First Evangelical Lutheran Church was founded by German immigrants in 1863, only 27 years after the arrival of the first European settlers in the Blue Island area. The property at Grove and Ann Streets was bought for $400.00, and the stone for the first building, from quarries a mile southwest of the village, cost $1.50 a “cord.”
In 1885 the original church was enlarged by the addition of an entrance hall, surmounted by a beautiful spire, at a cost of $5000.00. Three bells, still serving, were installed in the tower. The largest weighs 2,500 pounds, the second weighs 1,200 pounds and the smallest weighs 700 pounds. They were rung by hand until 1948 when automatic bellringers were installed.
Construction of the new church began in 1952. Incorporating the original spire, hall, and west wall of windows, the present day church artfully blends Gothic, Romanesque, and Modernist influences. After two years of construction, the new church was dedicated on April 25, 1954.
Following the traditional proportions of a liturgical church, its plan is of the clerestory type with a part of the church rising clear of the roofs. The overall length is 134 feet. The pews of the nave seat 590 persons. The Luther Chapel on the east side serves as a transept addition to the church proper and seats 64.
The great organ has a three manual console with standard pedal board, and consists of 488 pipes. In addition to the 23 ranks of pipes and a set of chimes, there are 36 stops and 24 couplers. The blower to furnish the wind is driven by a 3 horse power motor.
The focal point of the church is the Botticino marble altar, carved in Vico Dolfi Studios in Carrara, Italy. The entire front is a high relief carving of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper.” The Guardian Angles at the corners of the altar are carved of white Italian marble. The base is of Belgian black marble. The altar was shipped from Italy via the St. Laurence Seaway and the Great Lakes to Calumet Harbor.
Among the brightest jewels of the church are its windows. The four Evangelists—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the subjects of the east Chapel windows. In the west aisle, the first window portrays the Holy Ghost and St. Bartholomew. The second window symbolizes the Ten Commandments and St. Andrew. The third window depicts the Chalice (Christ’s Suffering) and the symbol of St. Thomas. In the west anteroom, the far south window shows Christ Blessing the Little Children. All of these windows illuminated the old church.
The clerestory upper windows were created for the new addition. They symbols on the east side represent parables. Reading from south to north they are: (1) Wheat and Tares, (2) Laborers in the Vineyard, (3) The Ten Talents, (4) Sheep and the Goats, (5) Lost Coin, (6) Good Samaritan, (7) The Lost Sheep, (8) The Prodigal Son, (9) Pharisee and the Publican, (10) The House on the Rock, (11) The Sower, and (12) the Fig Tree.
The symbols in the clerestory windows on the west side represent miracles. Reading from south to north they are: (1) Draught of Fishes, (2) Feeding the Five Thousand, (3) Wedding at Cana, (4) Raising of Lazarus, (5) Stilling the Tempest and (6) Healing the Leper.
The nineteen panels of the main chancel window are devoted to the life of Christ. Starting the bottom of the left column and proceeding to the top it depicts the Annunciation, the Nativity, Presentation in the Temple, the Boy Christ and the Doctors, Baptism, Temptation and the Sermon on the mount. Continuing to the lower right hand column and proceeding up are Christ’s Charge to Peter, Entry into Jerusalem, Gethsemane, Betrayal, Christ and the Pharisees, Christ before Pilate and the Denial. The middle column shows Christ Bearing His Cross, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension and Christ Enthroned.
In the Rose Window in the organ loft, the 12 outer circles represent the 12 disciples. The 12 spokes of the wheel depict the 12 tribes of Israel. The center is the lab of God, Symbol of Christ.
Truly the creation of windows such as these is a fine art exhibiting man’s talents at their best. It must be admitted, even by the most rabid modernist, that stained glass is conducive to a worshipful atmosphere.