First Lutheran, Louisville, KY

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History of First

Under the guidance of the Rev. J.W. Ruthrauff, First English Lutheran Church was established in Louisville, Kentucky, as a congregation of the Olive Branch Synod on June 6, 1872, with fourteen charter members.

After meeting in several temporary locations, the congregation moved into a new brick house of worship of its own on Easter Sunday, 1874. The church was built on the southern edge of the city, at its present location on Broadway (then called Prather Street). First Church was in a good position to grow, and within a few years, an addition was built onto the church building to provide more space for the expanding Sunday school.

Once established, First Church played an active role in the promotion of other missions in Louisville. In 1876 the congregation aided in the formation of a Sunday school in the western part of the city which became the nucleus for the organization of Second English Lutheran Church (now Fenner Memorial) a year later. In 1880 the members of First Church sponsored another school east of its parish, and that produced Third Lutheran Church in 1886. They supported a mission school in the Highland area, which resulted in the establishment of Trinity Lutheran Church in 1892. And in 1890, thirty-four of First Church's original members were transferred to still another new congregation at Second and Oak streets - St. Paul English Evangelical Lutheran Church (which later merged with First).

In 1903, at the site of their first building, the congregation constructed a new house of worship - the present Gothic-style, limestone edifice. Among the many impressive features of this building is a wooden altar carving of "The Last Supper," carved by Alois Lang, and presented to the church in 1916.

A stone educational unit was added in 1960, as was the seven-foot bronze statue of Martin Luther. The sculpture, by Frederick Soetebier of Germany, is one of only ten Luther statues in the United States.

During the early 1960's the existence of First Church was jeopardized by the development of Urban Renewal programs in its neighborhood, but the congregation successfully petitioned public officials to allow the church to remain at its Broadway location.

First Lutheran Church celebrated its 125th anniversary in 1997.


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