Union Congregational Church is the oldest church in St. Louis Park, having been formally organized in March 1883.
Its history began in about 1870 when Sunday services were held at Pratt School at Excelsior and Wooddale. A Mr. Hartwell of Minneapolis had suggested to his pastor, Rev. Dr. H.A. Stimson of Plymouth Church that the area was ripe for missionary work, since no churches existed. An 1881 account credits Mr. Edward C. Clarke of Minneapolis with establishing and maintaining the Sunday school. Mr. Clarke died in 1874.
In 1878 Clarke Chapel, a branch of Plymouth Church in the City of Minneapolis, was built on land bought from Mrs. Margaret (Charles) Scott. Mrs. Scott was a sister of Joseph Hamilton, and was left a widow in about 1865 with six sons. Her property was purchased with funds donated by Christopher Hanke and John S. Bradstreet of Minneapolis. The site is now that of Most Holy Trinity. At the time it was the only church building in all of Minneapolis Township. The building measured 30 x 48 feet, and cost about $1,400 to build and furnish. Mr. G.B. Shepard was the superintendent of the chapel in 1881.
In 1883 the congregation was renamed “Union Congregational Church of Minneapolis” and the name of the building itself was changed from Clarke Chapel to Union Church. The church sponsored branch Sunday schools in Hopkins, Edina, and “across the marsh among the factories.” There were with 17 charter members, including pioneering families the Bastons, Craiks, and Hankes.
In 1893 Joseph Hamilton donated some land at the corner of Oxford and Alabama, across from Lincoln School, and at his urging the decision was made to move the building. They say Emily Rixon didn’t approve of the move, since the present location was very close to her house, so they waited until she was away at the World’s Fair in Chicago to move it.
The undated photo above was captioned “New church crowds out the old” in Something in the Water.
In 1894 the congregation pitched in to put a new roof on the building. During construction, the church rented the Village Hall for two years. The debt was eventually cancelled by the Village Council.
In 1885 the Women’s Missionary Society was formed, to become known as Ladies’ Aid. Mrs. Ora Baston said that “the organization was the center for most of the social activities of both St. Louis Park and Edina.”
A 1923 program calls the church Community Congregational Church.
In 1939 the church got permits to dig a basement and connect to the Village water system.
That church building was used until May 1941. When the current church at Oxford and Alabama broke ground, lo and behold, Mrs. Emily Rixon, age 82 and a charter member, is pictured holding the shovel. At that time it was still referred to as Community Congregational Church. The building permit indicates that the cost was $700. The new church building was dedicated on September 14, 1941, and Mrs. Ora Baston burned the mortgage at an anniversary ceremony in 1945. Conditions were still crowded, and Sunday School classes had to be held at Lincoln School.
Confirmation Class, 1940s, courtesy Gail Martinson. Minister is Einar Martinson.
A new wing was dedicated on February 24, 1952.
Union Church, 1953 – Minnesota Historical Society
Also see the chapter in Something in the Water.
The church’s Web site is http://www.unionslp.com/