Filed Under Religion

Immanuel Lutheran Church

First predominately Black Lutheran parish in Ohio

During the 1910’s and 1920’s, a fair number of African American Lutherans moved to Cincinnati from Alabama and the Carolinas. But Lutheran congregations in Cincinnati would not admit Black members. In 1922, a small group of Black Lutherans began meeting in the home of Mrs. Mae Livingston.

Wishing to preserve the strong tradition of Black Lutheran churches in the South, this group met in Mrs. Livingston’s home for the next eighteen months, and then in the homes of other group members.

In 1924, the nascent congregation began looking for a building of their own. They purchased a former public bath house at the corner of Betts and Cutter Streets in the West End. The building was remodeled, and it was dedicated as a church on December 7, 1924.

This was the first predominately Black Lutheran parish in Ohio. This congregation would have a profound impact on the denomination’s future among African Americans in Cincinnati. Speaking in 1976, Rev. Robert J. Grosch said, “Nearly every Black Lutheran church in Cincinnati is a product of Immanuel.”

In 1935, the City of Cincinnati announced that they would purchase the Immanuel Lutheran Church building to tear it down for the construction of Laurel Homes, a federal housing project. The church had no choice but to find a new home.

The Immanuel congregation moved into an old church building at the corner of Clinton and Baymiller Streets. They met there into the 1950’s. But then, around 1951, the city announced that they would purchase this building, too, for demolition. In 1952, Immanuel Baptist Church petitioned city council to spare the church on Baymiller Street, without success. So the congregation was displaced by urban renewal for a second time.

In 1955, the churched purchased a lot at the corner of Rockdale and Washington Avenues in Avondale. A building committee was elected, and after interviewing several architects, they selected Edward E. Birch, a noted Black architect who had previously designed churches in Madisonville and Walnut Hills. Birch was publicly announced as the architect in 1956.

The cornerstone was laid in August 1956, with F. W. Beckman and sons as contractor. The new church was dedicated on March 10, 1957, under the leadership of Pastor Walter E. Fehrmann, and the congregation is still active today.

Images

Immanuel Lutheran Church, 544 Rockdale Avenue, Cincinnati View from southeast Creator: Chris Hanlin

Location

544 Rockdale Avenue, Cincinnati, OH

Metadata

Chris Hanlin, “Immanuel Lutheran Church,” Cincinnati Sites and Stories, accessed February 6, 2023, https://stories.cincinnatipreservation.org/items/show/5.