Sunday, March 01, 2015

The "Little French Church"* on the river in downtown Minneapolis: Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church may be in danger.

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church
Our Lady's sanctuary since 1877.
*Actually, French Canadian.

This lovely, historic, little church is once again threatened - by developers.

I saw it on local news.  Developers want to build a huge apartment tower and the corner, adjacent to this lovely jewel of a church.  It was originally built by Univeralists in 1857 - a year before the Blessed Virgin Mary even appeared to the little St. Bernadette at Lourdes.  French Canadian Catholics purchased the church twenty years later in 1877.

The redevelopment of the riverfront area was initially opening up the area to commercial and residential use in the late 1970's, and historic buildings were subsequently reinforced, especially after the construction of apartment towers and condos overlooking the Mississippis and downtown Minneapolis which altered the stability of existing structures.  It's a beautiful area of the city, adjacent to downtown.  It is my understanding that the structural integrity of church was threatened by excessive shaking and had to be reinforced during the construction of new buildings and underground parking.  Before that, the church was also threatened with closure by the archdiocese.  To avoid confusion and misstatement about that history by me, let me reprint an excerpt from Our Lady of Lourdes website on the history and what is happening.
Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Community has been a vital part of the original St. Anthony Village and later this first neighborhood of Minneapolis since 1877. The historic church of which we are most proud dates back even further, to the year 1857 when it was completed by the Universalist Society. Twenty years later it was purchased by the French Canadian Catholic Community who sought their own worship space. Their descendants worship here today, among parishioners and friends from all walks of life, all ethnicities, and from every part of the Twin Cities. Our historic church is the oldest continually used church in Minneapolis and our parish was the first in the United States to be named for the Lourdes Apparition. In 1934, the Department of Interior recognized “the exceptional historic and architectural importance” of our church, declaring it a national historic landmark. Our Lady of Lourdes is indeed a “precious jewel” not only for our community, but also for our neighborhood and the city of Minneapolis.
In the late 1960’s, city planners of Minneapolis as well as leaders of our parish urged Archdiocesan leaders to allow Our Lady of Lourdes to remain open as the planned redevelopment of the neighborhood had the church as its centerpiece. One can clearly see the wisdom of this planning in the many unobstructed views of the historic church throughout the neighborhood. Parish and city leaders were persuasive and today Our Lady of Lourdes is at the heart of a vibrant and growing neighborhood of Minneapolis. Our Lady of Lourdes welcomes growth and development, yet we will strongly advocate for the protection of this precious jewel when it is threatened. As we have an important duty to safeguard this beautiful national landmark for our community and for generations to come, we strongly oppose the current plans for the development of the Nye’s property, immediately adjacent to our historic church. We do so for several reasons. - Read more here.
Rectory and church.

Where things are at right now.

Though the neighborhood association has approved the project, the city council as well as the Heritage Preservation Commission must give final approval.

The Neighborhood Association approved the plans Wednesday night with overwhelming support, but the new construction could have a big impact on an old church. 
The call to Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church has rang loud and clear for more than 160 years. Built in the 1850s, the historic frame is showing its age. But there’s real concern time isn’t the biggest threat. 
“It’s important to us to say we’re opposed to thedesign of this particular project,” Deacon Thom Winninger said. 
Winninger is worried about plans to build a 29 story apartment building next door once Nye’s Polonaise shuts down this summer. The close proximity to the church property is one thing, but the real worry is construction’s impact on the building’s integrity. 
“Its physical structure is going to be threatened by this development,” Winninger said.
Years ago, construction of the River Place project forced the addition of metal reinforcements for the old sandstone blocks. 
“As they drill and hammer to get the bedrock, will this not continue to happen?” Winninger wondered. “How do we reinforce the top of this building?” - CBSLocal

Please pray for the preservation of a historic and spiritual treasure in Minneapolis.  Please contact Our Lady of Lourdes here if you can help in any way.

Go to Our Lady of Lourdes website to learn more.

You may also contact Councilman Jacob Frey here to let him know your concerns:

Jacob Frey
350 S. 5th St., Room 307
Minneapolis, MN 55415

St. Bernadette, pray for us!


  1. At first I thought you meant the other little French church, the one in downtown st pau. Louis, Louis, whoa, whoa, King of France!

  2. If the US Govt has designated it a national historic landmark, that should help; both that and the city's original plea to the Archdiocese to keep it open, along with the Church's restorations to date will assist. A possible outcome is that the builders will be responsible that their work and their building do nothing to harm Lourdes.

    I was across the street from Nye's today, buying lunch meat, polish, rye bread and sauerkraut so I can make a sandwich for mom not to eat and bring her polish and sauerkraut not to eat. I'm worried.

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