St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church is the oldest LCMS church in Topeka; it was established in 1874 in response to mission efforts to Germans in eastern Kansas. The church was originally established in 1877 at the corner of Second and Van Buren Streets, in a small stone building that served as church, school, and even parsonage for a few years. In 1888, St. John’s replaced the stone building with a larger brick structure on the same site.
By 1934, during the Great Depression, St. John’s had again outgrown its building. Members of the congregation elected to build a new church at the corner of Ninth and Fillmore Streets, where the church now stands. The new church was dedicated in 1938, and the project was paid for completely just eight years later.
The church continued to grow. As a result, several daughter congregations were established, including St. Paul’s in Oakland (1942), Faith Lutheran and Hope Lutheran (1948), and Christ Lutheran (1961). During that time, St. John’s continued to expand its own facilities, acquiring property and adding educational and multipurpose space. The most recent additions and renovations were completed in 2009.
The history of St. John’s has also been marked by strong involvement in Lutheran education in Topeka. The church operated its own school, St. John’s Lutheran, from the first year of its existence until 1952. In 1952, Topeka Lutheran School was launched. St. John’s remains an active member of the Topeka Lutheran School Association, which also includes Faith Lutheran and Christ Lutheran.