NOTE: This story was originally published on March 20, 2011, and was located on the archived Preserving York website. It has been republished here for your enjoyment, and may have been edited for content and clarity from its original form.
York, Pennsylvania is home to some of the most historic and beautiful churches in the area, and the attention they receive is well deserved. Unfortunately, some city churches do not fare so well and are glanced over without a second thought. Once such church is the former Zion Lutheran Church, which sits quietly along North Duke Street.
Tucked away behind the Yorktowne Hotel and Christ Lutheran Church, this former place of worship was active for 145 years. As attendance began to dwindle to less than 50 people each Sunday, the congregation chose to build a new facility in Manchester Township, where attendance quickly grew.
This is part 1 of a 3 part blog series about the history of the facility, the reasons behind my interest in the property, and what the future holds for this aging treasure.
- Oct. 19, 1847: An ”English-speaking” congregation broke away from Christ Lutheran Church, which sits along S. George Street in York, and formed its first constitution.
- Christ Lutheran gives this newly formed congregation land to build a new church. This land sits directly behind Christ Lutheran and contained a cemetery.
- 1850: Construction begins on the new church facility, and is built over the existing cemetery.
- Aug. 25, 1850: The cornerstone is laid for the church.
- Jul. 13, 1851: Church is dedicated during early pastorate of Rev. Charles A. Martin, MD and named Zion.
- 1869-70: An addition of 22′ is made to the rear of the facility.
- 1886-87: The entire church is remodeled, and the tower and vestibule is constructed
- Fall 1916: A 2nd-floor addition is built to the rear of the facility.
- Feb. 1940: The congregation votes to erect a new building to the rear of the church. This would house a gymnasium, two classrooms, a large kitchen, pastor’s study, and a rear stairway.
- Mar. 1941: A cornerstone is laid for the new addition. This contains an engraved copper box with a York Dispatch and The Gazette and Daily of Sept. 13, 1941, Lutheran (newsletter or magazine) of July 2, 1941 (includes an article about the previous decade of the church), as well as other items.
- Nov. 1995: Congregation holds last service in the Duke Street facility
- End of 1995: Zion Lutheran Church facility on S. Duke Street is decommissioned as a place of worship.
At some point after the decommissioning of the church facility, the congregation chose to sell the property to the Government of York County. In 1998, the County began discussing options for remodeling the courthouse facility on E. Market Street. These options included the demolition of the Zion Lutheran Church building, so the land could be used for courthouse expansion.
Part 2 of this story will detail the interest I have in Zion Lutheran Church, early visits I made to the property, and some secrets contained within the church.