When a Door Closes…

Trinity Lutheran Church of Appleton was founded in 1915 with 15 charter members and three children. Construction of the Allen Street church (shown below) began in 1923 after Trinity’s congregation outgrew its small chapel at Oneida and Harris streets. The building was dedicated in 1925.

Sadly, this church and its history will soon end.

I came to know the lower level of the church several years ago when I began volunteering for Loaves and Fishes of the Fox Valley. This non-profit, well-run organization provides a free nutritious meal to the community on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. This is a nondenominational Christian outreach that welcomes all guests to dinner. The fare is usually well received and volunteers normally hear many “thank you’s” while serving trays to moms, dads, single adults and children. I don’t know how long L&F served meals at Trinity Lutheran, but it came to an end this past November.

“In May, the Trinity congregation voted to accept a $1.4 million offer on its riverfront property. The neighboring property, Fox Banquets, is also being eyed for redevelopment. The Appleton Common Council previously considered the church and banquets properties for a new Appleton Public Library building, but the site was rejected in June 2015.

It hasn’t been disclosed what kind of development is expected to go on the site, but officials in Appleton have slated the space as “mixed-use” in drafts of the city’s downtown plan rewrite. Those plans are not final, and are expected to be amended before being voted on this winter.” ~Appleton Post Crescent~

I couldn’t find additional information on whether the new owners, One Lawrence Street LLC, have announced their plans for the future of the sites where Trinity Lutheran Church and Fox Banquets now stand. It’s a prime site if you consider its location on a bluff, overlooking the Fox River.

Trinity Lutheran voted last May to sell the church and its property as the number of congregants had diminished over the years. “I can’t help but feel a little sadness,” stated member Jean Goffard. “The building was a vessel for people to carry out the church’s message.” The congregation has taken some of its memorable artifacts with them, like stained glass windows and a baptismal font.

The following gallery are photos from inside the church, obtained from the internet. I would have added photos from the lower level, when Loaves & Fishes were still operating at Trinity, except I never took my cell phone inside when I served.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Thankfully, the congregation of Trinity Lutheran has found a home at another Lutheran church until they can find a place that suits the size of its members. As well, Loaves & Fishes, after finding temporary residence at the local Salvation Army, is planning a move into the activity center of a local Catholic church in a few months. I’m excited for L&F and its new home. It will be good for them and their guests to permanently plant their feet.

In this gallery are most of the door photos that I took a few weeks ago, when there was a little bit of the white stuff around. It seems surreal to me that, at some point, this church will no longer exist. I have seen churches vacated, but never one torn down. I hope, as a Christian, that God will lead the people of Trinity Lutheran to the exact place He wants them to be, and to remember that when one door closes, another one will surely open.

This post is part of Norm Frampton’s fabulous and weekly Thursday Door series. Go take a gander at his post-of-today HERE, then scroll down to the blue linky frog thingy and click on it to see a plethora of doors from your fellow bloggers.

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30 responses to When a Door Closes…

  1. dweezer19 says:

    Well I always remember the Bible verse that says “Whenever two or more of you is gathered in my name there is a church.” It is sad about the beautiful building but any thought for the appreciation of Spirit is a worship to me. It is a beautiful building though. 😊

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Cheryl, thanks for reminding me that anywhere can be a place of worship. I should know…I’ve attended two churches that were formerly housed in dance studios. It seems weird to me that a church will be dismantled, especially one that’s been around for so long, but I suppose I have to look at it as brick and mortar and that the spirit of the congregation has simply moved.

  2. Dan Antion says:

    That’s a beautiful building, Mary. I like the main entrance, but I prefer the side doors. It’s sad to see a church become unsustainable, but I, too, have mostly seen them get re purposed, not torn down. It’s sad, in that so many people marked life-changing moments for themselves and their families in that space. I worry about the little church we grew up in. The congregation has always been small, and they’ve never been able to get ahead financially. Perhaps it’s a blessing that they aren’t located on a prime location.

    Good news for Loaves and Fishes, I’m sure the people who depend on it will welcome a permanent home.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I didn’t stop to think about the people who were married, baptized or were involved in other major events at the church. They will have memories and photos, but the church itself will be gone. I’ve attended two church communities that failed, but they were in rented digs. In those instances, I missed the people afterward more than the church itself. Life and development goes on. It will be interesting to see what goes up in its place.

      • Dan Antion says:

        I think of my mom’s church. She was an active member for 75 years before moving and is still involved from a distance.

  3. Joanne Sisco says:

    I’m not a religious person, but even I appreciate that churches, synagogues, temples, etc are special places. It makes me sad to think this beautiful building may be demolished. I hope the developers create a plan that incorporates the distinctive features of this building in their design.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      The development is what worries me. Like you, I hope they somehow incorporate either pieces of the church or at least it’s spirit in design. Not a steel and glass structure with no personality.

      • Joanne Sisco says:

        I don’t think developers willingly incorporate the structure of the former building into the new. It likely adds a lot more cost and needs to be dictated by the city planning department. Sadly, I don’t think they do it often enough.

      • bikerchick57 says:

        That’s too bad, Joanne. I’ll have to do a story at some point about a developer’s eyesore (IMO) in a neighboring town. It doesn’t fit with the surroundings at all.

      • Joanne Sisco says:

        I don’t have anything against contemporary construction … in fact there are a lot of really interesting buildings, but just not so much when they grate because they’re so out of place relative to their surroundings.

  4. loisajay says:

    That is such a shame about the church. Our old church (a satellite church) was sold and is now owned by another denomination. Seems so strange, but it worked out well.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      It’s a good thing your church still stands, Lois. It’s intention and the faith continues to live!

  5. Norm 2.0 says:

    I’m not a religious person but it always saddens me to hear about places of worship that close. One being torn down to make way for something else is thankfully rare.
    As I was reading this I was asking myself “What about the Loaves and Fishes?” At least there’s some positive outcome from this situation.
    Thanks for sharing this Mary 🙂

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I’m so happy that L&F have found a permanent home. They’ve been looking for months and while the Salvation Army has been somewhat accommodating, it was not home for them and the guests.

  6. Ally Bean says:

    That is a beautiful old church building that I’m sorry to see go, but understand how church congregations dwindle to a point where the prudent thing to do is to sell the building. I’m super happy to learn that the L&F have found a new permanent home elsewhere because that program is exactly the sort of thing that we need more of in our world. Thanks for sharing your photos and the story.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      You’re welcome Ally. The L&F program is really a good one. I will have to do a follow-up after they move and after the redevelopment is complete.

  7. marianallen says:

    What a great building! I love those arched doors, especially the one that’s just ever-so-slightly pointed. I hope they don’t tear the building down, but repurpose it. The Lutheran Church I grew up in was sold when the congregation dissolved because everybody had died or moved away; it’s now a Catholic church. Great-grandpa Leister is rolling in his grave! lol

    • bikerchick57 says:

      That’s funny about great grandpa. I remember a time when it was verboten for a Catholic to marry outside the church, or at least frowned upon. Times have changed!

      • marianallen says:

        Yeah, our family was German Catholic until Grandpa Leister went to confession with liquor on his breath and the priest told him to stop drinking. Grandpa Leister claimed he smelled wine on the priest’s breath, and he wasn’t taking orders from a hypocrite, and ran off to be a Lutheran.

  8. joey says:

    I hate to see grand buildings go :/ Churches are high on the list these days, and so many of them are landmarks. I don’t know how long you’ve followed me, but I seem to have a knack for choosing doors from usta-be churches. Sometimes they have a happy new life and sometimes, not.
    I always wonder how older folk feel about it, cause it seems older folk are the last to leave, and then they get church homelessness or have to travel so much further…
    My grandmother attended the church closest to her because it was good to walk. The church wasn’t her ‘brand of religion’ but as she would tell me and anyone else who asked, “Wherever two or more of you are gathered…” and then she’d add that if they preach the word of God, it’s a good church. ❤
    I'm glad the Loaves & Fishes will continue its work.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Your grandmother had a good attitude about church, that it wasn’t necessarily about the building itself or the brand. My mom had a difficult time with me attending a non-denominational church. For a while, she tried her hardest to get me to go back to Catholicism, but I always told her that it’s about faith and following Christ, not about the building. She couldn’t really argue with that. If dad were alive and they were both able to travel to my hometown, they would be a little sad that the Catholic church of my youth is no longer in use. On the other hand, they built a bigger and very pretty church across town.

      • joey says:

        I’m glad they won’t know the sadness of their missing church, Mary. On the other hand, a new, big, pretty church is nice for those who still attend.

  9. I feel about about the church closing and being torn down, but understand about the dwindling numbers. That’s happened in many churches. Appleton is somewhat of a standard to us Lutherans, as it’s the home of Thrivent (used to be Aid Association of Lutherans) and Wisconsin is a bastion of Lutheranism as well. Glad Loaves and Fishes will have a place. We have a location near us and our church as well.

    janet

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I’ve been by the AAL/Thrivent building often; we had a rep from Thrivent come to a health fair one year, so I have a Thrivent coffee mug. I didn’t realize until later into adulthood that Lutherans were so prevalent in WI. I thought I was living in the land of Catholics! 😉

  10. Timely post. A beautiful historic Catholic Church, St. Charles, here in town was torn down just a few weeks ago for workforce housing. I know we need more housing, but to see a gorgeous church razed is just plain sad.

  11. Sharukh Bamboat says:

    It is a sad thing for sure. You know in Mumbai many old buildings were demolished by the real estate giants because they wanted to modernize the city by building shopping malls. Now, those shopping malls are closing down because they can’t compete the ecommerce websites like Amazon and eBay. That’s what I call karma.

  12. My Dad was absolutely not religious…in any way…but one of the things he often told me was that there were very few actual “sins”. One of his biggest examples was that it was a “sin” against man and nature to tear down a perfectly usable building…of any kind.

    I mostly agree with him and the church you have shown us is so beautiful. What a huge waste. So sorry.

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