The History of Our Church
Where Barr and Madison Street meet in the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana, there is a spot of ground which can truly be called historic, both as far as Fort Wayne, as well as the Lutheran Church in America, are concerned. It is the property of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, the second oldest Lutheran Church in Indiana and one of the oldest in the western part of our country. It has belonged to this congregation since 1839, at which time the first, single frame church was erected by the little flock of Lutherans that had been organized as a congregation two years previous.
Ever since this first simple edifice was built, the congregation has maintained a house of worship on this spot, evermore enlarging its facilities to meet the demands of its growing membership. Thus, a second church building was provided in 1847, which soon became inadequate, making an addition necessary in 1862. Though two daughter congregations branched off to form new parishes during the next two decades, it again became necessary to provide more ample facilities. On January 15, 1887, a resolution of vision and courage was presented to the congregation and was adopted. It reads as follows:
At present there are many older members of the congregation who are still alive, and they have the wish that they may be privileged to lend their aid, so that the congregation may obtain a stately house of God, which might serve as a memorial of their gratitude and zeal for the Kingdom of God to the coming generations.
The magnificent cathedral-like building which was erected and dedicated on September 15, 1889, was indeed a testimonial of great zeal. However, no doubt, to test and train His people for greater things, it pleased the Lord to reduce this splendid edifice of worship to a gutted smoldering ruin by a disastrous fire on December 3, 1903. In deep humility and sobriety the congregation set about with courage to rebuild the church, of which only the damaged foundations and walls remained standing. In April 1905 the restored beautiful edifice was dedicated to the glory and service of the triune God.
This fine temple of worship served the congregation well; however not without wear and the usual deterioration of time and the elements. In 1943 the congregation decided that the time had come for a complete renovation of its stately sanctuary. Thus, it was determined that a thank offering should be gathered to make possible these necessary improvements in connection with the Fortieth Anniversary of the present restored building in 1945. A sizable fund was collected. However, the work had to be postponed because of the scarcity of materials due to the Second World War, which was in progress.
In 1947, the work of repair and renovation was begun on the exterior, which was completely tuck-pointed and painted. In the summer on 1948 the roof was repaired, and plans were made for the execution of the entire renovation program. The actual work began in August of this same year and continued to the end of January 1949. The entire church was modernized and beautified. This included new radiation and heating, new wiring, new lighting, the installation of five stained glass windows in the chancel, redecoration of the entire interior, a new chancel rail, and a new floor covering. Though the original funds were not adequate for this ambitious program, the congregation nevertheless courageously and joyfully dedicated itself to this worthy task.
In the 1980s, the planning of the celebration of St. Paul’s 150th anniversary began. These plans called for a complete refurbishing of the sanctuary that included cleaning and painting the walls and ceiling. The work began in early January of 1986 and was completed a few months later on the Saturday before Palm Sunday. In addition to the repair work and painting of the interior, the words of Luke 11:28 were restored to the arch over the entrance of the chancel. It is a fitting reminder and solemn promise: “Blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it.” The actual celebration of our heritage took place in October 1987.
In the early 1990s, plans were underway to refurbish, restore and renovate the entire exterior of the church building from steeple to the ground. For almost 90 years, the church had survived the ravages of time and weather, but there was an obvious need to address the damage that these elements had caused. The fleche or small rooftop spire at the roof crossing was renovated and the steeple project was then begun in 1995 as the first phase of this major project. Scaffolding was erected and workers spent the summer restoring the steeple, replacing worn and weathered parts, and renewing the brickwork, and upper and lower louvers. The beautiful gold cross high atop the steeple was restored and repainted.
Following the steeple project, work was begun on the walls, windows, and guttering, together with tuck-pointing of all the brickwork. Repairs were made, damaged or broken architectural elements were replaced, and all window frames were painted a light grey, to match the limestone trim of the exterior. The existing slate roof, badly damaged over the ninety years since its installation, was also replaced to keep out the elements and add to the beauty of the sanctuary.