The Catholic Church of St Peter - the Oldest Parish in Minnesota

By
Real Estate Broker/Owner with Kirby Fine Homes

 The Church of St Peterwas founded in 1840 by Father Lucien Galtier, a priest who was sent by the local Catholic Bishop to care for the settlers and Indian population. He was only 29 at the time, a newly ordained priest, and his territory extended all over Dakota County.

Located on the banks of the Minnesota River, the area was originally inhabited by the Dakota (Sioux) Indians. When settlers arrived in the early 1800's, they called the place St Peter. It wasn't until 1852 that the name was changed to Mendota, meaning "meeting of the waters". If you look on a map, Mendota is located where the Minnesota River and Mississippi River merge together.

The church shown in the photo was constructed in 1853, to replace the log cabin that had been used for the previous ten years. It was constructed with local limestone and hand-cut split shingles, and cost $4,500 to build.

The steeple has had its own share of excitement over the years. The original was very short and had no bell, being blown down in the 1880's. The next replacement was taller and had a bell this time, but it only lasted 65 years when a tornado came through and destroyed it. In 1953, the current tower was constructed to celebrate its 100 year anniversary.

You can imagine that a building this old would one day need to be restored. In the late 1970's a major restoration operation was begun at a cost of over $200,000. The limestone was cleaned, the steeple repaired, trusses and framework replace, etc. Today the "Historic Church" is only used for special events and weekday masses.

The Church of St Peter is a great architectural example of early church construction. It should be as it is the oldest Catholic parish in the entire state of Minnesota!

Comments (7)

Teresa Boardman
Boardman Realty - Saint Paul, MN
I did a feature post on this church last winter.  It is one of my favorites.
Sep 05, 2007 11:24 PM
Teri Eckholm
Boardman Realty - White Bear Lake, MN
REALTOR Serving Mpls/St Paul North & East Metro

Jennifer--Your historic homes series is wonderful. Are churches your next extension of the series? Wonderful information on St. Peter's and Mendota Heights.

Sep 06, 2007 01:26 AM
Jennifer Kirby
Kirby Fine Homes - Minneapolis, MN
The Luxury Agent

Teresa - I was visiting my husband's aunt yesterday in Mendota Heights and thought I would do a little exploring. I stumbled on it, as it's steeple is a beacon, and got a couple shots. I believe you and I are kindred spirits when it comes to Historic Architecture. I have loved old things for as long as I can remember!

Teri - I just launched a new blog called Historic Homes of Minnesota and will be highlighting all old houses, churches, and buildings on that site. I will still be posting them to Active Rain, and keep a historic house series on my real estate blogs as well. I just wanted to make a new blog to house all my historic posts and of course create some additional SEO. :)

Sep 06, 2007 02:19 AM
Sharon Simms
Coastal Properties Group International - Christie's International - Saint Petersburg, FL
St. Petersburg FL - CRS CIPS CLHMS RSPS
It's amazing to think that a structure like that could be built for $4,500 ... and that the renovations cost $200,000!  Good luck on your Historic Homes of Minnesota blog - the more the merrier.
Sep 06, 2007 12:09 PM
Jennifer Kirby
Kirby Fine Homes - Minneapolis, MN
The Luxury Agent
Thanks Sharon! The congregation had to do a lot of work to come up with that money. They did such a great job at consulting old church plans and historical documents that the church looks "original".
Sep 06, 2007 03:41 PM
Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi, MA, PSA, TRC - Greater Clearwater Florida Residential Real Estate Professional
Charles Rutenberg Realty - Clearwater, FL
Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Safety Harbor
Thanks for the post!!! Interesting church!!!
Sep 09, 2007 12:27 PM
Jennifer Kirby
Kirby Fine Homes - Minneapolis, MN
The Luxury Agent
Barbara Jo and Bill - thanks for stopping by. I love architecture, especially the old kind so I never tire of taking photos of local treasures.
Sep 12, 2007 08:02 AM