In 1867, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, currently located at 1125 South Barr Street, decided to split into two congregations in order to better serve its members in the growth to the west of Fort Wayne. This new congregation adopted Emmanuel as the church name and petitioned to join what is today known as the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. St. Paul’s presented the new congregation with the property in the 900 block of West Jefferson, on which a house and a two-room school already stood. With this simple school began Emmanuel’s commitment to Christian education and service to its members, and the neighborhood in which it still stands.
Emmanuel, as both a church and school, grew and prospered over the years adapting to the changing face of society. In the 1950s, as many churches were leaving downtown, Emmanuel resolved to stay where its roots were, in the heart of Fort Wayne’s West Central Neighborhood. Also in the 1950s, fifty-four families, members of Redeemer Lutheran Church, wanted a place of worship closer to their homes in the Time Corners area. St. Michael Lutheran Church was then established in 1953 on Getz Road. By the fall of 1954, St. Michael Lutheran School began kindergarten classes and experienced steady growth in the congregation and school.
In 1962, Emmanuel and St. Michael Lutheran Churches formed the partnership in education which continues today. The school was named Emmanuel-St. Michael Lutheran School, also known as “ESM”. At that time a new gym/auditorium, a meeting room with kitchenette, a stage, showers and three classrooms were either built or remodeled at the school property at Emmanuel.
As the school enrollment grew to require two classrooms for each grade, classroom space was developed on the property of St. Michael Lutheran Church. In 2001, grades K-2 moved to what has come to be known as our “Getz Road Campus”. With God’s blessing of continued growth in enrollment, grade 3 also moved to Getz Road in 2013. In 2018, the congregations voted to bring the early childhood programs at both Emmanuel and St. Michael under the direction and leadership of the ESM interparish school board. Prior to this move, each congregation operated their own pre-schools independent from ESM.
Today, ESM is unique in Fort Wayne, as we are ONE school on TWO campuses. Our Getz Road Campus, on the property of St. Michael Lutheran Church, is home to grades PS, K-3. Our Union Street Campus, on the property of Emmanuel Lutheran Church is home to grades PS, 4-8. Throughout our history, a Lutheran education at ESM has established Christ firmly at the center of life and seeks to connect children and families to the grace freely offered by our loving Savior.