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Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Avondale

Massive Restoration Of Logan Square’s 109-Year-Old ‘Red Church’ Nearly Complete

Also this month, Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church is holding its annual Taste of Norway celebration with Norwegian treats and crafts.

Scaffolding up at Minnekirken, 2614 N. Kedzie Ave.
Courtesy of Matt Nygaard
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LOGAN SQUARE — The restoration of the 109-year-old Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church, one of the most recognizable buildings in Logan Square, is drawing to a close after months of construction.

Since June, construction crews have been rebuilding the church’s crumbling brick facade and making other structural and cosmetic upgrades to the tune of $725,000. It’s the first major renovation of the church since it was completed in 1912. That work is coming to an end later this month, church treasurer Matt Nygaard said.

When crews remove the scaffolding covering the church, they’ll unveil a completely restored church facade with mortar original to the 1912 church and updated copper framing around the steeple, among other upgrades, Nygaard said.

Also this month, but likely before construction is complete, church leaders will hold their annual Taste of Norway celebration 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 20 at the church, 2614 N. Kedzie Ave. Like in previous years, the event will feature traditional Norwegian treats and crafts, such as handmade Nyssa hats, Havreflakk cookies and Scandinavian porridge and a rosemaling demonstration. Proceeds will benefit the church.

This year’s event will double as a celebration of the renovation project. Because there were no unforeseen costs during construction, church leaders were able to make additional improvements that weren’t part of the original scope of the project, such as rebuilding the parapet wall that flanks the front of the church, Nygaard said.

The event is also momentous because last year’s gathering had to be canceled because of the pandemic.

“It’s just a chance to get together and celebrate that the project went as well as it did,” Nygaard said.

Credit: Eric Allix Rogers/Chicago Architecture Center

Before the renovation project, the church was in a state of disrepair. Most notably, its brick facade was falling apart, endangering church-goers and passersby. But the church also suffered from water damage and other forms of structural decay.

Church leaders were worried about the “long-term stability of the church” ahead of the big changes — and heavy construction — coming to the square, including the long-anticipated traffic circle rework and the construction of the Grace’s Furniture boutique hotel.

“With heavy, earth-moving machinery expected to operate not far from the church’s doorstep, there is an increased sense of urgency to further stabilize the physical structure of Minnekirken,” the church leaders said in an online fundraiser in 2020.

The renovation project was a lifeline for the church, which is a hub for Chicago’s Norwegian community and a neighborhood staple. The church has hosted community meetings for decades. Its location on the square makes it highly visible to neighbors and visitors.

Minnekirken was completed in 1912, making it one of the oldest ethnic churches in Logan Square. It’s just one of two churches in the United States where Norwegian is the primary language spoken.

The church’s original stained glass windows were restored in 2016 thanks to donations from neighbors and Logan Square Preservation, a neighborhood group dedicated to the preservation and beautification of Logan Square.

Church leaders received a $250,000 grant last year through the city’s Adopt-A-Landmark program to bring the renovation project to life. The rest of the funding came from the church’s coffers and more than $100,000 in donations.

As the extensive rehab project nears completion, church leaders have launched a smaller fundraiser for additional restoration work. The fundraiser, which has a goal of $30,000, will pay for a new railing and side gate and repairing and repainting the church’s original windows.

All of the improvements will ensure the church is around for another 100 years, church leaders said in the fundraiser.

To buy cookies and other treats online in advance of the Taste of Norway, go to the church’s online store.

Credit: Provided
A historic photo of the Logan Square church.

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