Architecture & History

HISTORIC

FIRST LUTHERAN CHURCH

NORTH 12TH & D STREETS

FORT SMITH, ARKANSAS

 

FIRST LUTHERAN CHURCH

(Missouri Synod)

Fort Smith, Arkansas


Since August 22nd, 1869, First Lutheran Church had worshiped in a small frame church building facing North D Street, between 11th and 12th Streets.  In about 1896, during the pastorate of P.F. Germann, a committee was appointed to raise funds for the building of a new church.  Pastor J.K.E. Horst succeeded Pastor Germann in 1898.  By 1901 the necessary building fund had nearly been raised, partly in cash collections, partly by subscriptions.  The building committee was composed of S.A. Williams, chairman, and John Schaap.

On May 12th, 1901, plans drawn by Blakely and Hoffman, architects, were accepted, and the contract was given to the Hielmann Construction Company of Joplin, Missouri.  On October 12, 1902, the corner stone was laid.  The Reverend J.K.E. Horst, local pastor, Prof. H. Stoeppelwerth of Winfield, Kansas, the Reverend W. Cook of Springdale, Arkansas, the Reverend C.F. Rittmann of Mena, Arkansas, officiated on this festive occasion.

November 16, 1902, Pastor J.K.E. Horst accepted a call to a congregation in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and the Reverend A.L. Rohlfing, then at Farmington, Missouri, was chosen as his successor.  During the vacancy the pulpit was occupied by a theological student from St. Louis, L.C. Hermerding.

Dedication services were held on Sunday, May 15, 1904, with the following pastors officiating:  The Rev. Dr. F. Pieper, professor of theology and the president of the Missouri Synod; the Rev. W.J. Kaiser of Little Rock; the Rev. P.F. Germann, former pastor of the church, then at Saginaw, Michigan; and Pastor A.L. Rohlfing.

The church is built in Gothic style of white limestone, known as Eureka Stone with a tall massive bell tower in the southeast corner.  The entire length of the church is 102 feet, its breadth 58 feet.  It has a seating capacity of 500.  When originally built, the alter was free standing, finished in white and gold as it is today.  Behind the alter are three stained glass windows, now hidden by pipes of the Kilgen organ which was installed in 1929.  On either side of the life size statue of Christ in His ascension were smaller statues of Saints Peter and Paul.  These niches now contain the candles which are lighted during Holy Communion services.  The pulpit was to the left of its present location, raised above the floor about six feet, and covered by a beautifully carved white and gold canopy.  The baptismal font is of solid white marble, and weighs about 900 pounds.  The white and gold lectern, in the form of an eagle was originally placed in the chancel, between the pupit and the altar.

The original two-manual pipe organ, placed in the church through the efforts of the Ladies Aid, was in the balcony.  Dedicated in April, 1905, it was operated by motor power, and was purchased from a well-known firm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for $2,250.

The church was illuminated with electric lights in ornaments fastened to timbers forming the arched ceiling.  However, it was also provied with gas lights in case of emergency.

The total cost of the church, including the interior appointments, was estimated at $27,000, and by October 4th, 1911, it was completely free of debt.