Tag: Missouri

07 May

“Catching Light: The Spark” Has a Gallery Home and More Postcards to Come

First off, I want to give a big Thank-You to Room for Art Gallery and Oak and Front Kitchen + Bar for hosting my photographic artwork over this past weekend in Washington Missouri’s Art Walk. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to share my work with their visitors. I also want to thank everyone who stopped by to visit me at my display table in the entryway of Oak & Front and the restaurant’s wonderful staff. Friday and Saturday couldn’t have been a more pleasant experience.

My new photographic zine, Catching Light: Vol. 1 The Spark is now available for purchase at the Room For Art Gallery in Washington, Missouri. “The Spark” is a 6″x6″ photographic zine printed in full color with UV varnish on high quality paper stock for superior protection. This volume is filled with a selection of 25 of my fine art photographs over the past 25+ years. Each copy of this 100 Limited Edition is signed and numbered. You can find it on the wall featuring myself and other artists from the Mid-Missouri Fine Art Society. If you can’t make a visit to Washington, Missouri, you can always purchase a copy from my online Shop.

Last winter I also began selling some of my postcards at the Missouri’s Trading Post in Hermann, Missouri. Some of those postcards are still in stock and more are coming soon, just in time for the spring/summer traveling seasons. I invite you to stop on by as they are a great source for Hermann and Missouri souvenirs.

18 Apr

My First Love of Architecture Began at Concordia Seminary, St.Louis

Not many may know but my introduction to St.Louis, Missouri was the result of my father making a career change. After several years in the banking industry, my father went back to school to become a Lutheran pastor. We arrived from the Wisconsin/Minnesota area in 1984 on a hot August day where the temp was 105 degrees. I was a mere 13 yrs old and seeing the Concordia Seminary campus was like moving to the area of a castle and courtyards. The architecture blew me away and I was a huge fan ever since.

Luther Tower, Concordia Seminary, St.Louis

Its peaceful campus has been a refuge of sorts for me over the many years as I moved and traveled in and out of the St.Louis area. The gothic campus buildings were constructed in 1922 with Luther Tower being completed in 1966. It was a blessing and a privilege to grow-up with this beautiful campus as my backdrop.

In December of 2014 I had the honor of becoming a campus Photographer and Web Developer for Concordia Seminary, my father’s alma mater. While on staff at Concordia I captured this evening photograph of the quad of Luther Tower and the surrounding buildings.

Concordia Seminary, St.Louis

After “Call Day” 2015’s evening service, when newly graduated student pastors are assigned their first church, I captured this nighttime photograph from an adjacent building. This image capture was a few seconds long, which at that exact moment also captured a commercial jet flying directly above the cross at the top of the Chapel of St. Timothy & St. Titus. These two photographs were part of the Concordia Seminary wall calendar for 2016. The evening Call Day photograph was also awarded the First Place Award of Excellence in the category of Photography by the Associated Church Press, for its appearance in Concordia Seminary Magazine.

Chapel of St. Timothy & St. Titus, Concordia Seminary, St.Louis. Photograph given "Award of Excellence" by Associated Church Press

Around this time I captured some sunlit tulips in front of the Chapel of St. Timothy & St. Titus. That photograph was later featured on the cover of Dr. Dale Meyer’s book Word Alive!, who was serving as Concordia Seminary’s Campus President. Dr. Meyer’s book of his selected sermons was published in 2017.

Cover of Dr. Dale Meyer's book of sermons entitled "Word Alive!"
Chapel of St. Timothy & St. Titus, Concordia Seminary, St.Louis
Courtyard by Luther Tower, Concordia Seminary, St.Louis
Chapel of the Holy Apostles, Concordia Seminary, St.Louis

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16 Apr

The Famous and Local History of Christ Church Cathedral in St.Louis

One of the most noticeable and recognizable old churches of the downtown St. Louis landscape is Christ Church Cathedral, which located across the street, due east, of the downtown St.Louis Public Library. The parish was founded in 1819 with no church, just a meeting hall. The size of the parish grew several times and was forced to relocate due to its size. In 1859 it settled in its current location, and completed in 1867. In 1888-1889 the church finally became a cathedral, a title the references the official seat of the bishop. It is the oldest Episcopalian Church west of the Mississippi River.

Christ Church Cathedral has a very interesting history with unique references to popular figures through history. For example, there is a plaque commemorating the famous poet T.S. Eliot who was born in St.Louis, upon request of his wife. He was also the grandson of a Unitarian minister who was one of the two founders of Washington University.

Plaque commemorating T.S. Eliot.

The reredos, the “screen” behind the alter was gifted by the local industrialist Benjamin Brown Graham, whose wife, Christine Blair Graham, gifted the memorial chapel at Washington University. The statues of the screen were carved in Exeter, England to match the style of churches and castles in England.

The reredos at Christ Church Cathedral.

The bells in the bell tower are replicates of the bells from the World’s Fair from 1904.

The piano was once the property of Elton John.

The Founder of the Missouri Botanical Gardens, Henry Shaw was a member of the church, and left money for a Spring celebration for Flower services which take place 2 or 3 Sundays after Easter.

Christ Church Cathedral is as much a historic museum as it is a church. It has a wonderful history that ties together St.Louis and the rest of the world. It also has a number of community outreach programs that continue to serve the people of St.Louis. It was my appreciation for this church’s architecture that really helped me to recognize the historic gems that the city of St.Louis has to offer.

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11 Apr

How Tragedy and Outreach Inspired the Restoration of the Shrine of St. Joseph and Downtown St.Louis

If you missed my previous post on the photographs and history of the Shrine of St. Joseph in St. Louis, as part of my Churches Under God photographic project, you can read that post here. From 1870 to 1910 St. Joseph reached its peak of membership and success with membership rolls reaching about 4,000 with 5 masses every Sunday in 1910. In the 1950’s a nearby school had closed, as more settlers left the city and moved further west. By 1965 the Jesuits left the church and gave it to the Archdiocese.

In the fall of 1979 tragedy struck. Father Edward Filipiak who served as the parish pastor of St. Joseph was the victim of burglary and a beating that resulted in his death. I described the details and the miraculous community outreach to St. Joseph that followed at ChurchesUnderGod.com:

Father Filipiak’s death hit the Archdiocese and the community so hard that Arch Bishop John May agreed to lease the church to the Friends of St. Joseph for $1 per year to see if they could raise the money to save the church. To St. Joseph’s joy labor unions and local businesses donated enormous amounts of time and resources to saving the church. When word got around of all the support for St. Joseph’s Parish, a housing development company poured $50 million into restoring the housing around the church. Sad as it is, it is believed that Father Filipiak’s death became a catalyst for saving St. Joseph’s Parish and in turn making him a martyr. Shortly after, in 1982, St. Joseph’s Parish became the Shrine of St. Joseph.

The “Friends of the Shrine” began a grassroots effort to raise money for the restoration projects for the Shrine of St. Joseph as tasks could be afforded. Their hard work has resulted in raising over $5 million to restore this historic church. Many believe that the restoration of the Shrine of St. Joseph helped spark the restoration of other parts of downtown St. Louis like that of Washington Ave.

I remember in the mid 1980’s Washington Avenue looking very different with old buildings in disrepair. I knew something had changed drastically when I returned in the late 1990’s and again in 2004. I had no idea that the Shrine of St. Joseph was at the center of that massive revitalization of downtown St. Louis until I heard this story.
A statue of Jesus on the cross with Mother Mary at his feet, between two Stations of the Cross.
The antique statue of Mary and Jesus originally intended for the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
The artwork on the walls and the statues are truly beautiful, and like the other churches I have captured, really do deserve an in-person visit.

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10 Apr

My Photographic Adventure With the 2024 Solar Eclipse

In 2017 when the solar eclipse crossed into the St.Louis region, I was stuck working downtown at Purina that day, but we all were able to take a break, go out into the parking lot, and witness the beautiful event. Unfortunately, we were just outside the path of totality and I did not have a chance to capture the event with my camera. On April 8th, 2024 things were very different.

Like many, my preparations began months in advance. I bought a filter for my camera, watched a lot of Youtube videos on the subject, took notes, and did a practice run with the filter by photographing the sun. Everything appeared to be ready, but this being my first time to photograph a solar eclipse, you never know.

I left my home about 8:30a heading south with a two and a half hour trip in front of me, aiming for the Block Hole Access Conservation Area. It is a secluded area west of Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Since I knew the traffic would be incredible for the viewing of this event, I left early and tried to find a place in the middle of nowhere away from as much of the crowds as possible. Turns out my idea was not as unique as I thought. We ended up with a crowd of as many as 20 vehicles, which was a great deal smaller than most had to navigate to and from their viewing locations.

I made great time. I tagged Interstate 55 South for a bit but turn off onto county roads long before getting close to Cape Girardeau. I am sure that helped as I arrived in less time than expected. The highway traffic was heavy but flowing at a decent speed for me, but I did not have the nightmare of traffic leaving the Greater St.Louis area. I heard numerous radio reports that even as far south as Herculaneum, MO was experiencing increasing traffic issues. I arrived to the conservation area about an hour before the partial eclipse was to begin.

Since this was my first attempt to photograph a solar eclipse, I tried to go through again and again my plan during the 4 and half minutes of totality for the eclipse. The numerous advise I found suggested to pick an aperture/F-stop setting and an ISO/film speed and just adjust the shutter speed between photographing WITH the solar filter and WITHOUT the filter during the eclipse’s totality. I chose ISO 100 and f/11 with a shutter speed of 1/25 with the filter ON during the partial eclipse. When totality occurred I switched my shutter speed to 1/5000 and then bracketed my photographs down gradually to 1/2 shutter speed.

Before and after the totality I set a 5 minute timer on my watch and every time the alarm went off I took a photograph in order to capture the stages of the partial eclipse. I also set alarms for when the partial eclipse began, when totality began, when totality ended, and when partial eclipse ended. I did this so I would know exactly when to remove the solar filter and when to put it back on so as to not damage my camera. This seemed to work out pretty well.

Once the partial eclipse was over 50%, the light was noticeably changing.

I am sure there are better, more efficient ways to capture photographs during this tight window, but I was new to this and did not have any of the fancy equipment some do. I must confess I was nervous leading up to and during the moment of totality as the next one won’t visit the U.S. until 2044 or 2045. This might be my one and only chance to get a right. All and all I am pretty happy with the results.

The moment of totality was very surreal, like in 2017, but better and longer. The four minutes went quick, of course, but a memory like that is priceless. Its even better if you can capture it in a photograph. I have always said that photographs are like bookmarks in time and space, and this amazing celestial event was no exception.

In leading up to this event I did learn a few terms like “Baily’s beads” and the “diamond ring.” I tried to capture those. I’m not sure if this photograph is considered “Baily’s beads” or not, but I was unable to capture the diamond ring.

I was able to capture a couple of solar flares firing at the time of totality. Regardless, it was a great photographic adventure. A big part of that adventure for many was just the challenge in trying to get home. For those who thought the worst part of the trip was getting to their viewing location, sadly many were wrong. The traffic leaving their eclipse viewing locations was even worse.

I pulled up the Waze app as I did for the trip down, and at the time it did not show any big difference in time for their 3 suggested routes. However, when I reached Interstate 55 in Perryville, MO from the country roads, the interstate was literally a parking lot. I immediately dodged the entrance ramp, found a place to pull over where I could easily get out, and hauled out my old Randle-McNally road atlas…no vehicle should be without.

I plotted a route with county roads again only to discover that even the secondary and tertiary routes also were heavy with traffic but nothing like the interstate. For the most part those county highways had a good flow of traffic.

I actually love road trips so I didn’t mind the scenic view of parts of Missouri I would not have normally traveled. I seriously lucked out as my detours only added another hour to my return home. However, many along Interstate 55 were experiencing heavy traffic well into the night. The reports I heard stated that no one had any regrets about the trip despite the massive traffic challenges in getting home. With such an awesome experience, its tough to see the downside.

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09 Apr

The Miracle at the Shrine of St.Joseph, St.Louis and Its Connection to the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

This week I am continuing to highlight my “Churches Under God” photographic project by focusing on The Shrine of St. Joseph. St. Joseph was founded in 1843 by Jesuits seeking to serve St.Louis’ population of German immigrants. Land was donated to the Jesuits by Mrs. Ann Biddle for the purpose of building a church.

In 1861 the miraculous healing of a soap factory worker named Ignatius Strecker lead to the canonization of Peter Claver. From my article at ChurchUnderGod.com:

About that time a well known missionary by the name of Father Francis Xavier Weninger, S. J. had traveled to St. Joseph’s to preach. Mrs. Strecker had heard that Father Weninger would be blessing the sick with the relic of Peter Claver after a special sermon. So Mrs. Stecker struggled to get Ignatius to St. Joseph’s Church for the message and blessing. After Father Weninger’s sermon on Peter Claver, Father Weninger blessed him and allowed him to kiss the relic.

Read more about very miraculous recovery in my article at: ChurchesUnderGod.com.

On the back wall, the statue of the Blessed Mother Mary intended for the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

In the early 1870’s the Jesuits had ordered a statue of the Blessed Mother Mary for St. Joseph’s Parish from a company in Spain. Also happening around this time in Europe was the Franco-Prussian War. At the same time the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris had ordered a statue of the Blessed Mother Mary as well, but a much more expensive one constructed of higher quality. Fortunately, for St. Joseph’s Parish, the company in Spain was unable to deliver the statue intended for the Notre Dome in Paris due to the war, so the company in Spain shipped that statue of Mary to St. Joseph’s Parish for the same price. All this time that statue has remained behind glass, preserving it for over 100 years.

St.Joseph truly has an amazing history filled miracles and inspiration. Despite the appears of what looks like marble in the photographs of the church, it was actually hand carved wood faux painting by German immigrants in the 1800’s. The beauty of their work is awe inspiring.

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04 Apr

The Artwork and International History of St. John’s Nepomuk Chapel, St.Louis

This is my second group of photographs I am sharing which captured during my visit to St. John’s Nepomuk Chapel in St.Louis. Some of these photos were part of my Churches Under God project, where I photographed and wrote about the history of a few of St.Louis’ oldest churches. St. John’s has a long, rich history as the 1st Czech Catholic Church in America. It served as a uniting force for immigrants coming to America and St.Louis in the mid 1800’s. They built a school and a printing press, and conducted services in multiple languages.

At a point in St. John’s history of great success it was stricken by the Tornado of 1896. This is an excerpt from my article on St. John’s history from ChurchUnderGod.com:

It was at the church’s height in 1896 when about 1000 people were affiliated with the church in some way and almost 800 children were attending the school. The parish had grown so much that it sparked the founding of a new parish by Father Hesson, St. Wenceslaus. All of St. John’s buildings were in first class shape; its 2 large schools, Sisters’ house, rectory, church, parish hall, and all debts were nearly paid off.

It was also around this time when the Tornado of 1896 tore through south St. Louis and destroyed a number of churches, with St. John Nepomuk being one of the worst damaged. The church was nearly completely leveled except for the front wall of the main entrance where the date “1870” remained.

When we of today glance at the 1870 above the entrance to our church, we can be reminded of the struggles of the Catholic Church in that fateful year, and of its ultimate triumph; and also of the brave struggles of the parishioners of that day who made such a great sacrifices, in which we share today, for the fruits of those sacrifices are our inheritance. May we of today be worthy of that heritage!” – Rev. Albert J. Prokes in 125th Jubilee of St. John Nepomuk Church (1979).

What began as a mission of founding a church for the Bohemian Hill neighborhood in 1854 had grown to be one of the most popular Christian churches to welcome immigrants from all over Europe. From ChurchUnderGod.com:

One very important mission that Father Hesson felt that St. John Nepomuk Parish could serve was to unite immigrants who did not have a church of their own. In an effort to preserve the faith of Poles, Slovaks, Ukrainians, Croatians and Slovenes, he welcomed them to St. John’s and helped guide them to founding their own parishes. This was also further accomplished by joining the Catholic Central Union in 1877.

What’s makes the story of St. John’s Nepomuk Chapel so amazing is that in its prime, the church really did serve as the center of its community. It provided a place for education and socialization for all in the community, members and non-members alike. It truly served as a moral compass for those troubled and challenging times. St. John’s success served as a testament to what enormous obstacles can be accomplished when neighbors unite, for even its financial support came from the working class immigrants in the community.

There is simply too much beautiful artwork and views to see to do justice by photographs alone. It is truly a church worth visiting in person. And when you go, pick a sunny day, you’ll be glad you did.

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02 Apr

The Breathtaking Artwork of St. John’s Nepomuk Chapel, St.Louis

The next collection of photographs I want to share from my “Churches Under God” project is that of St. John’s Nepomuk Chapel. When I was researching historic churches in St.Louis, I happened upon a grainy old photo on the internet of the interior of the church with its amazing collection of life-size statues. When I arranged for a tour/interview with Deacon Mike Buckley to see the statues and learn about the church’s history, I thought I knew roughly what to expect. I was not prepared to be truly blown away by the vivid colors and breathtaking detail of their stained glass windows. I may share some of my photographs here, but these windows are most definitely a MUST SEE in person. On a sunny day the colors are like nothing I have ever seen before.

The statues throughout the church are every bit as amazing in detail as you might imagine. The craftsmanship is truly incredible. At the entrance you will find these three angels. On the alter you will find this hand-carved and crafted work of biblical figures.

One of my favorite photographs I captured of all these churches is this one of a statue of Christ hanging on the cross while juxtaposed to the stained glass image of Christ’s resurrected. When I saw the statues and the stained glass windows, I wanted to capture a photograph that encapsulates the full spectrum of the Easter story. You cannot have the resurrection without the death and vise versa. This image captures that full contrast of death to life.

Here is the nativity scene illustrated in stained glass, along with the full scene of Christ’s resurrection.

The following is an excerpt from my article on the history of the stained glass windows at St. John’s Nepomuk Chapel as published on ChurchesUnderGod.com:

It was also in 1929 when the brilliantly colorful stained glass windows were installed in the church. The artist, Emil Frei, was in Germany at the time, but in 1895 he and his new bride emigrated to San Fransisco through New York. By 1898 they had settled in St. Louis because of its large German population that made them feel more at home. In St. Louis he started the Emil Frei Art Glass company where it remains today.

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28 Mar

History of Trinity Lutheran Church, St.Louis – Part 2

In my previous post I mentioned about my inspiration into architectural photography born at Concordia Seminary in St.Louis. I also wrote about my new project which began in late 2013 called “Churches Under God” where I began a series of photographic shoots capturing historic churches in St.Louis, Missouri beginning with Trinity Lutheran Church in Soulard. Here are a few more photographs I captured during this visit.

No visit would be complete without a strong exterior photograph of the front of the church. If you have not read my previous post on Trinity Lutheran Church where I mention the extensive storm damage in 1896, I invite you to check that out here.

Trinity Lutheran Church, St.Louis

Here is a photograph of the alter of the church captured from the balcony.

Trinity Lutheran Church, St.Louis

Next is a close-up of the handcrafted artwork of the pulpit on the left, and the choir’s balcony on the right.

Trinity Lutheran Church, St.Louis
Trinity Lutheran Church, St.Louis

For those of you who are photographers, you might be able to appreciate this one. In these days I was working on perfecting the method of producing what are called HDR (High Dynamic Range) Photography. The process is like this.

You take a number of photographs at slightly different shutter speeds so you can capture into detail even the shadowy parts of a photograph. Usually this is just a series of maybe 4-6 photographs. However, since I was granted the great privilege of going inside the bell tower, my goal was to capture both the details of the stained glass windows, as well as the details of the inside of the bell tower itself. Because it was such a large contrast in light levels between the details of the stained glass windows and the inside room of the bell tower, to accomplish this task it took a series of 10 individual photographs. With each one captured from a tripod, I blended the photographs together with this photograph “Behind the Glass” being the result.

"Behind the Glass" - Trinity Lutheran Church, St.Louis

The follow is an excerpt from my article about the history of Trinity Lutheran Church found in its entirety at ChurchesUnderGod.com:

The ringing of the 4 bells in the Bell Tower was no small or simple task in 1866, when the Boys’ Youth Group raised the money for them. Because of the Civil War, all metal was confiscated so the creation and installation of the bells were delayed until 1866 even though they were purchased 2 years earlier. As tour guide Dennis Rathert at Trinity Lutheran Church describes; ringing the bells required 7-8 teen-aged boys, 5 alone just to ring the big bell. To ring the big bell 2 boys would be positioned on a landing above while 3 boys were positioned below. When the bell was set to be rung, the 3 at the bottom would grab the rope and pull with all their might, while the 2 boys up above would leap off the landing and ride the rope up and down as the bell rung. Sometimes the 3 boys at the bottom would feel left out so they would hang on when they were told to let go and then bump their heads on the stairs above. To this day you can still see names, initials, and years from some of the more long term bell ringers. Some of the years still visible are from; 1905, 1909, 1913, and so on. Up until the 1950’s a pair of loud speakers could be heard playing Christmas music out toward the neighborhood.

Again, I would like to give many thanks to Rev. King Schoenfeld, Dennis Rathert, and Dave Perry of Trinity Lutheran Church for granting me the high privilege to visit and photograph their beautiful church.

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26 Mar

My Love of Architecture Photography and the History of Trinity Lutheran Church, St.Louis

One day while I was sitting at my desk at the Intelligencer Newspaper in Edwardsville, Illinois in late 2013, I was reviewing some of my photographs I captured at the Cathedral Basilica in University City, St.Louis. I started doing a search of 1) churches in St.Louis over 100 years old, 2) Judeo-Christian in denomination, and 3) still operating as a church. I was amazed! This list of churches fitting those parameters were around 2 dozen. It was this list that sparked the project I called “Churches Under God.” I spent the following couple of years setting up appointments and interviews with a few of these historic churches in St.Louis. Over the next few weeks I will share photos from this project.

Cathedral Basilica, St.Louis
"Charity of Light" at the Cathedral Basilica, St.Louis
"Under God" at the Cathedral Basilica, St.Louis

Let me back up a little bit. My family moved to the St.Louis area from the Wisconsin/Minnesota area back in the mid 1980’s. My father attended Concordia Seminary to become a Lutheran minister after leaving the banking industry. Because of this I grew up countlessly roaming the beautiful architecture of the Concordia Seminary campus. This is really where I gained my love of architecture and of the city of St.Louis. I moved around alot in my early adult years but St.Louis always kept calling me back, that is why I returned for good in 2004. St.Louis is so utterly blessed to have such wonderful and historic architecture. One can endlessly explore the city and find examples of this everywhere.

Concordia Seminary, St.Louis
Chapel of St. Timothy & St. Titus, Concordia Seminary, St.Louis. Photograph given "Award of Excellence" by Associated Church Press
"The Passage, " Concordia Seminary, St.Louis
"Hope Springs" Concordia Seminary, St.Louis
Luther Tower, Concordia Seminary, St.Louis

This week I will share a few photos from my trip to Trinity Lutheran Church in Soulard. Thanks to the help of Rev. King Schoenfeld, Dennis Rathert, and Dave Perry I was able to meticulously photograph the interior of Trinity Lutheran Church. I also did some in-depth research on the church’s rich and fascinating history. This is an excerpt from the article I published about the church, which can be found in its entirety on ChurchesUnderGod.com:

The year of 1896 was a very tough year for many churches in South St. Louis. On May 27, 1896 a very large tornado ripped through the city destroying a number of churches, completely leveling some of them. Trinity Lutheran Church was also hit very hard in this storm. Some of the damage Trinity experienced was; 35 feet of its steeple was torn off, the altar which housed a painting, instead of the present polychromed carving of the Lord’s Supper was completely swept away, and an angel statue was completely destroyed. What amazingly survived was the baptismal font and the pulpit. The storm had also divided the balcony and destroyed much of the stenciling in the walls and ceiling. However, there was great effort taken during the restoration to retain the original color scheme of the interior of the church. Also, 15 feet was removed from the length of the church in order to attach a parsonage during the storm restoration. It was at this time during the restoration that the church was fitted with electricity. However, the church needed both gas and electric because the electric company would shut the power down at 9pm every night. This would of course effect evening services, in which case gas was used to light the church.

Trinity Lutheran Church
Trinity Lutheran Church

I continue to find the history of St.Louis and its churches intriguing, especially when I learned how much these local churches were the social and moral compass for the communities, even by those who were not members. In many American communities the largest weight of community outreach and assistance was bore by these local churches.

I invite you to schedule a time to tour Trinity Lutheran Church and see it for yourself. My photographs can only do it so much justice. There is no substitute for seeing it for yourself.

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