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Local church celebrating sesquicentennial

By Staff | Jul 6, 2009

The church as it appears today, right. When it was built it cost members $12,622.75.

The Blue Earth Post of September 9, 1897, called the Presbyterian Church “…an architectural poem.” New stanzas continue to be added as the church and its congregation celebrate its sesquicentennial.

In observance of the event, church members, dressed in identical tee shirts, will be participating in the Giant Days Parade on Saturday, July 11. The church will also be open to the public from 2-4 p.m. that day. Other events planned for the weekend include a special church service, Sunday, July 12, in which former pastors will participate. Those scheduled to appear include Rev. John Pehrson who served the congregation from 1980-1984 and Robert Maharry 2007-2009. Also in attendance will be Sue Collier representing the Presbyter level of the church. An invitation-only dinner to be served by the Blue Earth Trinity Lutheran women will follow the service.

The congregation dates its origin to March 7, 1859, when it held services for 16 members in the dining room of the log hotel, later known as the Metropolitan then Constans Hotel, which stood on Main and Fifth Streets. The founder was the Rev. J.E. Conrad, who had been an itinerant pioneer Presbyterian minister in southern Minnesota. He became the first pastor of the church and served until 1866. At first, meetings were held at the hotel, at homes of members and in public buildings in the community.

In 1866, the congregation built one of the first church buildings in Blue Earth at a cost of $2,781.81 It was a frame structure that stood on the northwest corner of Sixth and Moore Streets. At intervals, other congregations also used the building, until it was sold to the St. Paul Lutheran congregation in 1897.

Construction of the current structure began that same year with the laying of the cornerstone on September 20. The church building is a classic application of the Akron plan of church design in which all areas of the church can be opened to the main auditorium. The auditorium was designed to seat about 300. By raising the paneled doors at the left of the congregation, seating can be increased. At a cost of $12,622.75, which did not include the lighting fixtures, the church was completed and dedicated on January 30, 1898. It stands, basically unaltered from the original plan, on the southwest corner of Sixth and Galbraith Streets.

Lifelong church members Doris Kessel (left) and Kayla Richey share memories about the adults only Mariner Club.

The architecture is Romanesque in arched windows, Gothic in the steeples and gables and medieval in the towers. Kinney and Orth, Austin architects, designed the building.

The one physical change to the sanctuary is the pulpit platform added in 1950. An altar was designed to fit with the pulpit and lectern. The wall behind the platform was paneled with oak and a choir rail was added. A baptismal font was placed in front of the congregation, near the pulpit.

The stained glass windows were part of the mill-work package which also included the quarter-sawn oak woodwork and pews. All of which are original.

“One of the major changes that took place over the years involves the social hall and kitchen which used to be on the second floor,” says longtime church member John Plocker. “In 1946, the basement was excavated and the social hall and kitchen were moved downstairs. A bathroom and nursery were also added. At the time, the kitchen was one of the finest and was much better than most other church kitchens.”

For more of this story, see this week’s Register.