Thursday, January 27, 2011

Our Saviour Lutheran Church: Early Rego Park History Revealed!

THEN: Lutheran Church of Our Saviour's 1932 assemblage circa 1936 at 92-14 63rd Dr, Rego Park

NOW: Mostly unaltered from its origins. Happy 85th, congregation! Happy 79th, charming landmark!
 Most memorabilia Rego-Forest Preservation Council collects can be found on eBay and at postcard shows. Every so often, comes that one find that's the opener of eye-openers! That happens to be the case with a soft-covered booklet from 1936, commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the Lutheran Church of Our Saviour, which was distributed to congregants. Situated at 92-14 63rd Dr in Rego Park, this church is a proud sight in midst of Rego Park's bustling business district, alongside 1930s & 1940s Art Deco canopy-infested retail developments, and the church's character represents a throwback to Rego Park's humble origins with Colonial wood homes on generous landscapes, and its Colonial origins as Newtown with its farms and frame houses featuring porches. The Remsen family owned an extensive parcel of farmland, and Remsen Ave was the neighborhood's first street, which became 63rd Drive.

It is phenomenal how Our Saviour Lutheran Church's 1932 establishment survives mostly intact inside and out, and how its landscaped lawn is always maintained. Our flickr link shows Rego Park, Elmhurst, & Queenswide business ads from 1936, in addition to the historic text and photos also found below:

The 10th Anniversary publication features the first ministry, the church on Booth St, the first chapel, Pastor Kuechle's early ministry, early church finances, the first council, dreams of a new church, dreams answered with the Oct 25, 1931 groundbreaking ceremony led by Pastor Kuechle, the current establishment's Feb 28, 1932 dedication, its years of growth, the Rego Park Lutheran publication, and its religious education, the choir, church societies, and its leadership.

December 20, 1931 marked the corner-stone laying ceremony, where a photographer from the NY Times took a photo of the building committee, which appeared in the Rotogravure section. The contents of the cornerstone were a New Testament, a copy of Luther's Catechism, a Hymn Book, a copy of the Lutheran Annual (1932), a copy of the Lutheran Witness, a Constitution of the US, a copy of the Atlantic Bulletin, coin of the US, $1.00, issue of 1931, history of Lutheran Church of Our Saviour, roster of Communicant Members, the names of congregational officers, members of the building committee, the architect and the builder, a copy of the financial campaign prospectus and a list of the workers, a program of the ground-breaking service, a copy of the Rego Park Lutheran, a copy of the Daily Star (local paper) bearing the story of the corner-stone laying, a program of the corner-stone service, and a copy of The Post (a Rego Park paper).

Unsurprisingly, Benjamin Braunstein was commissioned to design this charming Colonial-style church on 63rd Dr and Wetherole St on land that was owned by the Real Good Construction Company, which named Rego Park in 1923. Lutheran Church of Our Saviour's congregation accepted a bid by the Auserehl & Son Contracting Corp of Jamaica, NY at $12,696, non-inclusive of plumbing, heating, hardware, lighting fixtures, and the pews. Fine facade and sanctuary finishes were produced at a modest cost. The facade presently bears arched multi-paned windows, a pilaster-flanked biblical stained glass arched window on its western exposure, a lattice unifying the transition from the garden to the church, a bell tower, and a tiled pitched roof, amongst other features. The interior is bright, being that it is served by arched windows on its northern and southern exposures, and its double-sided layout of pews in a humble, arches space is graceful, and is embellished by the ornately carved detail on wainscoting, which leads the eye to the ornate woodwork on the triumphant altar. Architect Benjamin Braunstein is well-known for his generous quantity of 6-story garden-style (Georgian) Colonial apartment houses in Forest Hills and Rego Park in the 1930s and 1940s around the period of the 1936 IND subway and 1939-1940 World's Fair, and his earlier Tudor designs, best depicted in Sutton Hall apartments on Ascan Ave in Forest Hills.

Upon reading the 10th Anniversary publication from 1936 below, think of how Our Saviour Lutheran Church on 63rd Dr embodies the spirit of our community in context of early Rego Park history, its fine craftsmanship and landscape, and its timeline and contributions to the present. One should never take anything for granted. HAPPY TREASURE HUNTING!


  1. When I was growing up, I used to watch "Little House on the Prairie," and every time I passed by The Lutheran Church of Our Savior, I used to think of the church on that television program. i half expected to see Rev. Alden coming out. ;-) If that charming wooden church does not have landmark status, it most certainly should.

  2. Thanks again, Michael, for sharing this wonderful piece of local history

  3. Why don't we visit the church as a group?

  4. Thanks Michael for this interesting bit of Queens history. -- Jim Griffin

  5. What a treasure! And an enlightening one at that for those of us who call that area "home." I would like some further guidance as to what section of Ebay to look in to discover such items.

  6. Regina: Great analogy! This church evokes an even earlier era in Rego Park, consisting of farms and frame houses.

    Martin & Jim: It's always a pleasure!

    Rosalind: Shortly after blogging on Our Saviour Lutheran Church, I received an e-mail from a member who would like to give us a tour shortly. I am working on the times she & other necessary parties are available. We will give them preservation recommendations, as well as hear the memories of some congregants that were raised in Rego Park in its heyday.

    Gloria: I would advise preservationists and collectors to routinely conduct a general search by neighborhood on eBay, and at monthly postcard shows at Hotel New Yorker. One never knows when a treasure will unveil itself.

  7. I grew up half a block away from that church in an apartment building, 63-45 Wetherole Street. The church was visible from our apartment window and I passed that church almost every day. I didn't realize until I saw it presented here, how fixed it was in my brain and my life. Even though I am not of that faith, I feel an emotional affiliation with it, as if it were a family connection. Thank you for sending me this photo and this story. Sheldon Malev.

  8. Some people recognize a "landmark" outright, and others don't realize the extent a "landmark" is intertwined with their lives, until they move away, and/or are presented with the information in a different light. Your words are beautifully expressed, Sheldon, and you're very welcome!