By Linda Dillman
A stately brick church near the eastern edge of Obetz celebrates its 150th birthday in two years and, while it no longer serves congregations, it continues to serve the area as a village historical asset.
In 2018, the village of Obetz purchased the Groveport Road church, which was constructed in 1873 as the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church. In 1962, the church was owned by the Obetz Christian Church before it joined the village inventory.
According to Jacob Gifford, the village wanted to ensure the preservation of the building and its legacy before another buyer came along. Obetz saw the purchase as an opportunity to successfully preserve a part of village history.
The Romanesque Revival-styled church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. It was certified as a locally significant property that embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction.
In 1821, a log church was built approximately 200 yards from the present church and a smaller brick church was constructed west of the log church in 1844. It served until the current structure was built 30 years later.
Under the leadership of Reverend Professor Emanuel Schmid, the congregation purchased the site for the new church for $200 from the cemetery association and it was built for $9,000. A series of stained-glass windows line the walls and an eagle lectern was added around 1900.
Three years later, in 1903, an additional nearly half acre was purchased for $75 for use as a hitching post. It now serves as a parking lot.
Gas lights illuminated the church in 1913 followed by electric lights just three years later. The parish hall—not included in the national register—was constructed in 1925.
After 86 years, the Lutheran congregation sold the church and the parish hall to the Christian Church for $42,000.
According to the National Register nomination, a bell from a one-room schoolhouse was donated in 1967 and installed the following year. In 1979, the Christian Church paid off the mortgage. The parish hall was dedicated to the memory of Rev. Karl Dawson, who was the founding pastor of the Obetz Christian Church.
“When Obetz purchased this property, the white building (Dawson Hall) and the gravel lot were also included,” according to Gifford. “Obetz has effectively turned the gravel lot into a much-needed truck turnaround. This will now serve as the last chance turnaround for trucks before they get to the (railroad) underpass. This improvised turnaround has saved the village hundreds of thousands of dollars, as a truck turnaround project in that area has been estimated to be over a million dollars.”