Minneapolis church could be considered historic landmark

- City planners are recommending that a church in the Shingle Creek section of North Minneapolis be designated as an historic landmark. Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church was first organized in 1923, at a time when African-Americans faced restrictions on where they could live in Minneapolis.

“They had to live in this area, and they wanted a place to worship out here, so they started a church here on this spot,” said Rev. Gaither Robinson, the church’s pastor.

But for many years, church members worshipped in a basement with only a garage on top as an entry point.

“At that time, the congregation was worshipping in the basement and didn’t have enough money for the building,” Robinson said. “So, they got a loan and moved this building here, and it’s been here ever since.”

Before it was moved to the corner of 51st Avenue North and James Avenue North in 1968, the building once served as the home of the Hope Lutheran Church and was a schoolhouse in Osseo.

Not much is known about the building’s origins, so the designation serves more to recognize the sacrifices and challenges the church’s founders faced in the 1920s. They settled in Shingle Creek, and many achieved the milestone of owning property when other parts of the city were closed off to home ownership by African-Americans.

Robinson believes the designation would have other benefits as well, serving to protect the church from potential relocation due to changes in the neighborhood.

“We were kind of nervous that sooner or later, they were going to want this area, too, and that would mean we would have to try to relocate, and the finances are just not available for a relocation at this time,” Robinson said. “Just for the sake of knowing we won’t have to worry about ever being moved out, that’s critical.”

The full city council would have to approve the designation before it becomes official. The designation could also make the church eligible for funds to help maintain the building.

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