newsletter zion youtube phoenix
2313 Hanna Street, Fort Wayne, IN 46803
Church: 260-744-1389 • Fax: 260-744-2421

History of Fort Wayne's Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church

The Origins

The need of a Lutheran church in the southeast area of the city, caused by the continuous growth of Lutheranism, led to the organization of Zion Lutheran Congregation on February 18, 1883. Under the leadership of Reverend Henry Sauer and Dr. Wilhelm Sihler, pastors of St. Paul Lutheran Church, this organization was effected by the heads of eighty families living south of the Pennsylvania Railroad and east of Harrison Street. Among the lay leaders during the time of initial struggle and signers of the original Articles of Incorporation on September 7, 1885, were Charles Waltemath, Ernst Dehne, Christian Schaper, Michael Nessel, Charles Trarbach, Wilhelm Bruns, William Miller, August Dammeir, Adam Hansz, Diedrich Brandt, Alfred Kramer, Georg Riedel, Carl Faeger, Wilhelm Heuer, Wilhelm Scheumann, Wilhelm Bronke, Karl Klepper, Frederick Schmidt, Christian Bohn, Michael Koop, and Peter Schmidt.

Prior to the official organization of Zion Congregation a committee was appointed on April 16, 1882, to select a suitable location for a school. Members of this committee were Charles Waltemath, Michael Nessel, Christian Bohn, Christian Schaper, and Wilhelm Bruns.

With the assistance of the parent church, St. Paul Lutheran Congregation, a plot of ground 300 x 300 feet consisting of eight lots at the corner of Hanna Street and Creighton Avenue were purchased at a cost of $3,300. On June 6, 1882, a committee was appointed to draw up plans for a brick building 30 x 88 1/3 feet, having two classrooms, each large enough for 80 pupils on the ground floor and a temporary church auditorium on the second floor. The contract price was $4,500.95, to be finished by Easter 1883, and was ultimately erected at the corner of Weisser Park and Creighton Avenues.

This building was dedicated on September 16, 1883, and was used, for both school and church purposes for eight years until the constant growth of the congregation necessitated the erection of a larger church building.

In the year 1889, it was resolved to build a new church and the plans submitted by Architects Wing and Mahurin were accepted and the contract was awarded to Friedrich Kraeft at a cost of approximately $45,000. Dedication of the church was held on October 4, 1891. The old building was then used for school purposes exclusively. The group of Christian men that showed their heroic faith by serving on the Church Building Committee were Reverend Henry Juengel, Friedrich Kaiser, Charles Waltemath, Wilhelm Mueller, Friedrich Kraeft, Wilhelm Aumann, Fredrick Schmidt, Herman Mueller Karl Kloepper, Heinrich Schwartz, Fredrick Scheumann, and Christian Schaper. The Dedication Committee members were Theodore Dobler, Charles Kuckuck, Charles Waltemath, Johan Lange, Wilhelm Aumann, Herman Mueller, Otto Bengs, Friedrich Nahrwold, Wilhelm Gerding, Johan Reichardt, and Fred Winte.

The Building

When men started to build a cathedral in the middle ages they staked out a cross. Our church is built on this cruciform plan to the honor and the Glory of Christ, the Crucified, and is a fine example of the German Gothic style of architecture which has been called "the expression of inward faith - ever pointing upward" This style was developed by the ecclesiastical builders between the years of 1150 A.D. and 1500 A.D.

It is a beautiful building, and we have always admired the faith, the courage, and the spirit which our fathers and mothers had a century ago, who out of their poverty erected one of Fort Wayne's most handsome structures, with measurements of 124 feet in length and the width in the transepts 80 feet with a seating capacity of 1,300. Characteristic of this style, as one looks at the western facade, is the gradually recessing portal, above it the large pointed windows, and rising above this to a height of 210 feet, the graceful and well-proportioned spire. Then there are the pointed arches of doors and windows, the buttresses, the smaller spire (or fleche) over the transept crossing, the pinnacles, and the large art glass windows, broken by mullions and tracery.

When one enters through the narthex into the nave, the eyes focus on the upward rising altar (or reredos), with its many turrets, climbing higher and higher, with its crockets and finials all hand carved. In the center is the statue of the risen Christ, extending His arms in gracious invitation to all who enter Zion. This statue is elevated above the statues of the four Evangelists -- Matthew and Mark at His right hand and Luke and John at His left. The pulpit is to the left or south of the altar.

Behind the altar mounts the semicircular apse of the chancel. As the eye gazes upward and about, it notices the lofty, ribbed, groined vaults and the beautiful smaller series of arches which extend back to the arches of the organ loft, all giving wonderful vistas of height and extent. The organ was installed at a cost of $2,500. with monies raised by the church choir.

As we permit the structural beauty of the building to sink into the mind and soul, we become conscious of an expression here of soaring freedom, which transcends all human misery and earthly sorrow and finds solace and power and direct communion with God. To the right of the altar is the lectern and also the marble baptismal font which was purchased with the gifts of the parish school children at the time of the building of the church.

Another interesting part of Zion's building are her three well-tuned bells. They were cast by the Henry Stuckstede firm of St.Louis, Missouri. Experts consider them to be among the finest in respect to tonal quality and as cast in the nineteenth century. The pattern wright of these bells are as follows: the large bell - 3250 pounds, middle bell - 1600 pounds, and the small bell - 900 pounds. The bells are inscribed as follows: on one side of the large bell in German - Eigenthum derEv(angelische) Luth(erische) Zions Gemeinde zu Fort Wayne, Indiana..."Property of the Evangelical Lutheran Zion Congregation in Fort Wayne, Indiana" and Gestiftet von Ihren Junglingen... "a gift by her young men". On the other side - 1891 Ehre Sei in der Hohe..." glory be in the highest". On the middle bell in German - 1912 Und Friede auf Erden... "and peace on earth". On the small bell in German - 1918 Und den Menschen ein Wohlgefallen..."and good will to men".

The Windows

Narthex Windows

North Chancel Window

South Chancel Windows

The Major Redecoration of 1940

In the spring of 1940 the congregation resolved to renovate the interior of the church, in preparation for the Golden Anniversary of the dedication of the church on October 4, 1941. Included was the redecoration of all walls and ceiling in a warm fawn shade, all door and window openings, the wainscot and lower part of the chancel finished in a texture which represents the Travertine stone found in Italy. The vaulted ceiling was finished in 6 x 12 inch tile which imitated the Gustevino tile of some of the cathedrals in Europe. The floor was asphalt tiled. New wiring and new fixtures with dimmer arrangements were installed in such a way that no direct light fell on walls or ceiling.

The entire decorative scheme emphasized the original beautiful Gothic lines of the church and all renovations were made with an eye to harmony and consistency, which produced the effect of quiet restfulness so conducive to worship.

Two beautiful stained glass mullioned windows in the chancel were special gifts during this renovation. Beginning on the north, the four pictorial subjects tell the story of the Life of Jesus Christ in glowing glories: Christ knocking at the door; Christ before Pilate; The Risen Christ; and Christ, the King!

At the same time the north room was converted into the present chapel. The chapel with its loud speakers made it possible for those who cannot be among crowds because of physical ailments to attend the divine service, and also for small funerals, private weddings, and communion. The chapel setting was designed by Reverend Paul L. Dannenfeldt with the altar, the plaque--a replica of the Lord's Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, and the dossal curtain all being special gifts of one family. Special gifts in the Sacristy were the installation of oak paneling and the prie-Dieu under Luther's Prayer.

Other decorations included were symbols which were not used merely for decoration but for instruction, which assisted and supported the spoken Word (these symbols were not maintained and are no longer visible on the walls).

The Zion Peace Organ

Rather than restore the Barkoff Organ of 1893 with repairs and extensive overhauling the congregation resolved to acquire a new organ. Due to the high tin content of our old pipes, it was deemed to be desirable to include in the new instrument such that were usable. The specifications were drawn by Clare L. Edwards and Raymond S. Beights. Casavant Brothers, Limited, St. Hyacinth, Quebec, Canada, was awarded the contract of constructing the new organ. Due to shortages of materials, the construction and installation was unavoidably delayed. The instrument was modern in every detail and had keen carefully designed and voiced to meet the conditions of our House of Worship and the entire ensemble of the organ fulfills the liturgical requirements of our Lutheran Church. The three manual console was placed at the outer edge of the organ and choir loft balcony which made it possible for the organist to hear the organ, the choirs, and the congregation more clearly and so effect a better balance of volume during the singing part of the services.

The Great Organ stands in the center, the Choir chamber north of it, the Swell to the south of it, the Pedal pipes in the immediate rear of all three organs. The organ has 34 ranks and a total of 2,138 pipes which are made of either wood or metal. Pipes vary in length from one-half inch to sixteen feet and in diameter from one quarter inch to fifteen inches. The smallest weighs a fraction of an ounce and the largest close to four hundred pounds. The action is electro-pneumatic, that is, contact is made by depressing any of the keys and the ten volt current passes through a system of contacts and magnets, which in turn operates the valve admitting air pressure to the tone producing pipes. It was installed by Arthur R. Temple and Associates of Chicago, and dedicated with a Special Service and Recital on September 12, 1948.

The Third Redecoration

The third redecoration took place in 1956 -- 65 years after Dedication. It was not an extensive program, with only the cutting down of the carved chancel board hiding the spot lights, putting the communion rail across the front, adding of new carpet and putting lights behind Christ and the Cross below.

The Theme of the Major Redecoration of 1970

Throughout the church building the theme is Christ and His Zion. The name, Zion refers to the people of God on earth and heaven. The symbol of Zion is on the peak of the highest arch--the crown, the stars, the crossed palm branches of eternal victory in Christ who says to His people: "Be thou faithful until death and I will give you a crown of Life". A rich use of gold on the ceiling and over the windows which point to heaven remind one and all of the golden city as St. John describes it in the book of Revelation. The scroll work in the center arches and in the chancel follows the scroll work in our large windows. Horizontal lines were kept to a minimum to emphasize the traditional vertical lines of a Gothic style structure as were the accent colors of traditional muted tones.

The symbolism of Jesus Christ is used repeatedly in the building. A series of stained glass panels depicting Christ as revealed in the Old and New Testaments is placed in the narthex screen. Over the central doors is a cast bronze symbol of our Lord. It is the XP...called Chi Rho. These are the first two letters, in Greek, from the name Christ.

To compliment the redecoration of the church were various furnishings, all being donated by special memorials and bequests. They were: the free-standing Altar Communion Table, the carved Baptismal Symbol, Angels (hand sculped in Italy, 3/4 full carvings which means they are 3/4 relief and the flat side as the 1/4 point to fasten to the wall, 36 inches high and finished in natural wood waxed finish), forty four new pews and four frontals, new sound system, aisle candlesticks, Altar Service books, Pulpit Bible, Credence shelves, Chancel Service light, Lectern lamp, Offering plates recovered, Chancel and Chapel chairs reupholstered, Wedding and Confirmation kneelers, Communion railing and cushions, Hearing aids installed, pew Bibles and Worship Supplements, and Narthex Lounge Furniture. Interior design consultants were the Studios of Potente, Inc. of Kenosha, Wisconsin

The members of Zion thus find much in their church which is of interest to them. But while we take pleasure in these objects of interest and in the building itself, we realize that our church is of true value to us only in so far as it is the work of our Lord and brings us nearer to our God. And when we rejoice, therefore, we rejoice with David, for like him, we love our house of worship because it is the habitation of God, and the place where His honor dwelleth. Zion's Pastors.

The Parish Hall

After several years of planning, the congregation sold and removed the old building, and on the same site, construction was begun in the spring of 1922 on a new building which was to be called the "Parish Home or Hall". Teachers helped cut down oak trees, the digging for the basement was done by steam shovel, and the dirt was hauled away by horse and wagon. The cornerstone was laid in the fall of 1922 with special ceremonies. The construction work made forward strides, and in the fall of 1923, the building, measuring 80 x 120 feet, was completed at a cost of approximately $125,000.

The formal dedication of the new parish hall was held in church on Sunday afternoon November 11, 1923. After the service the congregation marched in a body to the parish hall where the ladies of the congregation served supper and an evening program of music was provided by St. Paul's orchestra. The program the rest of the week was as follows: Monday night - formal opening of the Bowling Alleys; Tuesday night - Variety Concert; Wednesday night - Motion Pictures; Thursday night - Supper for the congregation; Friday and Saturday nights - Bazaar.

The building provided ample facilities for the Men's Clubs, Women's Societies, banquets, plays, and meetings with various size meeting rooms, kitchen, stage, gymnasium, projection booth, and six bowling alleys in the basement. Through the years as school enrollment grew and as space in the school was at a premium, it became necessary to equip rooms in the parish hall for the first grade in 1926 and kindergarten in 1945, and another in 1952 when the ninth teacher was called. On February 1, 1925, a Sunday School was organized. In September 1928, two branch Sunday Schools were established: one in the 3300 block of Monroe Street; the other at the corner of Hanna Street and Sherwood Terrace, where a building was erected at a cost of $7,500., which gave Zion the opportunity to expand its missionary activities.

In 1968, due to the age and condition of the school building, the congregation decided to remodel the parish hall into classrooms exclusively and to demolish the old school building. A loan of $240,000. was secured from the Aid Association for Lutherans for the extensive remodeling project. The bowling alleys in the basement were removed and replaced with six classrooms, a library, office space for the principal and secretary. The north room was divided into three rooms for kindergarten, first and second grades. The south room is used as a cafeteria and for Adult Bible Classes, meetings, and other events.

The third floor remains essentially the same, with the stage, orchestra seats, and the gymnasium for physical education classes, sports, plays, end other events which require a large amount of floor space.

2023 © Zion Evengelical Lutheran Church • Privacy Policy