ZION EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH, incorporated on 17 Mar. 1847, helped launch 5 other Lutheran churches of the Missouri Synod in Cleveland. It began on 14 Apr. 1843 when 45 communicants from another congregation organized the German Evangelical Lutheran Church. For 5 years, the congregation worshipped in Concert Hall, on the north side of Superior Ave., between Seneca (W. 3rd) and Bank (W. 6th) streets. Rev. David Schuh, the first pastor, resigned in Oct. 1844 and was succeeded by Rev. August Schmidt on 8 Jan. 1845. In Sept. 1845 the Concert Hall was the site of the first of a series of meetings that led to the organization (in Chicago) of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and other states. The congregation joined the Missouri Synod in 1852. During Rev. Schmidt's pastorate, the church became Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church. The year of incorporation the congregation built a frame church on York St. (Hamilton Ave.) west of E. 9th St.; it was dedicated on 20 Jan. 1848. Rev. Schmidt resigned in Apr. 1851 and was succeeded by Rev. HEINRICH C. SCHWAN from Missouri, installed in Aug. 1851. On 24 Dec. 1851, Rev. Schwan brought a candle-lit Christmas tree into the sanctuary, one of the first trees used in a worship service in this country. Rev. Schwan served Zion Lutheran for over 30 years.
The congregation grew with the city's population of immigrant Germans, and in 1853 the church established a mission school in OHIO CITY (which became the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1858). Members of Zion who lived in NEWBURGH were released in 1854 in order to organize St. John's Lutheran Church, later located in GARFIELD HTS. The Zion congregation purchased property in 1856 on the south side of Bolivar Ave. east of Erie St. (E. 9th), and in 1865 moved the frame church and constructed a school there. Subsequently, a new church was constructed, dedicated in Jan. 1867, on the northeast corner of Bolivar and Erie streets. In 1870 the congregation formed a school district on Cleveland's east side. A building was constructed on Superior Ave. near Willson Ave. (E. 55th), and on 1 Sept. 1870 this district of Zion became an independent congregation, St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church. Members of Zion living south of the Kingsbury Run area were released in 1878 in order to establish an independent congregation, later St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church on Cable Ave. In 1883 members of Zion Church who lived near WOODLAND CEMETERY organized St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church. Zion sold the property on Bolivar Ave., purchased a lot on Prospect and Sterling (E. 30th St.) avenues, and in 1901 constructed a school, active until 1974, and later a church to seat 1,200, dedicated 3 May 1903. The building, designed by Paul Matzinger, mixes Romanesque and Gothic styles.
Originally services were held in German, with English spoken occasionally. Rev. Carl M. Zorn introduced English services in 1881, and for many years 2 services were held each Sunday. In 1986 worship was conducted in English, with German services twice a month. In 1974 Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church was designated a Cleveland landmark. In 1994 membership stood at 100.
Fiftieth Anniversary of the Dedication of Zion Lutheran Church, 1903-1953 (1953).
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church Records (microfilm), WRHS.
See also RELIGION; LUTHERANS.