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Minnesotans gave these three old churches surprising second lives

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Omara Dunigan wasn’t looking for herself. She was browsing commercial property listings for a client. But when her Detroit Lakes real estate agent saw her century-old church from afar, which she had long admired, she sent the list to her with a note that read, “I want it.” I sent it to my husband.

After more than a year of renovations that included redoing the scalloped ceiling and rebuilding the 65-foot-tall spire, the church was transformed into a chapel house. Event center and accommodation rental There are three bedrooms and a huge kitchen island in front of the nave.

Population movements have led to church buildings being abandoned for decades, especially in rural areas, but the pace has accelerated in recent years as congregations in Minnesota and the United States age, shrink, and close. I’m here. 2021, Lifeway Research examined 2019 data About 30 Protestant denominations have closed 4,500 churches across the country. The pandemic has only accelerated this slide.

Often some of these empty churches are being sold at sale prices and have been taken up by creative buyers who turn them into living spaces. A viral Tik Tok video documenting the event has garnered nearly half a million likes.

Minnesotans are one of the people who breathe a second life into these often historic sites.But as well as remaking them into single-family homes, some of the latest reimagined church buildings include a brewery on the banks of the Cannon River and restaurant in Parham, Minnesota.

spectacular setting

After purchasing the church in Detroit Lakes, Dunnigan researched its history. She learned that it was originally called Salon Norway her Lutheran Church. It was consecrated in 1909 and served in Norwegian and later in English.

By 1960, Dunnigan learned that the congregation had dwindled and the church had closed. It was abandoned for over 20 years.

In the 1980s, a family purchased the church, moved it to a farm about a mile away, and repaired the roof, spire and windows. It moved again in 2000 and became a nondenominational church called Chapel on the Hill, which held services on Sundays during the summer. When Mr. and Mrs. Dunnigan purchased his 2021 home, it had no insulation, no heating or air conditioning, and a working sewage system.

That didn’t deter them.

“When we came in, we said, ‘OK, this is worth saving,'” Dunnigan said. “The scalloped ceiling, 24 feet high, and unique shape certainly stood out. It’s only 5 minutes away.It’s out of town but you can see it up to 5 miles away when you’re driving.It’s really striking and beautiful.You can’t miss the spire.It’s pretty spectacular.”

More than 200 people attended Chapel House’s September open house, many of whom told Dunnigan,

The meeting place

Tracy Vranich’s small-batch brewery didn’t have a name in 2015 when she and her co-owners were looking for a place to start their business. The buildings they found by the Cannon River in Dundas would eventually provide the following buildings: chapel brewing.

The space underwent many changes before it became a taproom, Vranich learned from its latest owner, the photographer who used it as a studio and edited newspaper clippings about its past.

It was built after Plymouth Brethren traveling evangelists converted JP Hummel, a German immigrant and former Lutheran, to the faith, a prominent Dundas farmer and shopkeeper, Vranich said. Hummel called it the Gospel Hall, where he ran a Sunday school until his death in the 1930s.

“He built this place where our brewery is now in 1880 as a gathering place,” she said.

After Hummel died, the township purchased the building and turned it into a town hall and polling place. Branich said it remained that way until the 1990s, when a photographer bought it.

When the brewery owners renovated the space, they wanted to showcase the building’s history. They hung salvaged pendant lights and installed new hand-carved columns in the bar. Recently they painted the exterior the original white.

“Now we are in this friendly, warm and welcoming space. We invite people to come and get to know beer, fellow beer congregations and nature,” said Vranich. . “Basically, following in JP Hummel’s dream and his footsteps, so many years later, that’s what we’re doing now.”

Made for Micro Weddings

Some churches are irreparable. A Cambridge couple repurposed the altar, pulpit, baptistery and stained glass windows of a dilapidated Norwegian Lutheran church. , built its own church. small chapel on their land.

Stacey Smith showed the carpenters to borrow pictures from Pinterest to help design the structure. She and her husband currently rent it out for small weddings of 16 people or less.they call the chapel prairie angel. (Visit must be pre-arranged as it is on-site.)

From a book about a church originally in North Dakota, Smith learned that the altar they had preserved was the work of a Norwegian immigrant named Arne Berger. who painted portraits and altars Across the Midwest from 1893 to the 1930s. Two of Berger’s granddaughters came to see the altar at their new home this summer.

Smith and her husband are obsessed with the little chapel.

“We’ve renewed our ten-year vows here,” Smith said. “It was like a present.”

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