BENTON HARBOR — Congregants at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, 121 Kline St., will celebrate the 100th anniversary of their current building during a special service at 3 p.m. Aug. 25.
Pastor Mike Biedenbender will be the guest preacher for the service, which commemorates the laying of the church’s cornerstone on Aug. 24, 1919. The building hosted its first service in October 1920.
Following the service, there will be memorabilia displays setup around the church and grounds, and an anniversary guest registry will be available for all to sign. Appetizers and refreshments will be served.
The St. Matthew’s congregation was established in 1898, with services held in an upstairs hall at the White House Store on Main Street, according to a church booklet about the upcoming anniversary celebration.
A church that could seat 300 people was soon built – and dedicated that same year – at Harrison and Lavette avenues, not far from the current building on Kline Street.
By 1915, with an influx of German immigrants to Southwest Michigan, the congregation realized it needed a larger building, and purchased the property at the corner of Colfax Avenue and Kline Street.
The following is how The News-Palladium described the new church in a front page story on Oct. 23, 1920, leading up to the opening service the next day:
Another new church structure for Benton Harbor
One of the finest and most attractive churches built in Benton Harbor in many years will be dedicated with special services next Sunday morning and evening.
The church is that just completed at the corner of Colfax and Kline avenues by the local St. Matthews Lutheran congregation at a cost of nearly $65,000. The edifice occupies a commanding position on one of the city’s principal north and south traffic arteries, set amid an excellent residential section and overlooking the broad valley of the St. Joseph river and the bluffs of the sister city.
First services will be held in the new church Sunday morning at 10:30 when the dedication address will be made by Rev. G. Bergermann of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, who was secured by Rev. H.C. Haase, pastor of the Benton Harbor congregation.
The evening service will be by Rev. Haase.
Workmen are putting the final touches to the structure preparatory to the dedication Sunday. The building is deserving of the most careful inspection and worthy of general description.
Gothic Lines Followed
Old Gothic lines of architecture similar to those which distinguished the famous cathedrals of Europe are followed consistently to the last detail. The exterior, the auditorium, the pulpit and even the design of the pews is Gothic and provides an attractive deviation from conventional lines.
The church is of brick, steel and concrete construction and has three main entrances, the main one being on the corner of Colfax and Kline avenues, surmounted by a massive Gothic steeple and framed between two stone columns with Gothic caps.
To the right of the entrance is the rest room while to the left is a stairway leading into a spacious and excellently lighted basement equipped for use both as a Sunday school room and for the serving of church dinners.
The main auditorium is a model of Gothic construction and breathes the atmosphere of quiet worship and solemnity without being in the least oppressive. It will seat over 600 persons comfortably.
There are no columns in the auditorium to obstruct the view of the platform and pulpit. The walls arch in graceful curves to a center dome, forming a star of eight corners. The circular arrangement provides an unusual number of windows proving fine ventilation and soft light through stained and figured glass panels. Pews are so placed as to form lines converging at the far front. The floor is sloping.
Terrazzo Floor Used
The platform extends across the east end or side of the church. It is formed of broad steps built of terrazzo, much used now in public buildings. At one side is the raised pulpit behind which is a representation of the crucifixion and communion.
The two largest windows will attract unusual attention.
On the Colfax avenue side is a beautiful representation of The Nativity, which gives an especially impressive effect from the street at night when the interior of the building is illuminated. Over the altar is a window portraying the crucifixion.
The pipe organ is at the opposite side from the pulpit, and in front of the organ is a balcony capable of seating a good number of persons.
The new church has been built by the congregation without outside aid and they may be justly proud of the monument to their efforts.