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Sunday December 10th 2017

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Will Another Important Building Be Demolished by Children’s MN?

BY HARVEY WINJE

“In 1916, the cornerstone was laid for the Messiah Lutheran Church at the intersection of East 25th Street and Columbus Avenue in South Minneapolis. It was designed by Harry Wild Jones, a leading Minneapolis architect.

“Today, the two-story red brick Gothic Revival structure rests comfortably within this mildly compact urban environment and is still serving its original religious purpose though no longer for a Lutheran congregation which began In service to a Northern European immigrant community. Now the building hosts Mennonite and Latino immigrant congregations.” (see Harry Wild Jones, Architect Messiah Lutheran Church: Deserving Historic Preservation” by Bob Roscoe The Alley Newspaper, April 2017, pg. 6)

If Children’s Hospitals MN fulfills their plans, that Sanctuary will soon not be there. The block of Phillips Community bordered by Chicago and Columbus Avenues and East 25th and 26th Streets was devastated a decade ago by the surreptitious purchase and land clearing by Children’s MN.  Twenty-six homes, a church, and an automobile service station were eliminated in order to build a 700 car parking ramp and a building for clinics.

This demolition was in direct violation of the signed 14 block Land-Use Agreement between the Phillips Community and Allina Health, Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Phillips Eye Institute, Children’s MN and their successors. The block that was demolished, Block 5, was described as follows in the Land-Use agreement: “This block contains a desirable level of mixed use commercial and residential that should be maintained. Keep up appearance and rehab buildings as necessary.

The only buildings escaping that major development in 2006 were Messiah Church and the 95’ long store-front building at the corner of 25th and Chicago Ave., originally built by Dr. O.A.Olson, who lived at 2516 Chicago Avenue.  The stores burned soon after the initial land purchase by Children’s MN and was demolished.  Now only the 100-year old Messiah Church Sanctuary remains.

This distinctive sanctuary is owned by the congregation of Messiah Church though they worship at 2400 Park Avenue South and rent to other congregations as noted. Children’s MN has initiated efforts to have the Messiah congregation, as the current owner of the structure, demolish the building and sell the lot to Children’s MN.  Ironically, in a Church history written in the 1950’s, Messiah’s Pastor Marbury Anderson explained, “It was for the children that Messiah Lutheran Church was born.” (“Preserving Immigrant History” by Lindsey Fenner, The Alley Newspaper, April 2017, pg. 6.) Though not the publicly stated reason, this request that the Messiah Congregation demolish the building may be to “escape” the wrath Children’s MN received from the neighborhood a decade ago over the demolition of what is called “Block 5”. (see reprinted Block 5 article below). The Messiah Church Sanctuary, designed by famous church architect Harry Wild Jones, is currently being considered by the City of Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Committee for Preservation status.

For further information on the demolition of Block 5, see the excerpt below by Julie Miller, “Hospital land grab angers Phillips residents” published in The Alley Newspaper  May 25, 2006. It is the introduction to a Special Section in that issue.  That Special Section and the full text of the  Land Use Agreement abrogated by Children’s MN can be read at alleynews.org  Articles by Bob Roscoe, Lindsey Fenner, and a comment by Messiah’s current Pastor may be read at alleynews.org/archives.

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