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St. John's Lutheran Church

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Harmony Society Church
1828–1831, attributed to Frederick Reichert Rapp. 1320 Church St.
  • (Photograph by Phil Squattrito, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The Harmonists' former church was redundant even as it was built, since the Harmonists held worship services in the nearby Feast Hall. Perhaps Frederick Rapp was nostalgic for the churches of his youth in southwestern Germany, or thought that a church was a fitting complement to George Rapp's house across the street. By the early 1830s, when the Harmonist community was wracked by internal turmoil and dissent, the familiar image of a Lutheran church would have been a reassuring symbol. Architectural drawings show Frederick's thought process as he designed the church. The building's rectilinear form and tower imply a longitudinal plan, but instead, he placed a pulpit at the center of the south wall and organized the pews around it to create a communal preaching space. Entrances at the tower end (women's) and the opposite, east end (men's) kept the sexes segregated, a common characteristic of pietist groups. The church's location on Economy's main street signaled to visitors the industry and success of the society. Its four-story, square bell tower, visible for miles, was used to mark the hours of the work day and summon the fire company. Today, under Lutheran ownership, the church has the processional plan that its exterior suggests, with the pulpit at the east end lit by a stained glass window.

Writing Credits

Lu Donnelly et al.



  • 1828


What's Nearby


Lu Donnelly et al., "St. John's Lutheran Church", [Ambridge, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 1

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, Lu Donnelly, H. David Brumble IV, and Franklin Toker. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010, 169-169.

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