A New Church Building

On September 8, 1915, the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer was officially organized with 30 individuals presented letters of dismissal from seven area churches and passed a motion to adopt a church constitution. Six months earlier, on Palm Sunday, March 28, 1915, it had begun with the first service of the Dewey Avenue Mission held in the Park Theatre on Driving Park Avenue near the west side of Dewey Avenue. The Sunday School was organized a week later, on Easter Sunday.

The congregation met for a time in the Kirby Block storefront at 1176 Dewey Avenue, then voted to purchase three lots on Dewey between Augustine and Alameda Streets, where a new 30 ft. by 96 ft. wooden church, built by Scheer and Stuart Contractors, was consecrated on November 10, 1918.

Nine years later, in 1927, a new church site was purchased between Avis and Knickerbocker Streets, consisting of eight lots and the 28-room Willis N. Britton Homestead, which had been used by the City of Rochester as Public School No. 40. In less than one year, the ground breaking service for the Redeemer Lutheran Church building that we know today was held on April 15, 1928.

Construction took ten months. Mr. Leon Stern was the architect and A. Friederich & Sons the contractor. A newspaper clipping recording the event stated, “The general structure of the church will be pure Gothic. It will be built of cream-buff sandstone at a cost of $85,000.”

The cornerstone was laid on June 17, 1928. It contained many of the items from the corner stone of the first church building at Dewey Avenue and Augustine Street. They included the Bible, Luther’s Smaller Catechism, Common Service Book, Parish School Hymnal, copies of all literature used by the Sunday School, a souvenir program of the tenth anniversary of the Church of the Redeemer, a list of all contributors to the building fund campaign, current coins, Communion bread, Communion wine, and membership lists of various organizations in the church.

The chancel pipe organ was built by the Austin Organ Company in 1928. This company produced 1200 pipe organs between 1915 and 1931. Opus 1652 was the ninth pipe organ installed in a building in the City of Rochester. Six houses of worship, Mt. Hope Cemetery and Eastman School of Music were already using pipe organs by the Austin Organ Company.

The completed church building was dedicated on February 10, 1929 and a Festival of Dedication occurred on the next nine days. By January 1935, the average attendance at Sunday worship services reached 250 and the Sunday School attendance averaged 200. A Burning of the Notes Service was held on May 16, 1943 to commemorate the final payments to the general contractor and the organ company.

By 1962, the Redeemer Church served the largest United Lutheran Church congregation in Rochester, with 1356 members. It was the fourth largest in the Synod of New York and New England.

On September 13, 2015, the 100th Anniversary service was held, celebrating the organization of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. Several pastors have led the Church over the years. Reverend Keith S. Campbell, the current pastor, began his ministry on January 16, 1996.

Unfortunately, this magnificent church experienced a large fire on February 18, 2016. The fire started around 10:50 a.m. with approximately ten people inside the building, all of whom got out safely.

The restoration since the fire and smoke damage has been almost completed and services have been held in the main church building since August 7, 2016. The Redeemer Lutheran congregation is once again focused on its mission to connect with and help the community and the nearby neighborhoods in Maplewood.

Park Theatre (renamed Liberty Theater), 1980’s

Church fire February 18, 2016

Church fire, February 18, 2016
(photo courtesy Carlos Ortiz, D&C)

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