In the spring of 1889 the architects Herman Paul Schnetzky and Eugene R. Liebert were hired to design a new church building for the congregation. On July 28, 1890, the new building, a High Victorian Gothic structure with a seating capacity of 1100, was dedicated. Two massive steeples, one 197 feet high and the other 127 feet high, give character to the front. The original pure color of the Milwaukee Cream City brick, and the lavish decoration reaching up to the cross on top, add grace and beauty. There are three bronze bells donated by Fredrich Bues, weighing more than12 thousand pounds. The bells are still rung by hand, calling all to worship.
The design of our building was inspired by the Gothic churches of Europe, especially those of France, built in the time period from the 12th to the 16th centuries. Visitors will see large stained glass windows and pointed arches, two features common in Gothic architecture. The vaulted ceiling, made up of a series of pointed domes, is patterned after a rare type of Gothic architecture found in the Angers region of southwestern France.
The delicate-looking altarpiece is the focal point of the church interior. Both the altarpiece and the pulpit (custom made in Germany) are masterpieces of the woodcarver’s art. The tip of the canopy above the pulpit is 30 feet above the nave floor.
The lectern (also imported from Germany), is made of bronze and brass and shaped to look like an eagle. The eagle is the Christian symbol for St. John the Evangelist, and is also representative of all the Gospels that are read from the lectern.
The symbols of the Christian church, featured in the hand carved wood originals on the altar, serve as a continuous reminder of biblical history. On the right is St. Paul, holding a sword to remind us that he was executed for his faith, probably with a sword. On the left is St. Peter, holding keys which are attributed to him and the other disciples by Jesus when he said (in Matthew 16:19) “…and I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven…”
The stained glass window in the west transcept shows four of the major Old Testament prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. The four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are depicted in the east transcept window.
The pipe organ is often called the king of musical instruments. The nearly 2500 pipes of the St. John’s organ live up to that expectation. The pipes range in length from just a few inches to more than 16 feet. Our organ was specially built in 1890 by Carl Barkhoff of Salem, Ohio to take advantage of the fine acoustics of the church. Since then it has been rebuilt only once. in 1919.
In 1909 the original gas lights in the church were replaced by a series of electric light bulbs. Over 800 individual fixtures were installed surrounding every arch in the ceiling of the nave.