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Marcy-Holmes' First Congregational Church of Minnesota Preservation Project Completed

Via an August 17 News Release:

First Congregational Church of Minnesota Celebrates the Completion of its Building Preservation Project, Made Possible by one of the Largest Historic Preservation Grants Ever Given by the Minnesota Historical Society.

On Sunday, August 27, 2017, First Congregational Church of Minnesota, United Church of Christ, will celebrate the completion of its most recent historic preservation project, paid for in part by a $387,000 Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage grant administered by the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS). The grant is one of the largest historic preservation grants ever awarded by the MHS.

With its dramatic steeple, which can be seen from I-35W and beyond, First Congregational Church has long been a landmark in Southeast Minneapolis. The church was established in 1851 as the First Congregational Church of St. Anthony and the current structure was dedicated in 1888. It was built out of Lake Superior red sandstone quarried from Bayfield, WI, and was designed by noted church architect Warren H. Hayes. 

In addition to the towering spire, notable architectural features of the church include a sliding wall between the sanctuary and the adjoining social hall; a sloping, circular floor plan; many “Richardsonian Romanesque” elements that were popular at the time; and dramatic stained glass windows designed by the art director of the Tiffany Glass Company.

Now nearly 130 years old, the church building has required extensive maintenance over the years, including replacing the steeple after a lightning strike and adding an accessible side entrance. The goal of the most recent project, conducted by Macdonald and Mack Architects, was to make the building water tight. Elements of the project included patching and reinforcing stones, repointing mortar joints, adding new slate shingles on the three minor spires, repairing or replacing roof ridges, and repairing storm windows. One highlight of the project was when workers discovered three beautiful stained glass windows that had been covered up by storm windows.

Penny Petersen, author of Hiding in Plain Sight: Minneapolis’ First Neighborhood, said preserving the church is important for appreciating the history of both the city and the state. “Many prominent city and state leaders attended First Church, including three-term Governor John Pillsbury and University president Cyrus Northrop,” she said. “It’s a beautifully designed, well-loved building that plays an important role in our history and in our visual literacy.” 

Jane McBride, Principal Minister, said the building improvements will allow the congregation to continue its work in the community. “Even as we restore slate, glass and sandstone, we work to integrate our ministry with our building and to cultivate a vision of opening this space more authentically to the wider community,” she said.

The August 27 celebration will begin with a litany of blessing and thanksgiving at the 10:00am worship service and continue at 11:00am with refreshments and tours of the church. All are welcome to attend, explore the building and see firsthand how this historic church is continuing to play a vital role in the present community.

About First Congregational Church of Minnesota

First Congregational Church of Minnesota, United Church of Christ, is a progressive Christian community that gathers to listen, speak and then act, with a spirit of compassion, justice and stewardship. The church is located at 500 8th Avenue SE, Minneapolis, in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood.

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