Located at Newhouse and 19th Streets in an isolated portion of Hyde Park, the Friedens German Evangelisch Church represents an important aspect of early St. Louis church history. While most Americans do not realize this, Evangelisch in German does not translate into Evangelical in the modern American sense, but rather should be seen as the name in Germany of what we would call the Lutheran Church here in America.
Like most churches in Nineteenth Century St. Louis, the congregation lived within walking distance of their church, and places of work for that matter. The current church, alternately dated from either 1900 or 1907, sits on what appears to have been an earlier church, most likely constructed around 1861. You can see that church in the Compton and Dry map from yesterday, in the lower left corner.
It’s an architecturally interesting church in that it is clearly Gothic Revival, but its ornamentation is much more sparse compared to your average church of the same style in St. Louis. Take St. Francis de Sales or Bethlehem Lutheran for examples of just how much more ornate these churches could be. I suspect it might have been changing tastes or simply a matter of finances. It appears below that there was extensive relaying of bricks at one point. Also, ironically considering this was a proud German congregation, I would describe this as English Gothic Revival, more so than German.
Joyce Phariss was kind enough to provide me with her wedding photo from the interior of the church in 1959. It is beautiful, spare and more of a centrally planned or auditorium church it seems than a nave-oriented building.
Like countless other churches in North St. Louis, the Friedens church closed, but is survived by one of its plants on Chambers Road; it was bought by another congregation which posted a picture of the pastor preaching at the pulpit. The unique relief sculpture of Christ attended by angels is still in place, just as it was fifty-four years ago.
Unfortunately, and I debated whether or not to divulge this or not due to the risk of exposing the building to break-ins, but the church congregation that currently owns the property on both side of 19th Street seems to have closed. I have no idea what happens to non-profit property in the City of St. Louis, since it cannot be seized for failure to pay property taxes. I suppose it just sits empty ad infinitum. It’s a silent crisis throughout the city inside Grand; while fifty years ago many African-American congregations eagerly snatched up and maintained churches that closed during White Flight, now those same congregations are going out of business due to a lack of population, and there is no one to take their place.
I finally figured out what the much older building across the street from the 1900 church; it is in fact the original congregation hall at the intersection, and it is owned by the same church to this day.
One thing that is remarkable about the immediate blocks and intersection around the church is that the built environment is completely intact, if obviously mostly abandoned. It’s a rare intersection in North St. Louis where one does not have to use his imagination very hard to envision what it once looked like at its height.
And honestly, it’s really sad; the intersection of Newhouse and 19th shouldn’t be remarkable at all. It should just be one of hundreds of beautiful intersections accented by a church that the city once possessed. Will redevelopment come before the bulldozers? I hope so, but I’m not counting on it. Just imagine hundreds of people walking the pavement one hundred years ago on Sunday morning, and witness the desolation which grips it now.
Update: As of July 2014, the church is in fact open for services on Sunday.