On October 23, 1848, twelve heads of families organized themselves into the third Evangelical congregation in St. Louis, naming it St. Paul’s. Their families met regularly for worship in a rented home and were led spiritually by the Rev. Adolph Baltzer, the first pastor of the Church.
As the congregation grew rapidly that very first year, land for a permanent church building was purchased at Ninth Street and Lafayette Avenue. In March 1849, construction began on a sanctuary and on February 17, 1850, the new church was dedicated at a total cost of $4,444.
During the first 25 years after its organization, St. Paul’s prospered. A pipe organ was installed in the church shortly before the Civil War and the first cemetery on Gravois Road was purchased and consecrated. In 1866, the first parsonage was erected and in 1872, a home south of the church was purchased and renovated as a two-room parochial school and residence for the teacher. Three years later, the growing congregation decided to proceed with building a new and larger church on the Ninth Street site at a cost of $14,605.
On May 27, 1896, a F4 tornado swept through the St. Louis region. There were 255 recorded fatalities, over 1,000 injured residents, 5,000 were left homeless and over $300 million (in 2019 dollars) in damage was done. St. Paul’s Church was among the buildings destroyed, with only the southeast corner of the sanctuary left standing.
A third church on the Ninth Street site was built and dedicated on Palm Sunday in March 1897, at a total cost of $36,217.
Soon after the turn of the century it became apparent that the German community which formed the bulk of the congregation was moving farther south and west and Emigrants from southern Europe were moving into the Ninth Street neighborhood who were not of the Protestant faith. In 1910, the congregation decided to relocate St. Paul’s by establishing a branch church and Bible school in a vacant building at 3352 South Grand Avenue.
Within a few months, a new site at Giles Avenue and Potomac Street was purchased and a portable chapel was dedicated on July 9, 1911. In 1923, the church hall and education building were erected on the new site and a year later the pastor and his family moved into the new parsonage.
The property on Ninth Street was sold in 1924, to a Slovak Roman Catholic congregation for $37,000. St. Paul’s celebrated its last service of worship at that location on May 4, 1924. For the next eight years the church hall auditorium served the church members in lieu of a sanctuary. A building fund was established in 1931 and on May 15, 1932, the new sanctuary was dedicated at a cost of $76,000, the fourth sanctuary built by St. Paul’s in 85 years and the largest and most ornate. The building won the Chamber of Commerce Better Building Award for the best ecclesiastical structure that year. The debt on the new structure was paid off by the 100th anniversary in 1948 and a large celebration and dinner was held at Kiel Auditorium.
In 1957, The Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches united to form the United Church of Christ, at which time the church’s name became St. Paul United Church of Christ.
Subsequent St. Paul’s projects included the construction of the superintendent’s home at the St. Paul Churchyard and renovation of the kitchen and dining room. For the 120th anniversary in 1968, the renovation and enlargement of the sanctuary organs was completed. A set of 49 Schulmerich Hand Bells was purchased through a major gift four years later.
Current Pastor Thomas J. Ressler was called to St. Paul in 2007. The church observed its 165th anniversary October 20, 2013.
Excerpts from the 125th Anniversary St. Paul UCC Booklet, 1973
THE LORD'S SUPPER PANEL
The Story of the Symbolism of the New Church
The subject, with its simple and tragic sequence, has ever been one of dramatic interest to the artist. Many are the portrayals in painting, carved wood, and chiseled stone, some dating back centuries. In executing this new conception, Mr. Lang had several purposes in mind which must be known in order to correctly appraise and appreciate its value as a work of art.
As a decorative panel for chancel use, this subject is viewed much of the time by most observers from a distance; yet there is a drawing power in the theme which impels in many a closer approach. Therefore, Mr. Lang, by detail of facial expression, has designed a panel equally pleasing in its spiritual softness under close inspection, and its strength of shadow contrast when viewed at a distance. Its contour and composition lead naturally to the focal center where the Savior stands. The setting depicts the moment when Christ said, “He, to whom I shall give the bread, he will betray me.” His statement startles the seated group and several hastily arise and draw nearer as all turn to the Master, afraid and reluctant to hear who the traitor may be.
--Andrew and Thaddeus on the left have arisen, the one quietly curious, the other just raising his hand, protesting innocence.
--Bartholomew is seated at the end of the table wondering to whom shall be given the bread. Thomas, with hands folded in prayer, and
James the Minor, with his right hand over his heart, profess their loyalty.
--John, the beloved disciple, says, “Master, thou knowest it is not I who would betray you!”
--Peter and James the Major both display grief and surprise in look and action over the Master’s words.
--Philip, with his head slightly inclined, seems to say – more to himself – Not I, Master.
--Matthew and Simon both exclaim “Who can it be?”
--Judas, with head bowed, fearing to meet the Master’s eye, with guilt indicated in his attitude, is ready to rise and leave the table.
The conventionalized background with divergent lines lends depth to the setting, while in the treatment of hair and beards, realism has been avoided and a modern or conventional expression introduced. The service cloth across the middle of the table adroitly breaks the long horizontals of the table and cover, while the orderly folds convey the dignity and solemnity which must have marked the gathering.
St. Paul Evangelical and Reformed Church 100th Anniversary Booklet, 1948