Local History: Historic former church still gets plenty of use today
photo by: Sara Shepherd
It’s easy to tell what the law offices at 1040 New Hampshire St. used to be. The stone building has all the hallmarks of a church, and indeed that was the purpose it was built for in the 1870s.
Cathy Ambler, in a 1990 paper titled “An Early Stone Church: The English Lutheran Church Lawrence, Kansas,” writes that around 30 members, primarily Scandinavian, formed a new Lutheran church in early 1867. Within a few years, a Swedish group split away.
So why is it called an English Lutheran church? The paper cites University of Kansas scholar J. Neal Carman’s explanation: Places with German immigrant populations would often refer to churches as “English Lutheran” if their services were held in English.
In 1870, Lawrence’s English Lutheran congregation finally decided to build a stone church, and they already had the lot at 11th and New Hampshire streets.
But not everybody was happy about it. Ambler wrote that “the location dissatisfied some members as they preferred the church be located nearer to the other churches, west of Massachusetts. This is understandable because as an English speaking church, they saw themselves as peers.” A study of where the members lived revealed that most of them lived east of Massachusetts Street.
The architect John G. Haskell designed the 30-by-50-foot building. The stone was quarried out of the hill on which the University of Kansas is located. The church was dedicated on Dec. 18, 1870. The total cost was estimated at $4,500.
John M. Peterson, in a biography of Haskell, noted the church’s steeply pitched gable roof. The rough-surfaced walls contrasted with the cut stone trim around the door and windows, all of which were topped with Gothic arches. The interior was plain and featured exposed roof beams.
Despite any disagreements, the church continued to grow and change.
In 1895, there was an addition built. In 1905, a parsonage was built on the lot south of the church. In November 1910, the church changed its name to Trinity Lutheran Church. And in 1911, a fund was started for a new church building. Finally, in 1929, the congregation moved to a new building on the south side of South Park.
From 1933 to 1974, the building was still a church; it housed the Church of God congregation. But today, there are three law offices at this site, which is just a short walk away from the county’s courts and local government buildings. This sort of adaptive re-use is a great way to preserve historic buildings. If people think outside the box, historic structures like this old church building can live well beyond their original purpose.