St. Martin’s Evangelical Lutheran Church (Austin, Tx) is an inclusive Christ-centered community of faith committed to sharing God’s love in worship, witness, learning, service and support. Centrally located in the heart of downtown Austin, St. Martin’s is blessed with a rich and rewarding history and future. From its beginning, St. Martin’s has been built on a foundation of faith, hope and the desire of “Sharing God’s Love.”
St. Martin’s Lutheran Church began in 1883 through bimonthly German Lutheran worship services. Rev. Henry Merz, a missionary from Switzerland who came to Texas after the Civil War, conducted the first Sunday services. Three months later, a congregation selected the name Deutsche Evangelische Lutherische St. Martin’s Kirche (German Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Martin’s.) St. Martin was a 3rd century bishop, Martin of Tours, France (11 November 397). Martin gave his life in service to the poor and oppressed. Dr. Martin Luther, leader of the Protestant Reformation, and name sake of the Lutheran movement, was named after Martin of Tours as they hold the same baptismal birthday. 400 years after the birth of Dr. Martin Luther, St. Martin’s Church in Austin was formed.
Throughout the congregation’s history, St. Martin’s has had 3 different structures built in downtown Austin. The first location on East Peach Street (later 13th St.) was built in 1884 – three months prior to the laying of the cornerstone of the state capitol building. Handmade bricks from the original capitol building, which was destroyed by fire, were used in the construction of the Peach Street location. After 45 years, the state capitol required and purchased the land of the church for its own expansion. A second location on 14th Street was selected. A white stone Gothic structure was erected and dedicated on April 28, 1929. St. Martin’s beautiful wooden altar, hand carved in 1929 by a company in Wisconsin, was purchased and installed in the sanctuary. St. Martin’s growth abounded yet again and just as the church was considering acquiring more property, the State again decided to expand the capital complex into the 14th Street location. In 1957, after selling the property to the State, St. Martin’s purchased the current site on 15th Street. The cornerstones of both the 13th Street and 14th Street churches were removed and placed in the front wall of the new church at 606 West 15th Street on January 3, 1960.
The Romanesque edifice at 606 West 15th Street was dedicated on March 27, 1960. The structure was graced with stained glass windows, a chapel, gymnasium, offices, fellowship hall, and youth rooms. At the time, the new church was the largest church building project undertaken in Austin and the American Lutheran Church.
Peter Mansbendel was contracted in 1930’s to carve a large walnut banner “God is love” that now resides in the cafeteria.