By Joann M. Ringelstetter
In June of 2010, Ruth and I visited the city of Coleraine, Minnesota in search of a couple of old churches that were on the National Register of Historic Places. We weren’t exactly sure where they were, so in the interest of saving time, I stopped and asked a man who was tending to his flowers in the front yard. He kindly told me that the two churches were located close to each other and they were just down the street on Cole Avenue.
As we drove along Cole Avenue, the first church we saw was the Methodist Episcopal Church, known as “The Stone Church.” When it was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, it was described as “easily the largest and most impressive religious edifice on the Western Mesabi Iron Range.”
This church was built from 1908-1909 as both a church and a Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). The YMCA portion of the building contained a parlor, an office, a reading room, and a gymnasium with shower facilities.
According to the plaque in front of the church, “the town fathers felt that the young people of the community should have an alternative to visiting the liquor establishments in nearby Bovey during their leisure time.”
The architectural style of this church is the rather rare “shingle style.” This style is uniquely American and it originated in the 1870s in the northeastern coastal resort towns of Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Newport, Rhode Island.
This style typically included continuous wood shingles on the roof and siding with roughhewn stone for the foundation and lower levels. For this church, coursed fieldstone was gathered from within two blocks of where the church was built.
The plaque in front of the church states that the cornerstone of the church, which was laid in 1908, contains a capsule of artifacts that were collected during that time period. It also states that the church has been privately owned since 1974.
As we walked around the church taking photographs, we were saddened by its current state of disrepair. However, we understand how challenging it must be to have the financial means to keep up with the repairs that are necessary on historical structures such as this.
We continued down Cole Avenue and quickly found the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, also known as “The Log Church.” This church was built in 1908 and it was the first church to be completed in Coleraine. The construction of this church was supervised by John C. Greenway, the general superintendent of the Oliver Iron Mining Company, and the style and construction resembled his company quarters.
According to the plaque in the front of this church, “the logs used in the construction of the church were taken from one of the few remaining patches of virgin timber in the area. The interior of the church is built entirely of wood, including the cathedral ceiling. The altar rail and lectern are made of birch logs, still in their natural state.”
The plaque also states that “the large stained glass window at the rear of the church was donated by Greenway as a memorial to his young nephew, Addison White Greenway, who drowned in a hunting accident.”
Regular church services were discontinued in 1982 due to declining enrollment. A few years later, the church was deeded to the city of Coleraine. The city soon developed a preservation plan and the church has been lovingly maintained ever since. Special services and events are held at the church and the proceeds are used for continued preservation.