The historic “Red Church” in Logan Square needs your help
Chicago’s Minnekirken undergoes major renovation
Block Club Chicago
One of the most recognizable buildings in Chicago’s historic Logan Square—the 108-year-old Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church, or Minnekirken—is in dire need of renovations.
Its original brick facade is falling apart and has been for years, and with major construction coming to the area soon, church leaders say now is the time to stabilize the building to prevent further damage.
Last month, church leaders kicked off a renovation project that aims “to ensure the long-term stability of the church” ahead of the big changes—and heavy construction—coming to the square, including the long-anticipated traffic circle rework and the Grace’s Furniture boutique hotel.
“With heavy, earth-moving machinery expected to operate not far from the church’s doorstep, there is an increased sense of urgency to further stabilize the physical structure of Minnekirken,” the church leaders said in an online fundraiser launched Jan. 26.
The renovation project will cost about $527,000 in total, according to church leaders. The church’s online fundraiser is trying to bring in about half of that amount: $277,000.
Church leaders are expecting the other half to come from an Adopt-A-Landmark city grant. They said the church has been conditionally awarded the $250,000 grant. A city official couldn’t be reached for comment.
If the grant comes through and the fundraiser is successful, the money will go toward rebuilding masonry piers and ornamental masonry, historic repointing of the entire facade, reinstalling steel cramps and anchors, repairing and rebuilding masonry parapets on either side of the tower, and repairing the decorative sheet metal and copper copings and roof flashings, according to the fundraiser.
Congregation President Beverly Covyeau said it’s an “extremely big project” and one that requires removing the facade’s original bricks one by one, cleaning them up and putting them back. The sanctuary, however, is in good shape and doesn’t need renovations, she said.
“Looking at [the church], it looks fine. But structurally, it’s not,” Covyeau said.
Covyeau said the church spent $20,000 on stabilizing the church facade over the summer, but that it was only a short-term fix.
“Right now, it’s stabilized. I don’t want anybody to think they’re in danger of getting hurt walking through. Exactly how long [will that last]? I don’t know. … Water gets behind it. Things change,” she said.
The long-term fix could be a long way off. Church leaders have an ambitious fundraising goal that could take months to meet. Covyeau said the fundraiser will stay up “as long as we need it.”
In the fundraiser, church leaders call on members, neighbors and supporters all over the country and in Norway and Canada to chip in. The church is unique in that it’s one of just two churches in the United States where Norwegian is the primary language spoken. It’s also one of the oldest ethnic churches in Logan Square.
“Over the years, Minnekirken has become beloved by many who have passed either through or by our doors. Whether you grew up with the church, attend our annual Taste of Norway cookie sale or simply enjoy seeing ‘The Red Church’ on the square, we hope you will consider making a contribution to this campaign,” the church leaders wrote.
If realized, this would be Minnekirken’s first extensive renovation since it was built in 1906, Covyeau said.
The church’s original stained glass windows were restored in 2016, thanks to neighbors and Logan Square Preservation, a neighborhood group dedicated to the preservation and beautification of Logan Square.
Minnekirken is situated at 2614 N. Kedzie Ave., in the middle of two major upcoming projects.
The city is planning to rip up the notoriously dangerous Logan Square traffic circle and replace it with a better design. Developers are also converting the long-vacant Grace’s Furniture building into a 44-room boutique hotel with two restaurants. Construction on the hotel is expected to start in the spring. There is no official start date for the traffic circle rework.
To contribute to the Minnekirken fundraiser, visit: charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/for-the-next-century-far-det-neste-arhundre/norwegian-lutheran-memorial-church.
This article was first published at blockclubchicago.org.
This article originally appeared in the February 21, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.