this spot in 1680, Father Louis Hennepin first sighted and
named the Falls of St. Anthony. Our Lady of Lourdes Church
is the oldest continuously used church in the city of Minneapolis.
It was designated a U.S. historic landmark in 1934 and is
the first parish in the United States named in honor of Our
Lady of Lourdes.
superstructure of the church clearly shows two different types
of architecture. The original building, the front rectangular
nave, which is the part from the side doors back to the inner
glass doors, was constructed of native limestone by the First
Universalist Society between 1854 and 1857, in a Greek temple
style, as can be seen in the enlarged photo on display in
the vestibule of the church. Twenty years later, in 1877,
the building was purchased by the Catholic French Canadian
community, which had been a part of St. Anthony of Padua parish,
the first Catholic parish in Minneapolis. This community has
worshipped here continuously for over 120 years.
first parishioners added a mansard style transept to the east
end of the building. This addition changed the design to that
of a French Provincial church, which is one of seven French
styles of architecture used for the construction of churches
in Quebec. Other early additions by the parishioners include
a bell tower, sacristy, and a vestibule with steps. In 1881
a one-ton bell was purchased. It strikes the hours, the Angelus
and the Mass times.
Stained glass windows were installed in the late 1890's and
early 1900's, one pair at a time. Although many of the name
plates are from the original families or groups that donated
them, some of the names were lost many years ago when the
plates were broken.
1968 Our Lady of Lourdes Church was scheduled to be closed
and boarded up. Minneapolis City Council members, recognizing
the value of the building as the focal point of the future
development plan for the Eastbank area, which now includes
Riverplace and St. Anthony Main, persuaded both Archbishop
Leo Binz and Coadjutor Archbishop Leo Byrne to keep the church
open and functional until the area around it could be developed.
over 30 years our parish has been involved in a complete renovation
and restoration of the church buildings, inside and out, with
the purpose of bringing them to the strength, beauty, and
splendor which their original architects envisioned.
1977 a local stained glass company removed all our windows,
straightened them, repaired cracks, replaced broken pieces
and braced them in such a way that they will be kept firmly
in place for many years to come. At that time several previously
lost name plates were replaced with the names of persons and
families who have been of major help in the present restoration
1980 the total restoration of the interior of the main church
was completed, to the design determined by our architect historian
as the one which most closely matched the goals of our founding
1987 an elevator was installed in our church building, providing
easier access to each level. The sacristy, the ground level
Petite French Hall and the Great Hall were restored in the
style of the period to which our church building belongs.
1989 a large and efficient flash freezer was constructed to
accommodate our French Meat Pies (Tourtieres). In 1991 a melodious
set of carillon bells was donated to our parish and mounted
in the church tower, and a Rose Window was installed high
on the North wall of our church, facing Hennepin Avenue. The
major figure of this illuminated window is that of Father
Louis Hennepin, as he first viewed and dedicated this area
to his beloved St. Anthony. Various scrolls in the church
recognize those who offered gifts or memorial donations to
our Restoration Fund.
1992, the former rectory was totally restored and converted
into much-needed offices and classrooms. In 1994, exterior
work on the church was started with masonry tuck pointing.
Work continued in 1995 with stained glass window sash and
frame repair, gutter and soffit replacement, and trim painting.
A restoration was completed of the Blessed Virgin's grotto
above the front entrance to the church. This included new
steel support beams, plaster work, and roofing. Additional
lights were added to the church to highlight its beautiful
interior. In 1997 the church pews were stripped of many coats
of dull brown paint and re-stained to a natural wood finish
allowing the warmth of the old oak to shine.