479.785.2886 | 1115 North D St N Fort Smith, AR

Architecture & History

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.

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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 provided 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.

Christian Symbolism

Each symbol used in the appointments of First Lutheran Church expresses a truth in the Gospel. Every design is significant and meaningful, and should enrich one’s worship in this church.

The basic plan of our church is in the shape of the Latin cross, which we immediately recognize as a most prominent symbol in Christianity. This is apparent when you look at the interior ceiling, which forms a nearly perfect cross.

The seating area of the church is called the nave. The transept is the area in the front which widens out to form the cross bar of the cross. The sanctuary is the area which holds the alter. The chancel is the area in front of the altar which contains the pulpit and lectern. The entrance area is referred to as the narthex.

The basic colors use din the repainting of our church and their traditional meaning are as follows:

Color of fire, fervor, blood, martyrdom, victorious truth of Christian teaching based on the Blood and righteousness of Christ.

White & Gold
The color used on the altar, walls, and with gold trim used throughout the church, it signified the Godhead, eternity, the robe of the glorified Christ and the angels, perfection, joy and purity. The gold rose pattern in the pew cushions relates to the Messianic Rose. This Messianic Rose also adorns our alter.

This impressive altar is crowned with what is called the “budded cross” Each arm of this cross terminates in the trefoil, which is symbolic of the Holy Trinity.

The colors on the robes of Christ are red, white and gold. On either side of the statue of Christ is a single candle. These two candles are on every Christian altar. When lit, they proclaim the Lord’s words, “I am the Light of the world” (John 8:12). They also symbolize our Lord’s twofold nature – divine and human.

Immediately below the statue of Christ is the Angus Dei – the Lamb of God. It is one of the most ancient symbols of our Lord. The Lamb is resting upon the three arms of the cross, which lies on the Book of Seven Seals, the reference being to the Book of Seven Seals which Christ opens, mentioned in the Revelation of St. John.

The Greek letters Alpha and Omega are on either side of the Lamb of God. These two letters are the beginning and end of the Greek alphabet, like our A and Z. See Revelation 1:8. Christ is the beginning and the end.

On the center of the altar is the missal stand, flanked on either side by the altar flowers.

Below is the scene of the “Last Supper” which we observe and celebrate with our Holy Communion. The consecrated bread and wine are served from our altar. Matt. 26:26, 28; Mark 14:22, 24; Luke 22:19,20.

On either side of the altar are seven candles signifying “the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit”.

The lectern, to the east front of the chancel, is used for the Bible from which is read lessons from the Scriptures. It is in the form of an eagle, the symbol of St. John.

Baptismal Font
It stands below the lectern. On the front of the font is the “Crown of Life” (James 1:12; Rev. 2:10), a symbolic expression referring to the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Baptism offers forgiveness and eternal life.

Facing the chancel, on the right is the flag of the United States and to the left is the flag of the Christian Church. We are to be responsible in both kingdoms.