The Sad End of Bethlehem Lutheran Church

Categories: Architecture

The bell tower of Bethlehem Lutheran, still standing for the time being.

Paul Hohman, one of the leading preservationists in St. Louis who has helped to rehab thePaul Brown Apartments and Metropolitan Artist Lofts, agrees. At least one of the church's towers should be saved.

"The towers should be able to stand on their own," says Hohman. "Even if the foundation is not separate, it would be deeper and stronger than that for the rest of the building and should be fine as long as no one tears out the foundation immediately adjacent, which would be very unlikely unless someone built something there."

Similar efforts allowed demolition crews to spare the church tower at the old St. Henry's Church, after that south-city chapel fell into disrepair.

Courtesy of Rob Powers
The remaining tower of St. Henry's Church.

Word on the street is that the charter school housed in the old Bethlehem Lutheran School building is planning to expand onto the land where the church sat. Incorporating the historic towers into the new building would be a great memorial to the old church, and one that has precedent. The famous Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche in Berlin, left in ruins after World War II, demonstrates how effectively and poetically a ruined church tower could function within a new structure.

The Kaiser Wilhlem Memorial Church in Berlin, showing the incorporation of new structures into ruins.

Is this a crazy idea for St. Louis? Maybe, but it's no less crazy than allowing one of St. Louis' most beautiful churches to be lost forever.

Chris Naffziger writes about architecture at St. Louis Patina. Contact him via e-mail at

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