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San Francisco Landmark #39: Saint Francis Lutheran Church
9 June 2003
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San Francisco Landmark #39
Saint Francis Lutheran Church
152 Church Street
Built 1905

Although it was built in 1905-1906, Saint Francis Lutheran Church did not acquire its current name until 1964.

The style of the building is authentically Danish - Gothic architecture modified in the Nordic tradition. It is built of red brick over a wooden frame. The steeple is wood. The foundation and steps are stone. The sanctuary houses copies of two masterpieces by Danish sculptor Berte Thorwaldsen.

Danish immigration to California began in the San Joaquin Valley and gradually moved to Fresno and then north to San Francisco and the Bay Area. For many years, religious services in San Francisco were performed by Lutheran clergy dispatched from Fresno.

Around 1900, when the Danish community in San Francisco had reached a size to warrant its own church, the community wrote to Queen Louise of Denmark asking for financial assistance. Queen Louise sent a gift of 500 Kroner which formed the basis of the building fund.

Construction began in 1905, and by the spring of 1906, the main floor meeting hall had been completed and was in use although the sanctuary above was still unfinished. The Earthquake on 18 April 1906 damaged the sanctuary, but the main floor was intact and was used by the Red Cross as a hospital and shelter for the injured and homeless.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the area around the church was populated mainly by Scandinavians and Germans. For many years, the neighborhood supported five Lutheran Churches, each holding services in a different language: Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, German.

Over the years, as English became the common tongue and memories of the Old Countries faded, the various Lutheran congregations merged. In 1964, a Danish and Finnish congregation merged and named the new congregation in honor of the City's patron saint, Saint Francis Lutheran Church.

It is the only Lutheran Church in the world with this name.

Source: Adapted from City Planning Commission Resolution 6666 dated December 10, 1970.

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