St. John's Lutheran Church, a unique structure at the northwest corner of Calhoun and Walnut streets in Chillicothe, was constructed in 1942-43, a time when metal was scarce and unavailable for most anything on the homefront.
St. John’s Lutheran Church, a unique structure at the northwest corner of Calhoun and Walnut streets in Chillicothe, was constructed in 1942-43, a time when metal was scarce and unavailable for most anything on the homefront. Scrap metal drives throughout the country were held to assist in the war effort for building ships, tanks, planes and weapons. Despite the unavailability of construction steel – including rebar for foundation reinforcement – plans moved ahead for building a Lutheran church. Planning for the church’s present sanctuary began in 1939. Pastor Frederick C. Stein, who was called to serve the congregation in 1930, encouraged students of Chillicothe Business College and others to accumulate a large number of rocks. “Rocks were sent from all over the United States, some wrapped in $5 bills,” according to church history. By 1942, more than 110 tons of stone had been gathered. “There’s a lot of history behind each rock,” said longtime congregant, Sid Miner. It’s possible that a few individuals who provided rocks to the effort are still living. “We don’t know the all the history,” Miner said. Despite great difficulty in obtaining building materials during World War II, the building was completed and dedicated in 1944. The education building was added in 1969. Renovations of the church were recently completed and a re-dedication of the church will take place this Sunday, on June 11, from 1 until 3 p.m. A short speech will be given by the elders and the public may tour and see what has been done at the church, 1001 Calhoun. Refreshments will be served. Renovations included removing the old concrete floor – which had lost some of its stability due to the lack of rebar when it was built. During the process of tearing up the floor, however, an old bedspring was found – undoubtedly used to help reinforce the concrete. The renovation also included the installation of a new ventilation system. A new banner will be on display celebrating the rededication. The banner includes embroidery pieces from the first white paraments used at the church. Much of the renovation work was done by volunteers and, once the dust had settled from the renovations, a cleanup crew funded by money raised by the church’s quilting group, was brought in to clean the facility. St. John’s had its origins as a campus ministry, according to church history. In 1925, the Rev. E.W. Abel, pastor of St. John’s Brunswick, began making regular visits to the students of the Chillicothe Business College. The work was later expanded to the former Girls Training School. Lutheranism had its organized appearance in Chillicothe in 1928. The Mission Board of the Western District called the Walter H. Ellwanger to be resident missionary in Chillicothe. The first service of the new mission was held Oct. 12, 1928. Beginning in 1929, services were held in the old Tanner building at 709 Locust Street. After Pastor Ellwanger left to further pursue his education, Frederick C. Stein was called to serve in Chillicothe in 1930. The following year, St. John’s Lutheran Church was formally organized. Also, the congregation purchased a house at 906 Walnut to serve as parsonage and chapel.