First Lutheran Church launches public campaign to Save the Bell Tower

First Lutheran Church in Over-the-Rhine, along with a group of community partners, have officially launched a public campaign to save the bell tower of the 19th-century church structure. FLC leadership agreed to hold off on emergency demolition orders, if the necessary funds can be raised by June 5.

First Lutheran Church, near 12th and Race streets on Washington Park

After initial reports that the structure was subject to demolition, public outcry led to offers of help from the Greater Cincinnati community and beyond.

The building, adjacent to Washington Park in OTR, has been home to the congregation since 1895, and also serves as a welcoming community space for dozens of arts, human services, and nonprofit organizations to rent at little or no cost. In 2019 alone an estimated 20,000 people came through the doors for events unrelated to First Lutheran.

Restoration and stabilization of the bell tower will include the build-out of an elevator shaft at the street level, making the 126-year-old building ADA compliant.

The estimated cost to restore the Bell Tower is $3 million. To date, the campaign has identified nearly $1.5 million toward this goal. 

Pastor Brian Ferguson, who has led the congregation since 2014, has seen the need the community has for the building and is optimistic that the funds can be raised in time.

“The founding members of the church stated they wanted a church, not just for themselves, but a church for the whole city,” Pastor Ferguson said. “The ability to not only save the bell tower, but make it ADA compliant and accessible from the street level will allow us to serve a broader community.”

There have also been appeals based on the void removal of such a distinctive tower would leave in the Over-the-Rhine skyline.

Tax-deductible donations and pledges can be made directly to the “Save the Bell Tower” fund at First Lutheran Church, Cincinnati Preservation Association, and OTR A.D.O.P.T.

Read more from our April print issue of Movers & Makers.

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