St. Paul's has two birthdays

from the archives of The News-Sentinel

The cornerstone of St. Paul's Lutheran Church at Barr and Madison streets would have you believe the beautiful gothic church was erected in 1889.

Well, it was - and it wasn't.

Here's what happened. The St. Paul congregation actually dates back to 1839, making it the oldest Lutheran church in the city and the second oldest in Indiana. The existing building was dedicated on Sept. 15, 1889.

The imposing edifice was struck by fire just four years later. Early on the morning of Dec. 3, 1903, a faulty heating system ignited a blaze which reduced the graceful spire, stained glass windows and wooden pews to heap of charred rubble within hours.

There was a strong wind that day, and Fort Wayne's infant fire department was already fighting one fire when the blaze broke out. By the time the small fire department responded at St. Paul's, the church was in ruins.

When the fire was finished, just the exterior brick walls were left standing. According to the church's history, however, ``no time was lost with vain lamenting.'' Rebuilding plans were approved, a collection was taken.

Within the blackened walls of the church, a new church was taking shape. The ``new'' St. Paul's was dedicated on April 2, 1905, at a cost of $55,000. This building - the exterior built in 1889 and the interior in 1905 - is the one still standing today.

In the church's dungeon-like basement, though, you can still see the charred support timbers of the original church - the solid foundation on which the second St. Paul's was built.

--July 3, 1982

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