A Brief History

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, Salem Lutheran Church on Huron Street between Elm and Chestnut Streets being the oldest. It was formed in 1842 and in 1844 the church was built.

On March 1st, 1858, Lot No. 1411 was purchased by the members in the “Vistula Division” on Erie St. from Richard Mott on a land contract for $1,200. Construction of the new church began immediately on its present day site.

In 1932 the Diamond Jubilee Anniversary of St. Paul’s was held Sept. 25-30. A booklet containing the history of the church from 1857-1932 was prepared and given to the congregation. This celebration of the 75th anniversary of the founding of St. Paul’s was attended by 2,388 persons.

The founding members of St. Paul’s were originally members of Salem but broke away from it primarily for two major reasons:

1) In 1857 there was no public transportation system in Toledo and would not be until 1862 when the horse car age began. This meant people living in the South end of Toledo had a long walk in getting to Salem in the North end. Once they arrived, due to the small seating capacity, they often had to stand through the service.

2) Salem also insisted on private confession which also caused dissatisfaction with many members.

Before St. Paul’s first church was built, services were held at the St. Clair Street School in the 600 block of South St. Clair. Then the Toledo Board of Education refused to grant St. Paul’s new congregation further use of the St. Clair School building so services were held for a time in a hall over the firm of Witker and Johnson on St. Clair St. To provide a more central location, services were later held in an upper hall on Monroe St. between St. Clair and Superior Streets.

On Good Friday April 16th, 1858 services were held in the newly built church. Everyone helped in its construction. Some gave lumber, some helped in digging and laying the foundation, while others constructed the pews, altar, and pulpit.

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”. The frame building was 36 feet long, 26 feet wide and 18 feet high, and cost $884.00. In later years it would be called the “old wooden church”.

In March of 1862, 25 feet was added to the front of the building at a cost of $400.00, due to membership growth, and the church was rededicated on May 3rd, 1862.

In 1866 a decision was made to construct a brick church. Another 20 feet of land on Erie St., Lot No. 1412 was purchased for $1,000.00. The new church would measure 50 feet wide, 120 feet long and 37 feet high, at a cost of $16,800.00.

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 December of 1870 a pipe organ built in Ann Arbor was installed, replacing the reed organ.

In 1874 a parsonage was built adjacent to the church, and was enlarged in 1882 and 1901.

In 1876 preparations were made for building a steeple, and a bell weighing 4,000 pounds was ordered. By the end of 1877 the steeple was completed and the bell installed.

In 1878 the Baptismal Font was purchased and shortly after the new altar was installed with the statues of Christ and the four Evangelists. The old altar and pulpit were given to a needy congregation. Altar cost, $700.00 and statues were $261.58.

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.

St. Paul’s maintained a parochial school from 1858 until 1901. It was held at one time in the old wooden frame church which had been moved to the back of the lot when the brick church was erected in 1868. The wooden church was sold to an African American congregation.

Sept. 29th, 1907, St. Paul’s celebrated its Golden Jubilee of 50 years of service to Christ and the community. The exterior of the church was painted, the aisles carpeted, and a new chimney built on the north side of the building. Membership at this time was about 2,000 people.

In 1909 the first parish house was built. It included a parlor for the Ladies’ Aid and Home Missionary Societies, a work room, dining room, and a kitchen. The cost was $3,500.00.

In 1919 a lot next to the parsonage was purchased for the future erection of a new parish house. The lot cost was $19,000.00. It was decided on May 1st, 1922 to build a new parsonage. A campaign began to raise funds for the new parish house which would cost $150,000.00. Pledges were received for $156,000.00.

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.

On Oct. 3rd, 1937 the Dr. L. H. Schuh Memorial Chapel was dedicated in the parish house. Dr. Schuh, a former pastor of St. Paul’s died in 1936. This chapel is still in use today for small groups to worship, baptisms, weddings, and private devotion.

In 1938 the first Christmas Eve service was held in the Paramount Theater and the first Easter service in 1940. This allowed the celebration of these Festival Services to all members of the community as well as the members of St. Paul’s church. The stage was transformed into a chancel setting with massed choirs singing special music. It was not unusual for 3,000 people to attend these services. They were continued until the Paramount was torn down in the 1960’s and replaced by a parking lot.

During the war years of the 1940’s Sunday evening services were started for the convenience of the “war workers”.

On Armistice Sunday of 1947 a special tribute was paid to those sons and daughters of St. Paul’s who had been in the armed forces during World War II. Their names were listed on a Roll of Honor and put in a walnut case in the church. Three hundred sixty five members served in the war and survived. Seven died in the service of their country.

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.

A new kitchen in the basement was installed, a new nursery, and the social room was redecorated. Closed circuit TV broadcasting was installed to accommodate the overflow of people on Sunday morning who couldn’t be seated in the church. Dedication services for the remodeled church were held the week of Jan. 3rd, 1954.

In 1957 St. Paul’s Centennial was celebrated from Sept. 22nd to Oct. 2nd, 1957. The membership of St. Paul’s on Jan. 1st, 1957 was 3,242 confirmed members. This was and increase from the 2,315 reported at the beginning of the Diamond Jubilee Year of 1932. As St. Paul’s celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1957, it was the largest Protestant church in Toledo and one of the two largest in the American Lutheran Church.

In 1958, St. Paul’s purchased the Court Hotel which was adjacent to the Parish House on the north side for $85,000.00. At one time it was hoped that this building could be converted to housing for the elderly. This did not happen due to high cost and the condition of the building. It was later torn down to make parking space at the north side of the church.

The 1950’s and 60’s began a shift of population to the suburbs in the Toledo area. This resulted in shopping centers being built to accommodate the movement of people. The result was the gradual exodus of stores and shopping in the downtown area.

A publication in 1967 by St. Paul’s stated the church and parish house had an estimated value of nearly 1.5 million dollars. The church at that time owned two homes as parsonages, each having a value of $30,000.00 and a camp in Michigan. Camp Hemlock had a value of $250,000.00.

It was also stated in the 1967 publication, “After growing with Toledo for 110 years, St. Paul’s now finds itself located in the very heart of this thriving city. St. Paul’s is truly a metropolitan church with member living both far away and as near as next door. St. Paul’s became known as “The Church with a Heart in the Heart of Toledo”.

In Nov. of 1972 Covenant House was dedicated. This was a 2.7 million dollar apartment complex for those near retirement age or retired located at 702 N. Erie. St. This project was sponsored by St. Paul’s and was Federally Funded. The 156 unit apartment complex has room for more than 200 people.

In 1975 the church bell cradles were replaced and a powered ringing mechanism installed. The 4,000 pound bell was installed in 1877 and make in Germany.

In June of 1977 the slate shingles on the church steeple were replace with copper. Membership in 1977 was 2,178 as compared to 2,981 in 1968.

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.

In 1982 St. Paul’s celebrated its 125th Anniversary. In honor of this event, 1,125 pledge cards were sent out to members with a goal of raising $175,000.00. The purpose of this was to renovate the Social Room in the basement with new carpeting, a suspended ceiling, and installing wall paper. This is one of the most used rooms in the church as it is used for meetings, banquet, and a place for fellowship before and after worship services.

Over the years the “Care and Share Committee” has done many things in the way of maintenance, cleaning, and other money saving projects. This has been very rewarding to the volunteers in the monies saved and the fellowship of the members.

In the early 1990’s former Catechism class rooms on the second floor of the parish house were combined and made into a “Resource Center”. It is a library of religious and non religious material, bound volumes of sermons from former Pastors, and serves as a place where displays can be shown. This material is now in a central location with easier accessibility and pleasant surroundings.

In the late 1990’s a parking garage next to the church was torn down and additional parking was made available and also making possible a side entrance to the church. In addition to the air conditioning being upgraded, carpeting was removed from the sanctuary and the floors restored to their original finish.

So as we move forward in time, St. Paul’s continues its service to Christ and the Toledo area, Southern Michigan, and will celebrate its 150th Anniversary in September of 2007. Many things have changed in downtown Toledo over the years, but St. Paul’s continues to serve as it has in the past. As the re-birth of downtown Toledo takes place, St. Paul’s will maintain its presence in the community.

*This history has been compiled by life long St. Paul’s member Mr. Blum. For those interested, a more extensive history is available at the church.