Zion Lutheran Church & School
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Zion Lutheran Church & School
A Brief History
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Zion differs from the majority of Lutheran congregations in that it was not founded by missionary pioneers of Lutheran heritage.* Prior to 1870, Zion, which owned a church building in Washington Heights, Illinois, at what is now known as the corner of West 99th Street and Winston Avenue, holds membership with the Evangelical Church. In 1870, internal dissension in that denomination results in the desire on the part of Zion Congregation to become Lutheran in name as well as in character. Moreover, its most recent pastor has been exposed as a swindler and defrocked. Zion Congregation refers its problem to the Rev. Augustus Reinke, pastor of the first and, at the time, only Lutheran congregation in nearby Blue Island. Soon afterward, the 18 families of Zion adopt a Lutheran constitution and join the Missouri Synod. The church is named "The First German Evangelical Lutheran Zions Church of Washington Heights, Cook County, Illinois, U.A.C." (Unaltered Augsburg Confession). Charter members are William Beyer, Julius Boelter, Julius Bohm, J. Borndell, C. Degenhardt, Henry Fink, John Haas, John Hansen, Michael Hemmrich, Peter Jacob, Albert Jansen, Jacob Landeck, David Mell, Joachim Zander and William Zander.

Two men, Michael Hemmrich and Peter Jacob, determine how many children would enroll if a school were to be founded.

A school building is built, and the school opens with an enrollment of 30 children. The dues are as follows: 75 cents for one child, 50 cents each for two, three, four, and five children of the same family. The teacher who is hired, Mr. Henry Mertens, receives a salary of $350 a year.

Zion becomes involved in the controversy on election and predestination within the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America. Pastor H.P. Duborg and a majority of the members follow the doctrine of the Ohio Synod and establish a church a few blocks from Zion. The "remnant" of Zion is served by Rev. Carl F. Eissfeldt, pastor of Immanuel in South Chicago, and Rev. Louis Hoelter, pastor of First Immanuel in Chicago. When the congregation in Blue Island also joins the Ohio Synod, a few of its members who want to remain with the Missouri Synod come to Zion in Washington Heights. The fact that Zion flourishes is due, under God, mainly to layman Andreas Christian Landeck, who worked tirelessly day and night during the controversy to hold the congregation together visiting, admonishing, and distributing tracts.

The Village of Washington Heights is annexed to Chicago.

Zion's first home, from 1870 through 1891, is this small cabin with a hitching post and a few wooden planks to serve as walkways. Plumbing, heating, and electricity are not added for another generation.

This frame church building serves Zion from 1891 through 1937, when it is razed to make way for the present stone church building.

Communicant membership is 183. The old church is converted to a school. A new frame church building is built with a seating capacity of 200. The evening of the dedication, the first English sermon is preached by Rev. A. Sloan Bartholomew, pastor of Christ English Congregation in Chicago (the first congregation in northern Illinois to join the English Synod, which, in 1911, joins the "German" Missouri Synod as a non-territorial district).

A bell is purchased for the new church. It had been cast for another church and was to be used as part of a three-bell ensemble, but was slightly off pitch. Zion obtained the bell, which was priced at $1,750, for $300. The old bell is presented to the Missouri Synod's Concordia College in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Rev. Edward Tappenbeck is called to serve at Zion, where he remains for many years.

Mr. Alwin Roschke, a graduate of Concordia Teachers College in River Forest, Illinois, is installed to teach in Zion's one-room schoolhouse.

A basement assembly hall is added underneath the church. The frame church building is raised to allow this. Electric lighting is installed in the church.

The church steeple is struck by lightning.

The school is divided into two classrooms. Mr. Roschke is the principal and teaches the upper grades.

The present brick school building is erected.

Two bowling alleys are installed in the school building.

Pastor Tappenbeck's 24-year ministry at Zion ends with his death. Rev. Carl Abel is installed.

The frame church and parsonage are torn down and the present Lehigh stone church building is erected at a cost of $60,000.

A third classroom is added to the school.

The German service is discontinued.
Zion becomes a charter member in the Chicagoland Lutheran High School Association. Members of Zion contribute over $100,000 for capital expenditures plus $3,000 a year for operation and maintenance of Luther High School South at 87th Street and Kedzie Avenue in Chicago.

An addition is built at the back of the second floor of the school building to create a fourth classroom.

Mr. Alwin Roschke, school principal, retires after 40 years at Zion.

Communicant membership hits a peak of 978.

Pastor Carl Abel is elected president of the Northern Illinois District of the Missouri Synod.

Pastor Abel, who has served the congregation for 33 years, dies suddenly, and Vicar Robert Petersen is granted permission by the Seminary to remain at Zion for an extra year.

A new pipe organ is installed in the church.

A kindergarten class and library are added to the school.

A radio mission is established, and a full hour of services is broadcast every Sunday. The need for an assistant pastor is felt, and a call is extended to the Seminary for a graduate.

100th anniversary observed. Communicant membership is 760.

The school is closed and the school building eventually sold. It currently is occupied by a Christian elementary school:

Covenant Christian Academy
(773) 881-3235

130th anniversary observed.

135th anniversary observed.

*Much of the early history of Zion is excerpted from "The Lutheran Trail: A History of the Synodical Conference Lutheran Churches in Northern Illinois" by Louis J. Schwartzkopf.


Page last updated: 6/4/2006