2210 Franklin Avenue SE, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55414

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St Panteleimon Russian Orthodox Church

Primary Façade of St. Panteleimon Russian Orthodox Church
St. Panteleimon Russian Orthodox Church
Address: 2210 Franklin Avenue SE
Neighborhood/s: Prospect Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota
City/locality-
State/province
Minneapolis, Minnesota
County-
State/province:
Hennepin County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year built: 1905-1906
Primary Style: Greek Revival
Additions: Later addition to the eastern facade
Moved from Location: Five lots on Block 26, north of the intersection of Delaware and Pleasant Streets. Today this is just south of the eastern approach to the Washington Avenue Bridge where the Coffman Memorial Union is located.
Historic Function: Religious/Place of worship
Current Function: Religious/Place of worship
First Owner: Greek Orthodox Church
Notes: The neighbourhood of Prospect Park was proposed to the National Register as The Prospect Park Residential Historic District in 2012, but has yet to be formally designated.

Prospect Park Minneapolis Hennepin County

2210 Franklin Avenue SE, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55414
(44.96439° N, 93.208326° WLatitude: 44°57′51.804″N
Longitude: 93°12′29.974″W
)


St. Panteleimon Russian Orthodox Church in Prospect Park is a church building with a vibrant history spanning decades and denominations. Its role as a neighborhood church serving the community has endured through locational and denominational changes.

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Contents

History

The history of ownership, denomination and location of the church building is outlined chronologically in the sections that follow, in as much detail as was possible through the researched information available.

The Greek Orthodox Church of Minneapolis, Minnesota (1906-1909)

The church was built for the Greek Orthodox congregation of Minneapolis, between 1906 and 1909. It was a modest timber frame structure with a front facade similar in appearance and design to that of the very first Greek Orthodox Church constructed in the United States, the Holy Trinity Church, built in New Orleans in 1864. The original building measured approximately 50 feet by 23 feet to accommodate the small congregation of approximately 150 Greeks in the Twin Cities.Sufficient funds had been raised and construction began in 1905, with the laying of the cornerstone in November of that year.

The church site was on what is today Washington Avenue, south of the eastern approach to Washington Avenue Bridge. It was chosen for its proximity to both Minneapolis and St. Paul, for accessibility for the congregation. The site included five lots, which today form part of the University of Minnesota East Bank Campus, roughly where the Coffman Memorial Union stands today. The combined lots formed a site 30,000 square feet in area. The church was completed in 1906, and services commenced in that same year by the first resident priest of the community.

The lifespan of the church on that site was short-lived. The university had plans for campus expansion, and negotiated a purchase settlement for the land in 1908, with rent free use of the building on the site until June 1909. By that time the Greek congregation had purchased more land on Lake Street in Minneapolis, and St. Mary's Church became the new home of the Twin Cities Greek Orthodox congregation.

The alter from the original little church building was moved and incorporated into the new St. Mary's church on Lake Street. The original church stood on its site along Washington Avenue until purchased by a Lutheran congregation in 1912.

Prospect Park Norwegian Lutheran Church (1912-1932)

The former Greek Orthodox Church was purchased from the University of Minnesota by the Protestant community of Lutherans. The building was relocated from its site on Washington Avenue to its current site at 2210 Franklin Avenue SE, Prospect Park in 1912. It was remodelled and positioned on a stone platform, atop a newly built basement. The first Lutheran Service at the church occurred on Sunday, June 30, 1912.

Prospect Park Community Baptist Church (1934-1956)

It appears that the ownership of the little church was then transferred to a Baptist congregation in 1934. Pastor Curtis Akenson became pastor of the Prospect Park Baptist Church in the Fall of 1937. The church congregation was a subgroup of the Bethany Baptist Church of the Swedish Conference. The congregation allegedly thrived under his leadership. Upon his departure from Prospect Park in 1939, the congregation rejoined the larger Bethany Baptist congregation, and the church building stood empty. It is understood that the addition to the eastern façade of the building occurred while under Baptist ownership.

Blueprints, dated October 1941, were produced showing plans for a Sunday School annex to the Prospect Park Baptist Church building. It appears that construction of the addition proceeded to basement and stone base level as per the drawings. Thereafter the superstructure seems to have varied from the intended design, for reasons unclear. The addition we see today differs at first floor level from that intended in the 1941 blueprints.

Pastor Curtis purchased the Church property in Prospect Park from the Bethany congregation, to prevent its use becoming something which in his opinion was contrary to the thrust that his congregation had tried to put to the community through their neighborhood church. The building stood vacant of a congregation until he was approached by a professor from the University of Minnesota with a connection to the Russian Orthodox congregation that was to own the building next. St. Panteleimon Russian Orthodox congregation took ownership of the church property in 1956 .

St. Panteleimon Russian Orthodox Church (1956-present)

In 1956 the church was purchased by a small immigrant Russian Orthodox congregational community, and consecrated in that same year. It is part of the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia, an independent order with headquarters in New York. The church was named after St, Panteleimon, meaning "all-merciful". Saint Panteleimon dedicated his life to the sick, needy and misfortunate. The congregation was meeting in a member's home in the Prospect Park neighbourhood four years prior to officially calling the church building theirs.

Very little exterior change other than maintenance has been done to the building since it was purchased in 1956, other than the addition of some features that reveal that St. Panteleimon's is Orthodox. These featured changes include the addition of a bell tower, and two onion domes, one above the pediment and a large one mounted to the main roof of the building. A windstorm toppled the larger dome from the roof in March 2012, causing some structural damage to the roof. Religious text is painted adorns the architrave on the front façade.

Stained glass windows were removed from the original building's east and west façades, and built into the structure of the new Greek Orthodox church on Lake Street. Four of these were returned home to St. Panteleimon when St. Mary's Lake Street was razed in 1955, and have been reinstalled. Clear glass fills the remaining windows.

The interior reveals apparent adherence to tradition with numerous Russian Orthodox features. The walls feature murals and framed portraits of religious icons. The mural on the wall above the alter depicts Jesus Christs and the angels, Michael and Gabriel. The church has only four pews lining the perimeter of the building, provided for the elderly during the liturgy. The majority of the congregation stand for the duration of the service.

The church caters to the Russian community in the Twin Cities, with services held in Russian and English. The current priest, Rev. Fr. Antony, has been with the congregation since 2012.


Architectural Style

The church building is designed in the Greek Revival style, fronted by a portico supported by four columns with a pediment. The Greek Revival style emerged in the late eighteenth century in America, promoted and made popular by Thomas Jefferson. The style is a departure from the traditional Byzantine style of Orthodox architecture.

The Greek Revival Style can be most easily recognized on this building by the pitched roof with the gable end turned towards the front façade. The gable end thus becomes the pediment, and starts to suggest a monumentality to the building. Although a simple architecture with minimal decoration, this building exhibits this feature quite clearly.

The regular rectangular block form of the building references the simple proportions of Greek temples. The original building material is timber, but has since been plastered in stucco. The white front porch is completed with a simple but full width pediment supported by Doric columns.

The primary façade of the original building faces the street and most clearly represents the Greek Revival Style of the church. The gable end of the pitched roof is turned to the primary façade. Through simple decoration and embellishment extending across the building width and standing proud of the façade, the gable is articulated and becomes the pediment. Although not exhibiting a full entablature, religious text is inscribed along a basic architrave, with a cornice above. The chimney is not visible from the front of the building.

Windows on the front façade are trabeated, meaning they have horizontal lintels, a clear Greek Revival characteristic. This is in contrast to the stained glass windows on the east and west façade of the building, which are round-arched, and thus less true to the style. Keeping with the overall modest aesthetic of the building, the façade exhibits fairly heavy carved timber window and door surrounds, with entablatures mimicking that of the main pediment, albeit simple. The entrance door is centred on the front façade. A stained glass transom window appears above the door, but no sidelights occur on this façade. A circular window occurs on the main pediment, though partially obscured in the image by the single onion dome topping the porch pediment.

Constructed from timber, the external façade is finished with stucco. The building is constructed upon a rusticated yet coursed stone base with a plastered and painted apron upon which the structure rests.

Five cast concrete stairs lead up to the entrance door beneath the porch. The porch is supported by four concrete Doric columns. The columns have a simple capital and base, connected by a smooth and tapered shaft. The church is painted a light yellow, with architectural detailing further enhanced by being painted white in color. The onion dome is painted silver, and detailing on the porch pediment makes numerous religious and symbolic references through painted verbal inscriptions and a circular painted image of a religious deity.


Role as a Community Church

The role of the church as a community church serving its neighborhood has been consistent from the days of the Greek Orthodox Church near modern-day Washington Avenue to the Russian Orthodox Church on Franklin of today.

The first St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church served as a place of familiarity for the fledgling Greek community in the Twin Cities during the early twentieth century. Community and social events that celebrated the Greek culture were facilitated by and hosted at the church building.

Following that it was the brief home of a congregation of the Norwegian Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, a well-established denomination in the Midwest.

Subsequently, it is clear from accounts by Pastor Curtis B. Akenson that the Prospect Park Baptist Church was felt to be a positive and noticeable player in the community life of Prospect Park in the mid-1990s, and the congregation flourished in the neighborhood.

Today, the church building is once again home to an immigrant population, the St. Panteleimon Russian Orthodox congregation. The church is clearly rooted in the minds of the surrounding community, with residents commenting favorably on the quaint and beautiful character of the building. As I observed, some members of the congregation arrive for church services on foot, indicating that they live in the neighborhood, or fairly nearby. Once again the church provides a place of familiarity to a community new to the United States, and provides a gathering place for Russian people to practice their religion and culture. The church hosts bake sales and other events that foster a sense of civic participation, and provide a platform for sharing the Russian culture with the rest of the community of Prospect Park.

Memories and stories

Memory

Memories from St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church

According to memories recalled in records self-published by St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church, for Greeks in the Twin Cities at the time, the church was a connection with their homeland, and that which was familiar. It provided a place of community for the group, and made welcome newcomers from Greece to the United States, remembering the difficulties of adjustment themselves. It was a place where Greek could be spoken freely and understood, and became a general community gathering space for Greeks to practice their religion and culture, including preparing food. Today the religion remains with many, the cuisine has become a popular one, and remnants of the language are still in daily use as 'Greekness' integrated with the Yankee spirit. The church was the focal point of the community.

Memories from Prospect Park Baptist Church

In the oral interview recorded in 2000 and archived at the Minnesota Historical Society, Pastor Curtis B. Akenson (Pastor at Prospect Park Baptist Church from 1935-1939) recalls the role of the Baptist church in the community, and remembered it as a thriving and growing congregation.

He goes on to recount how he came to learnt of the St. Panteleimon church congregation still being based at the church in Franklin Avenue. He recalled that the new denomination had added features to the church, both interior and exterior typical of Orthodox religious buildings. He also noted how he was aware of the church community having become a consistent and integrated part of the Prospect Park community.

Photo Gallery


Related Links

St. Panteleimon Russian Orthodox Church website http://www.stpanteleimon.org/

St. Panteleimon Russian Orthodox Church Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/stpanteleimon

Notes

Sincere thanks to Rev. Fr. Antony Alekseyenko for his assistance in accessing information for this entry. Any errors are entirely the fault of the author.

I highly recommend a visit to the St. Panteleimon Facebook page for a lively and up-to-date account of the activities at the church

References

Saint Panteleimon Russian Orthodox Church: 60th Anniversary, Copyright St. Panteleimon Russian Orthodox Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2016.
The First One Hundred Years. St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church of Minneapolis, Copyright St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2000
Under the Witch's Hat: A Prospect Park East River Road Neighborhood History, 2003
--. "First Service Tonight in new Lutheran Church." Minneapolis Journal, June 30, 1912.
Betlach, Elvira. "S-E History told by Native Woman: The Greek Church." Minneapolis Argus, Volume 73 no. 39, October 3, 1963.
Betlach, Elvira. "S-E History told by Native Woman: Early Greek Church History." Minneapolis Argus, Volume 73 no. 40, October 10, 1963.
Boarini, Christeta. "'Act of God' mars Prospect Park icon: Minneapolis Russian Orthodox Church loses its Dome." Twin Cities Daily Planet, April 3, 2012.
Harris, Daisey. "Centuries-old Tradition is kept at St. Panteleimons." Minneapolis Tribune, Sunday December 7, 1980.

Blueprints, "Prospect Park Baptist Church Sunday School Additions" dated October 15, 1941. (Northwest Architectural Archives).
Oral History Interview with Curtis B Akenson, Baptist Pastor. Recorded March to April 2000. Minneapolis Historical Society Archive. Accessed November 1, 2016.  http://collections.mnhs.org/cms/largerimage.php?irn=10278263&catirn=10446640
Oral Interview with Rev. Fr. Antony Alekseyenko, October 27, 2016.


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