the peoples of the sea as a symbol of a familiar deity, in this case, Jesus Christ.  Note a stylized rose or dogwood in the center of the fish symbol.

in front of sanctuary

The vine and branches are a reminder of Jesus' teaching that believers derive life and fruitfulness from Christ, the True Vine. The leaves of the vine may be that of the acanthus plant. John 15:5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (NIV)

pedestal in front of sanctuary

Shell is symbolic of fertility, resurrection and pilgrimage.  The shell may be, in fact, a lotus blossom. Ferns are on either side of the acanthus plant. What appears to be a shell could also be a stylized thistle plant. The thistle is a symbol of temporal sorrow and the curse of sin from the story of the Fall. Because the thistle is a thorny bush, it is often portrayed as the source of Christ's crown of thorns. Because thistles flourish to crowd out useful crops, they have also been used to represent the "tares" or weeds written of in Matthew 13.

in front of church

At the front of the sanctuary are three important symbols of the church. The Lord's Table is where bread and wine are placed for Christian Communion or The Lord's Supper. Jesus, at what has been called "the Last Supper" he had with his disciples said that the bread represented his body which would be broken and the wine represented his blood which would be shed. As often as you meet, do this in remembrance of me. Directly behind the Lord's Table is the pulpit from which ministers/preachers proclaim the Good News of the Gospel which is the God of Grace forgives our sin if we turn from our sin (repent) and follow Christ. Behind the pulpit is the space for the choir and behind the choir is the baptismal pool where new believers are immersed as a testimony that their old lives are gone and they are raised to new life in Christ.

pedestal, candle, Bible

To the left of the pulpit is a single candle representing that Jesus said that he was the Light of the World and also that Christians are also to be lights in their world today. To the right of the pulpit is the Bible which is God's Holy Word. Guided by God's Spirit, Christians can find direction for their lives through reading the Bible.

balcony dogwood pattern

The dogwood is a modern figure of the Passion of Christ. The "legend" has it that the dogwood, which once grew tall and straight, was the source of the wood used for the cross. Jesus had pity on this poor tree used for such an ignoble purpose, and decreed, "Henceforth it shall be slender and bent and twisted and its blossoms shall be in the form of a cross ... two long and two short petals. And in the center of the outer edge of each petal there will be nail prints, brown with rust and stained with red, and in the center of the flower will be a crown of thorns, and all who see it remember ... that it was upon a dogwood tree I was crucified and this tree shall not be mutilated or destroyed, but cherished as a reminder of My death upon the cross."

pew dogwood pattern

Another stylized dogwood bloom on pews.

pulpit daisy or daisy pattern

The daisy found on the pulpit is a late (15th century) symbol of the innocence of the Christ Child. The daisy, less exotic and pretentious than the lily, was thought by some to be a more fitting symbol for the baby Jesus. The circle is a symbol of life everlasting. Interestingly, this symbol is also similar to the dharma chakra (literally, ‘wheel of Law’) Buddhist emblem resembling a wagon wheel, with eight spokes, each representing one of the eight tenets of Buddhist belief. The circle symbolizes the completeness of the Dharma, the spokes represent the eightfold path leading to enlightenment: Right faith, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right endeavor, right mindfulness, and right meditation. The Gypsy chakra has 16 spokes in their wheel.

lozenge pattern

A lozenge (?), often referred to as a diamond, is a form of rhombus. The definition of lozenge is not strictly fixed, and it is sometimes used simply as a synonym (from the French losange) for rhombus. Most often, though, lozenge refers to a thin rhombus—a rhombus with acute angles of less than 45°.[1] The lozenge shape is often used in parquetry and as decoration on ceramics, silverware and textiles

The lozenge motif dates as far back as the Neolithic and Paleolithic period in Eastern Europe and represents a sown field and female fertility.[2] The ancient lozenge pattern often shows up in Diamond vault architecture, in traditional dress patterns of Slavic peoples, and in traditional Ukrainian embroidery. The lozenge pattern also appears extensively in Celtic art, art from the Ottoman Empire, and ancientPhrygian art.[3] (Wikpedia)

natal cross constructed by Jerry Keys about 1982

The Natal Cross--This cross is shaped like a star, reminding us of the story of Jesus' birth and foretelling the purpose for which he was born.

chbc monogram

Monogram in the radiator grill work

References: for Christian symbols


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Louisville, Kentucky 40206
(502) 896-4425

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This page revised Oct 7, 2021. with more work to come