An early church, St. Markus Evangelical Lutheran Church whose name reflected our German heritage, was built on Geary Street in Union Square on the current site of Macy’s.


June 24. Cornerstone laid for present church building, St. Markus Kirche, during the tenure of Rev. Julius Fuendeling, pastor for 29 years from 1883-1912. A German-American architect, Henry Geilfuss, designed the grand unique red brick church with Romanesque Revival style exterior and Gothic Revival interior.


March 10. Present building, costing $56,000, was dedicated. The chandelier from Germany and the Schoenstein organ, both donated by sugar tycoon Claus Spreckels, were transferred from the Geary Street Church to the new church. Ninety four years later, the chandelier was destroyed in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.


April 18. The devastating San Francisco earthquake and subsequent fires destroyed much of the city. Though the church was damaged (the east tower was weakened and the cross melted from heat of the fires), it escaped destruction and served as a refuge for victims made homeless. The church stood even after dynamite explosions were set off a block away at O’Farrell and Van Ness in an effort to stop the fires.


The chancel was refurbished for the 50th anniversary of the building’s construction.


Renovations to interior of church and installation of Moeller organ


Centennial Celebration of the founding of St. Mark’s.


Renovations to altar and installation of Ascension Window.


Martin Luther Tower residence for seniors and the Urban Life Center (containing auditorium, meeting rooms, and offices) were constructed during urban renewal of the Western Addition vicinity, as dilapidated Victorian houses made way for redevelopment. These two buildings, the plaza, and the existing St. Mark’s Church formed what became known as St. Mark’s Square.


St. Mark’s was designated San Francisco Landmark #41 in recognition of the church’s historical and architectural significance.


Launched “Vision ’87” fundraising program to restore the church and build a new front entry plaza and ramp.


St. Mark’s obtained full ownership of Martin Luther Tower.


Groundbreaking and dedication of new front entry plaza and ramp.


October 17. Loma Prieta earthquake caused minor damage to the church. City-mandated seismic retrofit was subsequently required for all unreinforced masonry buildings, including St. Mark’s.

June 4. Garrison Keillor gave benefit performance in sanctuary as a kick-off fundraiser to retrofit the church building.


Launched “A New Century Dawns” capital campaign for renovation of church.


Scenes for the Hollywood movie “RENT” filmed in St. Mark’s sanctuary.


Launched “Forward in Faith—Serving a New Century” capital campaign for renovation of church.


October 9. Opened a time capsule found by a worker under the church foundation soon after renovation work began. The copper strongbox was discovered in a large sandstone block snuggled under an arched brick niche. The fragile water damaged contents included several San Francisco newspapers in German and English, a German hymnal, a German copy of the Augsburg Confession, an 1863 US silver half dollar coin minted in San Francisco. The newspapers dated the time capsule as 1863. The capsule was probably brought from the previous church on Geary Street during construction of the present church. Our church archives indicate there is another time capsule sealed in 1894, probably encased within the old cornerstone of the present church.


Church building closed for $11 million extensive renovation and earthquake safety retrofit. (June 2005-December 2006)


December 10. Beautifully restored church reopened and rededicated in “Fling Wide the Doors” celebration following the extensive retrofit and restoration project. Despite the many improvements and complete restoration (including, structural systems designed to withstand earthquake forces, new slate roof, exterior repairs, expanded Heritage Hall, and new nursery, kitchen, bathrooms, flooring, plumbing, electrical, lighting, audio system, painting, stenciling, gilding, carpet, pew cushions, and magnificent organ) great care was taken to preserve and restore the exterior and sanctuary much like they appeared in 1895.


March 25. Dedication of tracker organ made by Taylor & Boody Organbuilders in Virginia and installed in balcony of sanctuary.


September 15. St. Mark’s awarded a 2007 Preservation Design Award by the California Preservation Foundation.


October 28. A new time capsule was sealed on Reformation Sunday for reopening in fifty years in 2057 by our future sisters and brothers in Christ.


Launched “Forward in Faith—Together in Mission” capital campaign to reduce renovation debt, and a tithe toward an elevator fund and ministry to our sister congregation in El Salvador.

Historical information is from documents and photos courtesy of St. Mark's Archives. Sources include: "One Hundred Golden Years in San Francisco: A History of St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church 1849-1949", Dr. J. George Dorn, 1949; "The Story of St. Mark's Square" by Rev. Ross Hidy, 1997; "Places in the Neighborhood", The New Fillmore, June 2000; "A Brief History of St. Mark's Lutheran Church" by C. VerPlanck 2001?; Heritage News, Jan/Feb., 2001; St. Mark's Lutheran Church 2006 Annual Report; The Smithsonian magazine, April, 2006.