Humble Beginnings: Concordia's First Construction Projects

March 6, 2012

In celebration of Concordia's 130th aniversary of service to others, we're periodically posting excerpts from our history book. Additionally, each issue of our "Faith in Caring" magazine features a page on Concordia's history, as told by those who were part of it.

In case you haven't seen any of our "Humble Beginnings" posts before, Concordia started as an orphanage in 1881. The excerpt below is about Concordia's first building project. Enjoy!

With the administrative side in place, the first order of business was to construct a new building to house the children (Mrs. Oertel would continue to live in the original homestead). Pastor Brand presented plans for a new building, one of which was modified and adopted. Pastors Brand and Walz, along with Mr. Myers and a Mr. J. F. Brueggemann, were appointed to the Home's first Building Committee. They eventually awarded the building contract to Mr. John Doerr, who finished the building on July 15, 1883, less than seven months later, for $3,970. Members of St. Luke gave him a willing hand by carting the building materials and excavating the cellar without charge.

And so, on July 23, 1883, the Home was dedicated and welcomed its first children the very next day. Interestingly enough, the first to be admitted were two sisters, Wilhelmina, age 8, and Anna, age 5, Jahnke, whom Mrs. Oertel had taken in a year and a half before the Home was built. It would seem that Mrs. Oertel, knowing that the Home would follow eventually, had started providing for orphans as early as 1881.

As soon as the building was completed, the trustees turned their attention to providing a school for the children. Initially, classes were held in a small room for the five children who entered the Home on July 29, 1883, then on the second floor of another building that had been erected in 1884. A more permanent schoolhouse was completed in June 1885 and Mr. Henry W. Lensner was engaged as the first teacher.

By the end of 1884, there were almost 50 children in the Home, stretching its capacity to the extreme. Five years later, a second building was constructed in 1889. It was a two-story, T-shaped building where the entire first floor served as a dining room and kitchen, and the second story divided into a storeroom and bedrooms for boys only. The original building was made into the girls' bedrooms. Within a few years, the dining room again became too small, and the building was extended with another two-story addition.

Other early buildings erected on the farm included a laundry, the bakery, the workshops and the shed, which were in addition to the original Oertel barn. It wasn't long, however, before two more wings would be added to the main building to accommodate all the children.


Concordia Lutheran Ministries is a CARF-CCAC accredited Aging Services Network and recipient of the inaugural Pennsylvania Department of Aging Excellence in Quality Care Award. As one of the largest, most financially secure senior care providers in the country, the organization serves over 20,000 people in the western PA region annually through home care and eight inpatient locations. Concordia offers a lifetime continuum of care that includes adult day services, home care, hospice, medical and rehabilitation services, memory support, personal care, respite care, retirement living, skilled nursing, and medical equipment capabilities. For more information on any of the services or locations, visit us at our website, call our administrative headquarters at 724.352.1571 or e-mail us here.

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