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The Sad End of Bethlehem Lutheran Church

Categories: Architecture

NaffzigerBethlehemTower.JPG
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.

RobPowersStHenryTower.jpg
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.

WikipediaWilhlemChurchBerlin.JPG
Wikipedia.org
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 naffziger@gmail.com


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14 comments
sublunar_photography
sublunar_photography

This one hurt. Going to miss Bethlehem..

Also, Chris, I have some photos that clearly document the slow motion collapse over the past few years. Totally could have used em in this article.

grambo
grambo

Where was the MO SYNOD when this historic landmark was falling apart? 

Stephanie Peace
Stephanie Peace

Regardless of feelings of religion, the building itself was quite beautiful. The craftsmanship and materials are absolutely lovely. I noticed when it first came down that they were saving the bricks. I think they are trying to save the windows as well. Architecturally it has so many components to salvage.

Abbey Allred Wharton
Abbey Allred Wharton

Saving a tower would be a lovely idea, and I hope that is able to happen. I'm not religious myself, but it's a beautifully crafted building worthy of a second life.

chandraclare
chandraclare

Is it feasible to salvage the rose windows ?

Earl Kliethermes
Earl Kliethermes

Another fine building down so they can get the prize off the top.

Rita Kiry Ryan
Rita Kiry Ryan

The end of the physical church is symbolic of the diminishing role of organized religions, and religion itself, in the western world.

David Bee
David Bee

Tear it down. A symbol of religious oppression.

grambo
grambo

IDIOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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