For All the Saints 2022: Week 1

A Message from Our Executive Director
Gather’s God’s People: A Celebration of Building Anniversaries
Staff Spotlight: Molly Lackey
Concordia Historical Institute’s Multimedia Collection

A Message from Our Executive Director

Watch a brief special message from Concordia Historical Institute’s Executive Director, Rev. Dr. Daniel N. Harmelink.

 

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Gathering God’s People: A Celebration of the CHI Building Anniversary

Exterior of CHI’s original building on a sunny fall day.

This week (November 14–18, 2022) marks an important building anniversary for us at CHI: the seventieth anniversary of the original Concordia Historical Institute building.

The Building

The building has a distinctive mid century modern look. Notice its distinctive flat roof, large windows, lack of external ornamentation, well-defined lines, and sharp silhouette. The mixed brickwork forms a dappled red and purple mosaic that compliments the fallen leaves during autumn in Saint Louis.

The original cornerstone, peaking around on the right-hand side of the main entryway.

The first portion of the Concordia Historical Institute building, located on the campus of Concordia Seminary in Clayton, Missouri, was dedicated on November 16th, 1952. A commemorative plaque inside the building, as well as a special cornerstone on the right-hand side of the main entryway, marked the occasion.

The Builder

The building’s architect, Hari van Hoefen (1905–1985)[1], is locally famous for mid-century modern buildings around Saint Louis. van Hoefen was the son of Dr. Siegfried van Hoefen, a medical doctor in the Saint Louis area, and Minnie (Stattler) van Hoefen.[2] While researching, we discovered that Hari had a census card in the Cherokee Nation roll indicating that he was 1/16 Cherokee through his mother.[3]

van Hoefen designed a number of famous mid-mod building around Saint Louis, including the “Flying Saucer” on South Grand (originally a Phillips 66 Station, now a combination Starbucks/Chipotle much-frequent by students of Saint Louis University[4]), the Mansion House Center, and the Optimist Building on Lindell.[5]

Construction and Dedication

Concordia Historical Institute holds a sizable collection of documents relating to the planning, building, additions, and renovations of the building. Among these holdings are contracts, photos, newspaper clippings, and letters that provide details about the project. For example, according to the contract between Concordia Historical Institute and the contractor, Gamble Construction Company, the cost of the building construction was $92,197 in 1951. The cornerstone laying took place on Sunday, April 20, 1952, with liturgist Rev. August “Augie” R. Suelflow, then-curator of Concordia Historical Institute and homilist Rev. Dr. Herman Harms, then-First Vice-President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Theodore W. Eckhart, Charter Member of Concordia Historical Institute, laid the cornerstone. Later, Rev. Suelflow would earn his doctorate and then serve as Executive Director of Concordia Historical Institute.

An architectural drawing from a 1964 plan for additions to the original building.

On November 16th, 1952, the building was officially dedicated. The event was noticed by the community, appearing in local newspapers and resulting in a flurry of congratulatory letters and telegrams from CHI supporters both in the Saint Louis area and across the nation.

Interior plaque giving information about the first and second units of the CHI building.

A Home for the Historical Institute

Concordia Historical Institute existed before construction of the present building, occupying space within a number of different institutions and offices. However, it had become increasingly apparent that the Institute needed a building to itself, both to house its ever-growing collection, accommodate increasing research and museum interest, and acknowledge the significance of the Institute’s task.

In his explanation of the First Article of the Creed in the Small Catechism, Martin Luther writes:

I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.

Martin Luther, The Small Catechism (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2017)

One of God’s good First Article gifts to us is the gift of places to gather, to work, to remember. Concordia Historical Institute is one of those places because of this building that we have. While the architecture and style may fall into and out of style as the years pass, the fact remains that it is the means God has chosen to work through in order that we could recall and rejoice in His saving work among the North American Lutheran churches. And, because of the generous support of our friends and members, we will be able to continue this ministry of remembrance long into the future.

Notes

[1] Hari Vanhoefen: Social Security Death Index (SSDI) Death Record.

[2] “Dr. Van Hoefen Dies After Week’s Illness,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat (St. Louis, Missouri), Tuesday, December 17, 1940, pg 17, web, accessed November 9, 2022, https://www.newspapers.com/image/573453946.

[3] The National Archives at Fort Worth; Fort Worth, Texas; Enrollment Cards, 1898-1914; NAI Number: 251747;  Record Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs; Record Group Number: 75; web, accessed November 9, 2022, https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/60543/images/43873_2421401757_0304-00005.

[4] “St. Louis Then and Now: The Flying Saucer Building on South Grand Boulevard,” Riverfront Times, December 9 2019, web, accessed November 10 2022,  https://www.riverfronttimes.com/arts/st-louis-then-and-now-the-flying-saucer-building-on-south-grand-boulevard-32711345.

[5] “Thematic Survey of Modern Movement
Non-Residential Architecture, 1945 – 1975, in St. Louis City,” City of Saint Louis Cultural Resources Office, City of Saint Louis, Missouri, July 31 2013, web, accessed November 10 2022, https://irma.nps.gov/DataStore/DownloadFile/582032.

CHI seal and plaque on building exterior.

 

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Staff Spotlight: Molly Lackey

“Because of sponsors like you, I am able to financially support my husband’s seminary education while doing what I love. I get to see first-hand how important your partnership is as I work to maintain and share our Lutheran history, whether that’s through designing graphics and researching for a new Facebook post, building on an online exhibit, or digitizing photos from the mission field. Every day, I get to do something that helps our church remember and celebrate her past. I love that!”

-Molly Lackey, Social Media and Special Projects Assistant


Concordia Historical Institute’s Multimedia Collection

A real (not staged!) cart of a recent researcher who visited CHI. He viewed documents, photos, film video, and microfilm in connection with his project.

Concordia Historical Institute maintains and makes available a lot more than just paper documents and books. CHI has an extensive media collection with vinyl records, reel-to-reel audio, CDs, film, VHS, and DVD video, slides, film negatives, photographs, original artwork, art prints and reproductions, and many, MANY artifacts!

The Church has used and continues to use new forms of media as they become available and popular in the broader culture. By studying these various types of sources, we can see how the Missouri Synod has adopted a variety of ways to share the Gospel with the nations.

Additionally, CHI is working to preserve and, in some cases, digitize potentially fragile or historically significant pieces. We will highlight one of these projects, relating to LCMS missionary activity in Japan, during a later week.

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