Thursday, January 21, 2010

St. Paul's Lutheran, Toledo

The grand old church on the courthouse square; Toledo's second oldest Lutheran congregation!

From the history page on the church website:

St. Paul’s was organized on Sept. 1st, 1857, with Pastor Carl Markscheffel its first pastor. St. Paul’s is the second oldest Lutheran church in Toledo…

The founding members of St. Paul’s were originally members of Salem but broke away [because of dissatisfaction with certain church practices; and also because horse car service hadn't started in Toledo yet and it was an awful long walk from the South End-my words]...On March 1st, 1858, Lot No. 1411 was purchased by the members in the "Vistula Division" on Erie St. ...Construction of the new church began immediately on its present day site…On Good Friday April 16th, 1858 services were held in the newly built church…May 2nd, 1858 the church was dedicated by Pastor Markscheffel "who presented the building to the Lord under the name of the Evangelisch-Lutherisch St. Paulus Kirche". In 1866 a decision was made to construct a brick church…On August 15th, 1867, the cornerstone was laid and the new “brick church” was dedicated on the Sunday before Christmas of 1868. The church had no steeple or bells. The choir loft was small, the basement unfinished, no furnace, gas or electricity. The ceiling was flat, there was no altar niche, and the church had a single entrance. The members were proud of their accomplishments. The total cost was $18,353.00.

In 1876 preparations were made for building a steeple, and a bell weighing 4,000 pounds was ordered [from Germany]. By the end of 1877 the steeple was completed and the bell installed...shortly after the new altar was installed with the statues of Christ and the four Evangelists...In 1888 improvements in the church continued with the erection of a wall at the front of the property because Erie St. had been raised. The ceiling of the church was vaulted and two additional doors, on each side of the main entrance were added to the front. In 1896 electric lights were installed.

... and at that point, it pretty much looked like this:
On September 21st, 1924 the new parish house was dedicated. Space was now available for a church office, pastor’s study, a ladies parlor, living quarters for the custodian, an auditorium and class rooms for the Sunday school. A gymnasium with showers and lockers was also a part of the new five story building.

EXCEPTIONAL Gothic detailing, and tracery on these windows, especially the large one! What a work of art this parish house is!
(Exterior photos in this section by Jeffrey Smith.)Look at that gargoyle!

Major renovations to the church took place in 1953. An effort was made to have the renovated church blend in with the Gothic style of the parish house erected in 1924. Among the improvements were the facing of the church with stone, the building of a new base for the steeple, the complete remodeling of the front entrance, the formation of the narthex by construction of a glass walled partition at the rear of the church, the addition of a first aid room and cloakroom, new pews, and the complete redecoration of the chancel and nave. The old pews, pulpit and other woodwork that was stained dark were replaced with light oak wood construction material. This brightened the whole inside considerably. Air conditioning was installed and the nave windows were replaced with stained glass. Seating capacity would now be about 800.

At this point, it's arguable that the church interior NEEDED brightening, since by then the north side of the church was enclosed by the parish house, and the south side by that five-story office building that was erected around the turn of the century.Another historic shot from the same angle, for comparison. How things have changed!This stained glass window over the front doors, carries depictions of the church before and after the parish house was added.
Photo of new-church panel by Jeffrey Smith.
These windows were installed during the 1953 remodeling. Only one of them, at the right-hand front of the sanctuary, is open enough to the outside to catch the sun all the way across.
Each of these elaborate windows centers on a scene depicting an event in the life of Christ. Various other chrismons and symbolism appear elsewhere on the windows.
The butterfly, a symbol of the Resurrection that doesn't seem to be used very often in church art.The windows were difficult to focus on, not only because of the angle needed to focus on some of them (I should have brought a tripod), but because of the lack of light on the other side.
Instruments of the Passion -- a couple of them, anyway. This isn't often used in Lutheran church art, but is frequently seen in historic Catholic church art.Moses and St. Paul are in small rooms at the sides of the front door ... first-aid rooms, or utility rooms. I don't know if they're from 1953 or earlier. But I wonder why these striking windows were placed, or left, in such hidden locations...
Windows running up into the balcony -- much easier to focus on!
The hand of God and the Holy Spirit are high on the wall over the altar.
Now those ceiling beams are ASTOUNDING, as is that marvelous curved balcony!!
A closeup, taken in the balcony, of the detailing on the beams.This is the altar that was installed around 1878. While the rest of the chancel was outfitted with wood paneling and the pulpit and lectern replaced during the 1953 remodeling, this treasure was thankfully retained.
Sts. Matthew and Mark ...
... and Sts. Luke and John.
This font, like all the other chancel furnishings, is from the 1953 remodeling.One of the historic photos on the website, of the chancel before the remodeling. I'd love to know what became of not only that pulpit canopy, but of that original baptismal font, since that is where my mother was baptized on December 13, 1931 ...
The wonderful full-front view from the balcony.
Yes, it's LOUD!
I didn't get into the parish house any further than the front door, but I couldn't miss this gorgeous ribbed ceiling!There are portrait collages in the basement fellowship hall, of all of St. Paul's pastors.This is hidden by the surrounding buildings, but ... if you walk down the alleyway from the parking lot, you can see the back of the church as it was long ago ...

In Jan. 1978 St. Paul’s was asked to consider moving its location by the Toledo Development Committee because of plans to locate a City-County-State office building on the church site. This would later be known as the Government Center Building. The proposal was made to St. Paul’s for construction of a new church and parish house complex on Erie St. one block north of the current church site. The original cost for building the new complex was estimated at 3.2 million dollars and later change to 2.9 million and would be paid through the sale of St. Paul’s present site to the State.

The first proposal in Jan. of 1978 for the sale of the church site was voted down by a more than 2 to 1 decision of the congregation. In mid April of 1978 the Board of Trustees mailed to the Congregation details of the new complex including a color rendering of the new church and parish house. The Trustees requested a “vote of confidence” to proceed with negotiations to obtain the new building site. The church steeple in the rendering was close to the present one and other than that, the new church would look completely different from the current one.

The Trustees called the project “an opportunity of a life-time” and said it would give new life to a congregation that had declining membership and was looking at major expenses in the short term to renovate the present church.

On Sunday April 30th, 1978, the congregation voted in a special meeting against pursuing the proposal of a new site and church construction. It was apparent by the show of hands that the members had not changed their opinion expressed in the ballot vote taken in January. The issue of re-locating the church was dropped.

YEAH! YEAH!! Kudos to the congregation of 1978, for NOT selling out their heritage for 40 pieces of silver! I can't believe the city just wanted to TRASH this shining part of Toledo's history! Government Center worked out just fine being across the street. And the Church with a Heart in the Heart of Toledo still proudly stands as one of downtown Toledo's inspiring historic showpieces, and continues its mission to all that it serves.


  1. Shari,

    The next time you have an old picture to go with your post, I think it would be really cool if you could post the modern version with the same composition/angle of view. Great back story on the voting to keep the church or rebuild. On the Stained glass windows that aren't well lit you may try using your flash. Not an ideal solution but worth a try the next time.

  2. Great ideas, Russ! I didn't have the old picture of the chancel available to me at the time I did the photo shoot. I checked to see if I had taken any shots from that angle, ie, the left-hand side of the balcony, and I didn't; however, I found another old picture of the outside of the church from the same angle as one of the recent shots. I edited the post and posted that photo right under the new shot. Next time I have to deal with an interior-backed stained glass window, I'll try the flash and see how it works out ...

  3. I also found an interesting photo on Flickr of the church against the backdrop of Government Center, and I added the link to my comments after the keep-the-church story. Great for architectural contrast!

  4. Wow! This is completely fantastic! I do have one question... On the left side of the sanctuary, near the baptismal font, there appears to be another altar. I noticed something similar in the pre-renovation photo as well. What is the purpose of this additional... altar?