Friedens German Evangelical Church

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.

Friedens Ev & Ref Chrch 1959

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.

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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.

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Darlene says:

    I grew up in that church. Youth fellowship and Sunday school were held across the street. It was a beautiful building then with amazing stained glass windows. It is so sad to see what it looks like now. We also lived on 19th st. I never come to St. Louis anymore. It’s too sad to see a dead city. I’m glad the church is still standing.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Darlene, so there was stained glass in the windows of the Sunday school building originally?

      1. Darlene says:

        No. I wasn’t clear on that. I was referring to the windows of the church. My friends father was the pastor of a Reformed church on Grand Av. Believe it was St Johns. Do you know if it has survived ? what are those green things in the intersection ?

        1. Chris Naffziger says:

          Darlene,

          I can take a look; what is the intersection on Grand? There are still many churches along Grand. I assume it was up north near your old house?

          1. Chris Naffziger says:

            Still in business: http://sjuccstl.org/wordpress/

  2. Darlene says:

    Thank you for the link to my friends church. So happy to see it is still a lively place. Your pictures bring back wonderful memories.

  3. Diana. Ne' Britton says:

    Darlene I also went to Friends and also went to school with Tim Freshner. What age group are you in.

  4. Andrew Oberhellmann says:

    Hi Iím just finding out my family history but my family the one that built that church and he was the rev Theodore Oberhellmann sad it went down hill

    1. Jeff says:

      Andrew Oberhellmann….are you still around? New things are developing here in the Friedens neighborhood.

  5. George says:

    It is sad to see the church needing so much love. My family grew up in the church, we lived across from the halls parking lot on newhouse. We all did something in the church from usher, to setting up communion to singing in the choir.
    I remember the sausage dinners very well, I miss those days.
    The Windows are:
    Above the doors is Christ knocking on the door,
    Jesus walking on the water,
    Jesus praying on the mount,
    A circle of stained glass above the alter,
    And near the pulpit was Christ’s head, the only surviving glass from the first church.
    How many can remember Eddie playing the organ on sunday?
    Or rev. Nolte doing a service?

    1. George Hardin jr says:

      Also the hall had an apartment on the south side of it. In the early 1980’s Martha and David mehl were the pastors and they lived there. The basement of the hall had storage and showers under the kitchen area. There is storage area behind the stage. I wonder what happened to all the old trophies that were in the cases in the hall.
      The church had 2 basement, one was accessed thru the church office and was a proper basement. Where there other you had to go outside in between the church and the old Sunday school building to go thru the grates and that was mainly a dirt floor, not alot of room down there.
      The personage was home to the janitor and maintenance man and his family.
      I am looking now for the pics I took. When I find them I will try and post them here. I have color pics of the Windows and the alter.

      1. Chris Naffziger says:

        That would be wonderful to see those pictures! My email is naffziger (at) gmail (dot) com.

        1. George E Hardin jr says:

          Ok will get what I found. I took these back when we still had services. Sorry a couple of them will be blurry. We didn’t have digital then. Lo!.

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