Linden Hills church nominated for historic register

Credit: Michelle Bruch

The Lake Harriet Spiritual Community — a domed Linden Hills church built in 1916 — is applying for national historic status at 4401 Upton Ave. S.

“It’s largely intact,” said Alex Haecker, an architect who is assessing the property’s condition.

He recently climbed a series of ladders to access the top of the dome structure, pointing out where repairs were made following a lightning strike in 1992.

“It’s in great shape,” he said.

Haecker said the good condition is partly thanks to Gary Perisian, a carpenter who serves as president of the center’s Coordinating Council. Since funding for maintenance is limited, Perisian has worked to patch up the structure where needed, and he recruited volunteers to set up scaffolding and paint the sanctuary. But Perisian said there are a few things volunteers can’t do, like repair the cracked stained glass windows. He said they plan to write grants for restoration funding.

“Two years ago, we decided to focus on getting the building restored and getting on the National Register,” he said.

According to the nomination:

In the early 1890s, Lake Harriet was still considered the “countryside,” far removed from Downtown’s mills and shopping. Lots in Linden Hills cost $100, and many incoming residents built small cottages at the back of their lots until they could afford to build larger homes.

The neighborhood developed as a streetcar village on the Como-Harriet line. Between 1895 and 1905, Linden Hills grew from 60 to 700 residents.

The Lake Harriet Methodist Episcopal Church started meeting in cottages in 1904. Members built a church for themselves at 44th & Upton, but quickly outgrew it within eight years. They decided to build a new church in the Classical Revival style.

“Selection of the style by Lake Harriet Methodist Episcopal Church in 1916 was in the context with the church’s desire to be a prominent civic entity and played into Minneapolis’ desire for classic and grand architecture,” states the nomination form.

The Classical Revival style was popularized by the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, though it is relatively uncommon to see in religious buildings. Minneapolis leaders were impressed by Chicago’s “City Beautiful” movement, characterized by classical architecture and picturesque urban planning, and made their own attempt at urban renewal. (The Minneapolis Institute of Arts was one of the buildings that materialized from those plans.)

In its early days, the Linden Hills church hosted community events like Suffrage rallies, sewing circles benefiting the Red Cross, and meetings for groups like the Boy Scouts and Odd Fellows.

The original congregation relocated to a larger site at 49th & Chowen in 1954, and the First Church of Divine Science of Minneapolis moved in. The church supported itself by renting out space until outside community members outnumbered Divine Science members, voting to dissociate from the Divine Science affiliation in 1989.

The leaded stained glass windows were originally built by the Minneapolis-based glass company Ford Brothers (their successor is Gaytee-Palmer Stained Glass, based in Northeast).

Today, Lake Harriet Spiritual Community is a non-denominational worship center. It’s also home to Devanadi Yoga, which offers yoga classes and wellness therapies, and is the first Minnesota center to be certified by the Green Yoga Association.

“It’s such a landmark in the neighborhood, and it’s been there almost 100 years now,” Perisian said. “I think a lot of people come there because of the building.”