‘Martini Lutheran Church in Baltimore,’ By E.F. Engelbert, SHGM, Volume 26, pages 30-32 (1945)
History of Baltimore City & County; John Thomas Scharf, 1881, J.B. Lippencott & Company, publishers, Philadelphia PA.
Note: Martini Lutheran Church also bears sole responsibility for the maintenance and care of St. Paul's Cemetery in Druid Hill. This at one time, was maintained by three churches, but today Martini alone accepts the challenge. Please visit and if you feel you can contribute to the maintenance in any way, contact Martini's.
The history of Martini’s began on May 18, 1867, but as with the other churches researched some indicators point to a much earlier period in time. It is interesting to note that in the History of Baltimore City and County (John Thomas Scharf), published in 1881, the congregation is listed as St. Martin’s. With few exceptions, the people of Martini’s had been members of the old congregation-the Second Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, which was organized by Paster John Haesbert on November 1, 1835. The church building stood at Saratoga and Holliday Streets. The church was in walking distance for most of the congregation, however, the distance was too far to send their children to school there. The parish was divided into three school districts, Eastern, Western and Southern. This was done under the leadership of Friedrich Konrad Dietrich Wyneken, who came to Baltimore after Pastor Haesbert left the congregation to go to South America in 1844. Pastor Wyneken left after a short time to minister to the scattered Germans throughout Ohio and Indiana. He is known as the missionary organizer of the Missouri Synod and served as president of that body for some time. The three churches were Martini’s; Immanuel and St. Paul’s.
On September 18, 1865, the congregation resolved to sell the old church building and a committee was appointed to select sites. The congregation was very German with committee members named Kleppish, Spilman, Katenkamp, Einwaechter, Muhly, Aichele, Carstens, Draeger and Bauer. There was no talk of dividing the congregation, just having two buildings. After a peaceful settlement the division was made and as a result Martini was organized. It laid the cornerstone of the new church on February 16, 1868. It elected and called Pastor C.H. Fricke to be its pastor. He was installed on the same day the new church was dedicated on May 10, 1868.
In those days skilled men were earning six dollars per week. It required courage and faith to undertake the erection of a church which would cost $26,000. Two years after completion of the church at Sharp and Henrietta Streets a new school was built to the rear of the church. It was also about this time, bells were installed and a new organ purchased. The largest contribution toward all of these expenses was a gift of $1000. The church was literally paid for with nickels and dimes.
The church was installed with an evening service that was done in English, but it was very unlikely that anyone doubted that any language other than German would be regularly used in the church that was called the German Evangelical Lutheran Martini Church. A large part of the city’s population was German or of German descent. It was also during this time that Baltimore became a main immigration port primarily due to the fact that the North German-Lloyd kept two first class passenger and freight vessels on the Baltimore line.
Two things moved the congregation from the German language to English, dwindling immigration and the fact that the congregations children spoke English. Many of the older congregation clung to the slogan, “In dieser Kirche wird nur Deutsch gepredigt”.
Twenty seven years after the dedication of Martini, in 1895, the demand for English services had become so strong, it could no longer be avoided. Changing or adding an English service would require a change in the constitution, which is never easy. Martini solved the problem. Their first step was to call Pastor Carl Gaennsle to assist Pastor Fricke. He would conduct English services on Sunday evenings. This lasted about seven months or until Pastor Gaennsle was called to Corning, Missouri.
In April of 1897, twelve voting members, including six members of the church council, petitioned the congregation for permission to organize a separate English congregation, which would be known as the English Evangelical Lutheran Martini Congregation. They would be under the direction of their own pastor, but the two congregations would have a shared treasury and the salaries and expenses of both congregations paid for by that treasury. The petition was granted and the new arrangement was consummated when Pastor E.F. Haertel was installed on July 4, 1897.
The separation was a short one and in November of the same year, the members of the English congregation were accepted into the German Martini congregation. Pastor Haertel was retained as an associate pastor. It was also resolved that in all business meetings of the congregation both languages could be spoken and that the minutes were to be kept bilingually. This was not without its problems and many of the German congregation knew that their decreasing numbers would eventually lead to English services, etc. A resolution was passed and the following paragraph was written into the church Constitution, “In the building of the Congregation set apart for public worship, services must be conducted in the German language on the forenoon of every Sunday and Festival as long as four voting members shall demand that this be done.”
For several years, the congregation continued under the dual pastorate. Pastor Haertel then accepted a call to Chicago and Pastor D.H. Steffens had accepted the call of the English associate. Upon the retirement of Pastor Frincke, Pastor Steffens was called as pastor of the congregation. A post he maintained for eighteen years. During this time, German services were held every Sunday and on festivals, Sunday School on the afternoons and English services in the evening. Sunday School was taught in both languages for a time, however, with the dwindling number of students speaking German, it was soon taught in English.
In 1918 a new pastor was called and the German members had already surrendered one Sunday morning. Eventually German services were held only twice a month, then four times per year, until eventually German services were discontinued.
In the middle of the 1970s, the church was condemned so that an expressway could be built. The congregation had nearly given up relocating in the South Baltimore area, when, prayer and intercession by then Mayor William Schaefer assisted in finding a new site at a reasonable price. A new building was built and hall erected and dedicated on November 6, 1977. Many of the treasured furnishings of the old building were moved to the current location at the corner of Henrietta and Hanover Streets. At the time of the dedication, only six pastors had served Martini’s during its 110 years of existence.
An Honor Roll in the rear of the church lists members who have served in the armed services. Names such as Geisendaffer, Wagner, Goetze, Fickenscher and Engelbert were among those names.
There is a plague on the outside of the original Martini’s which reads ‘Bell Tower Commons’ 1888; Martini Evangelical Lutheran Church 1867-1977.
The name Martini wasn't the first choice of the Congregation. The first choice was St. Mark's, the second choice was Second St. Paul's, but finally Martini was chosen. Some wanted to call it St. Martin's (which some references do call it) and others favored Martin Luther's Chuch. Martini is the Latin possessive form and is a compromise of the two names. The actual complete name of the church was Martini German Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession in Baltimore, Maryland.
Pastors of Martini:
Rev. Carl Frincke (1868-1902)
Rev. D.H. Steffens (1900-1918)
Rev. E.F. Engelbert (1918-1957)
Rev. G.A. Wagner (1957-1962)
Rev. Immanuel Albrecht (1962-1973)
Rev. Terry Greenwood (1973-1982)
Rev. Donald Biggs (1983-1996)
Rev. Elliott Robertson
Church Location: 100 W Henrietta St., Baltimore, MD 21230