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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Sunday May 19th 2024

Harry Wild Jones, Architect Messiah Lutheran Church: Deserving Historic Designation


In 1916 the cornerstone was laid for the Messiah Lutheran Church at the intersection of East 25th Street and Columbus Avenue South in South Minneapolis, 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 still serving its original religious purpose, no longer for a Lutheran congregation which began as serving a Northern European immigrant community, but now for Mennonite and Latino immigrant congregations.

Messiah Lutheran”'s interior presents Jones”'s lavish use of wood, with pointed arches emblematic of the English Gothic Style, carved wood paneling, and an intricate stained glass window above and behind the altar lend the interior a graceful ambience. Perhaps the most splendid interior architectural feature is the system of wood hammer beam trusses, each characterized by series of sizeable vertical members with lathe-turned bases.

Harry Wild Jones became known as a church architect during his prolific career, totally 21 churches in Minneapolis. Nonetheless, Jones is better known in the architectural community as one of the most imaginative early twentieth century designers of public buildings, such as what is known today as Butler Square, the long ago razed Nicollet Baseball Park, Lake Minnehaha Yacht Clubhouse, Washburn Water Tower and many prominent residences. Seven of his buildings are locally listed historic landmarks.

At this time, three of his churches remain in their original design; eight have been significantly altered beyond their Jones architectural identity; and the others have been demolished. Messiah Lutheran Church is thus an important edifice in the historic testament of Minneapolis.

Two of the many prominent members of the Messiah Lutheran congregation are Luther Youngdahl and his brother Rueben. Luther Youngdahl was an American politician and judge from Minnesota. He served as an associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court from 1942 to 1946, then as Minnesota”'s 27th Governor, Rueben Youngdahl served as fifth pastor of Mount Olivet Lutheran Church.

Community historian Susan Hunter Weir assembled a very informative historic designation document for the Minneapolis City Council to hopefully nominate as a historic landmark. Her nomination form notes the scholarship performed by many architectural historians, including David Lanegran, Phillip J. Anderson and Dag Blanck, Larry Millett, and Elizabeth Vandam.

Marilyn Chiat, a national recognized expert on religious architecture, considers neighborhood churches as “enhancers of the built environment, cornerstones of many communities and evidence of this nation”'s ethnic and religious diversity.”

Historic designation, which this church so notably deserves, may provide cultural investment in the surrounding area, once home to many immigrants when the area was settled and continuing today.

Bob Roscoe is principal of Design for Preservation

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