St. Pauls History

Saint Pauls Church is one of the oldest Christian congregations in the city of Chicago. It was founded by German immigrants in a storefront on Franklin Street in 1843 and for many years was located at LaSalle and Ohio streets. The church was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, but was quickly rebuilt through the hard work and dedication of the congregation.

In 1898, St. Pauls moved to its Lincoln Park location. When fire destroyed the church building on Christmas night in 1955, members resolved to rebuild and remain in the city, reaffirming Saint Pauls commitment to serve the urban community. During the 1960s and '70s, Saint Pauls, along with all city churches, felt the impact of urban renewal and the movement of members to the suburbs. The 1,500-member congregation was reduced to approximately 500 members by 1980. There was a great deal of concern about the future of the church during those two decades, but the committed congregation worked hard to maintain the church building; retain pastoral, music, office and maintenance staff; offer education and social programs; and carry out benevolence work.

Their efforts were rewarded with renewal during the 1980s, as the congregation more than doubled in size again and chose as its motto the phrase "Making a Joyful Sound in the City." The motto reflects the history of the congregation as well as its current mission.

Why is there no apostrophe in St. Pauls? World War I (1914 - 1918) was a difficult time for all Americans of German descent, with many expressions of anti-German sentiment. Many St. Pauls young men served in the armed forces, often worrying that they might come into direct combat with a German relative. Around the country, church leaders were calling for the discontinuance of German language services. But St. Pauls chose to continue with them, even receiving a special dispensation from the federal government after agents from the Bureau of Investigation (predecessor to the FBI) attended worship services and determined that seditious sermons were not being preached in the German language at St. Pauls. However, the war did prompt one change. St. Pauls officially changed its German name to the English translation. While this was a concession to those who viewed anything German with suspicion, the church council had its little joke by not adding an apostrophe to the church's name. Since there are no apostrophes in the German language, there is no apostrophe in St. Pauls.

See the Historic Timeline section of this website for more on our history as a congregation.

Making a Joyful Sound in the City, a book by Saint Pauls Pastor Emeritus Tom Henry, tells the inspiring story of this congregation’s life in Chicago from 1843 to its 150th anniversary. Copies of this hardbound commemorative edition, which is illustrated with historical photos, are $20 each. For details, call the church office at 773-348-3829.