The Immanuel Lutheran Church on East 88th St. in central Yorkville is a towering monument to the congregation’s German heritage.
The congregation of the Immanuel Lutheran Church formed in 1863, but two years later a rift in the congregation caused many, including the pastor at the time, to leave and start their own church. Even without many of their original members, Immanuel Lutheran Church grew rapidly with the rise of German residents in the neighborhood.
When the original location, a small wooden church on 87th Street, became too small, a new building was erected on 88th Street in 1885. This building was constructed in the Gothic style, very much like many older churches in Europe.
It included a 200-foot tower that housed three bells given by the German Empress Augusta. She named them “faith,” “love,” and “hope,” representing values that the church holds dear. On the interior, one can still see the original hand-carved wooden chancel made for the congregation in the Black Forest in Germany.
Over the years, the church suffered structural problems that led to several renovations. In 1969, a 100-foot section of the roof caved in and caused damage to the interior choir section and pews. The most likely culprit was blasts from nearby construction on Lexington Avenue, though this was never confirmed.
Construction struck again in 1973 when dynamiting at the nearby site of Gimbel’s Department Store severely damaged the main hall and shattered most of the windows. Later that year, they were replaced with new windows designed by Belgian-born artist Benoit Gilsoul.
Today the church plays host to many highly acclaimed concert series throughout the year, including the Midtown Concerts, which specialize in historical and early music and are free to the public.