Editor’s note / correction: The original post did not state that Bob Roscoe is a paid consultant on this project. Per streets.mn editorial policy #14, possible conflicts of interest should be disclosed before publication. streets.mn regrets the error.
Many places of worship are built for unambiguously ecclesiastic use for the religious function of its parishioners. Many of us at various times of every day, subconsciously measure our everyday lives by a Gothic-inspired architectural form of a steep roofed main structure with a high narrow steeple reaching up to the sky.
Architectural historian Alan Lathrop observes in a world caring little for its history, religious structures are the one unchanging element, the part of the built environment that rejects change and destruction.
Very significant for our collective culture, in rural areas we see the steeple form among farm fields miles away. We approach the church and become aware of its prominence that gives identity to its hamlet. In dense urban neighborhoods, close to a street the church steeple functions as a local marker for the houses and shops around it.
Most of these religious buildings give not only a place for worship but hosts community events such as art fairs, local meetings and performances. And very often a neighborhood church came into being as a necessary gathering place for immigrant peoples seeking a cultural foothold in their new land. As time passes, the neighborhood develops awareness of the church’s architectural elements that informs its ethnic past and enriches the community and the city around it.
However, history can be foreclosed by certain human events.
A Romanesque Revival-Byzantine church at 1030 Como Avenue in Saint Paul, the former Saint Andrews Catholic Church, was designed by notable Saint Paul architect Charles Hausler. Saint Andrews has been regarded as one of the most beautiful places of worship in the Twin Cities. However, its owner, the Twin Cities German Immersion School, has proposed to demolish the building, due their estimate of maintenance costs and proposed replacement for a gymnasium.
A neighborhood advocacy group, Save Historic St. Andrews, opposes the potential loss of their beloved neighborhood landmark, and has gathered professional expertise to contradict those cost estimates and repair items. Save Historic St. Andrews has offered to conduct a re-use study but the immersion school has rebuffed their offer.
The Saint Paul Heritage Preservation Commission voted overwhelmingly to recommend heritage designation of Saint Andrews to the Saint Paul City Council.
Historic preservation today has provided re-use of many churches that once served traditional congregations. The emergence of non-traditional religious organizations has become an important re-use source. Many former traditional churches and synagogues have become converted into community meeting sites, schools, events centers and other non-religious uses.