Saturday, December 18, 2010

St. Luke’s Lutheran Church

St. Luke’s Lutheran Church is located on Route 53 in Lilly Pennsylvania, approximately 80 miles east of Pittsburgh. It is the oldest church in the town of Lilly and is one of the few churches with a clock tower in the area.

The St. Luke’s Lutheran congregation was organized on June 22, 1873. The congregation applied for a charter through the Cambria County courts on December 12, 1901, and it was granted on September 16, 1902. The cornerstone for St. Luke’s was laid on September 4, 1904, and the building was completed and ready for dedication on June 18, 1905. The original cost of the church was $15,000. The building is 86 feet long by 46 feet wide, made of concrete blocks over a wooden frame. The church was constructed with a clock tower that stands approximately 60 feet high. The clock with its four different faces possesses a mechanism imported from Germany. In 1956 the clock was converted to run on electricity and had four motors installed, one to run each face of the clock. In 1964 the striker motor that tolled the bell burned out and it was decided to update the clock at this time. In 1967 the update was complete and included a mechanism to run all four clocks at the same time by using one motor. It originally had a steeple high above its clock tower, but this had to be removed in the early 1920’s after it had been struck multiple times by lightning. In 1915 a stone fence was erected around the church property at a cost of about $900. The fence included wrought iron gates, which were subsequently removed after a teenage boy died after impaling himself while running across the top of the stone fence. The hinges for the gates can still be seen embedded into the stones at each entry way. Due to its crumbling state, the stone fence was restored by the end of 2008.

The most notable feature of St. Luke’s is its four-sided clock tower stretching approximately 60 feet high. There are two main entryways into the church with pointed arched stained glass windows above them. One of these is at the base of the tower. Above this door in the stained-glass window reads the words “St. Luke’s Lutheran Church 1915.” Above the window, in the tower, is the church’s only Rose window. Unfortunately, this window cannot be seen from the inside of the church unless you are in the clock tower. On the side next to the entryway is another stained glass window depicting a young woman holding onto a stone cross over a stormy sea. Though the exact meaning behind this window is unclear it is believed that it may be referring to a civil war song. Approximately three-quarters of the way up the tower, using four rounded arches, there is an open section in the tower where the bell is located. At the top of the tower is the clock. The actual clock itself is accessed by crossing through the attic on a catwalk over the nave of the church, than climbing a series of ladders. The clock is considered by many to be the town clock and still works today, tolling the hour every hour twenty-four hours a day. An interesting fact about the clock is, though the church does the maintenance on the clock and pays for the electricity to the rest of the church, Lilly borough pays for the electricity to run and light the clock.

Another interesting aspect of the building is its exterior. Though at first glimpse it may appear to be a stone structure, it is in fact made of concrete block. During the building of the church, laborers used molds on site to pour each block using concrete. Each block is only about 5 or 6 inches thick, and the building actually has a wooden frame underneath.

Once you enter the church you will see that the church is divided into two sides, one being the nave and the other being an open area that is currently being used as a bible study area. These two areas are separated by a sliding wooden door that recesses into the wall allowing, if needed to expand the area of the nave.

Keeping with the Carpenter Gothic style of this structure there are many high pitched roofs and gothic style windows in this church. The intersecting roof lines above the nave of the church allow for the ceiling to have many dramatic angles. These angles seem to allow sound from the altar to carry throughout the church easily without the need for a sound system.

St. Luke’s has three large Gothic stained-glass windows, each measuring 124 inches by 224 inches. They depict “Jesus as the creator”, “Jesus at Gethsemane”, and “Jesus as the Good Shepherd.” Two of these windows (the Good Shepherd and Gethsemane) were taken down and restored by Bovard Studios of Iowa in 2007 and 2008 at a cost of $75,000. There are also fourteen smaller Gothic-style pointed arched stained-glass windows throughout the structure. Four of these cannot be seen from the interior unless you are in the clock tower and have no special ornamentation. Nine depict symbols from the Bible, such as Alpha and Omega symbols, and a dove holding an olive branch. The one exception is one window that is dedicated to the American Civil War, featuring an eagle over crossed cannons and a flag with one large star on the blue field surrounded by 13 smaller stars. The origin of this flag is unclear and may have, in fact, been simply an artistic creation. This window was moved from the exterior of the church to the side of the office when the office was later constructed after the church’s completion.

There is also a brick parsonage behind the church that was completed in 1916. The church’s office connects the parsonage to the church.

Name: St Luke’s Lutheran Church
Location: 604 Cleveland St, Lilly, PA 15938
Religious Affiliation: Lutheran
Date of Construction: September 1904 till June 1905
Architect: unknown
Building Style: Carpenter Gothic
Plan Type: Open hall-type
Primary Materials: Concrete blocks, wood
Status: Active

Salony, Jim. Telephone interview. 3 Dec. 2010.
Lilly Washington Historical Society. The Spirit of a Community. pp. 116-117
Palko, Rev John. Personal interview. 3 Dec. 2010.
Rev. W. H. Bruce Carney. The History of the Allegany Evangelical Lutheran Synod. The Lutheran Publication Society, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1918

researched by Danielle Walls

1 comment:

  1. My father was the pastor at St. Luke's in Lilly in the 1970s. The stained glass window with the woman clinging to the cross in the midst of a storm is a representation of the hymn "My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less", which contains the refrain "On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand." Beautifully portrayed in the window. St Luke's is a treasure.