St. Mary’s Church, best characterized as Late Gothic Revival in style, has a simple, austere presence. Its vaulted door leads congregants into an expansive space, largely made of brick. The sides are flanked by tall stained glass windows designed by St. Louis artist Emil Frei, while a colorful mural anchors the area behind the alter.
Charles designed the church with Robert Walsh, with whom he had recently started an architectural firm–in the middle of the depression, no less. Eames and Walsh also built St. Mary’s Church in Paragould, Arkansas.
In addition to creating an intricate brass lighting fixture and the cabinetwork for the church, An Eames Primer explains that the pews “may have been Charles’s first experience with producing furniture in volume.”
St. Mary’s Church was a pivotal work in Charles’s career. Upon completion, Howard Meyer published the project in Architectural Forum, garnering Eames and Walsh both publicity and respect. The church also caught the attention of Eliel Saarinen, esteemed architect and father of Eero Saarinen, who Charles would come to consider both a colleague and life-long friend.
Moreover, Eames and Walsh’s next big commission stemmed directly from their success in Helena. Alice and John Meyer asked the architecture firm to design a house for them in Missouri after seeing an article about St. Mary’s in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.