Minnesota Architecture: Muskego Church in St. Paul

Today’s nomination for our series celebrating Minnesota architecture was actually constructed in Wisconsin. But today it stands on the campus of Luther Seminary in St. Paul.

Muskego-Church.jpg

Muskego Church

photo by Mike Hazard

Photographer and documentarian Mike Hazard nominated the Muskego Church, which has been the setting for two of his documentaries, including one on Robert Bly.

The spirit of Muskego Church always moves me. It is a log cabin composed of 200 trees. Built in 1844 in Muskego, Wisconsin, near Racine, it was the first Norwegian Lutheran church in America. In 1904 it was taken apart and moved to the campus of Luther Seminary in St. Paul where it was reassembled piece by piece. You can find numbers on the ends of some planks. Muskego, which means sunfish in Potawatomi, is still used as a sanctuary for worship and weddings. I love to sit in it. Inside is a throne-like chair carved out of a single trunk of wood which has human teeth embedded in it.

The Luther Seminary website has this to add:

Fathers and sons cut down, cleaned and hauled over 200 trees while mothers and daughters went searching for moss for the chinking. All this was done in the midst of the immigrants’ fight for survival. Even while they were hunting for food, building their own shelters and gathering wood for heat throughout the winter, they built this house of worship.

The congregation sat divided-men on one side, women on the other-in this unheated building. The lay leader, or “klokker,” sat on the men’s side in front and helped lead worship.

In 1904, it was moved to the campus of Luther Seminary piece by piece and now stands as a reminder that it was the people who sat in these pews who had the vision for this seminary as a place where pastors would train. Their descendants still come to take care of the old building on a regular basis. It is still used as a sanctuary; for worship, weddings, baptisms and ordinations.

The church was also the subject of a profile in American Woodturner magazine, which you can read here.

Interested in nominating a building for the Minnesota Architecture series? Just send a photo or two, along with a few lines on why the building appeals to you, to mcombs@mpr.org.

  • Maureen Anderson

    Too bad the original log chapel of St. Paul, built by Father Galtier in the 1840’s, was taken apart and moved to the top of the hill where St. Joseph’s Academy was being built. Evidently some workmen didn’t realize it was to be re-assembled there and burnt it for firewood.