Mount Olive Evangelical English Lutheran Church has a rich history. Their church building was originally an Episcopalian cathedral built in 1908. Mount Olive purchased the church in the 1950’s and have taken great care to treat it with love.
This brownstone church seats nearly 200 people and is full of character. The congregation took out an LCEF mortgage about 22 years ago and then embarked on a project to reverse the sanctuary, according to Mount Olive Rev. Robert Franck. “The congregation needed a larger narthex. It wasn’t possible to add on to the original front of the church facing the street,” said Franck.
The solution was quite ingenious. By reversing the sanctuary, the congregation was able to add new front doors which opened to a nice, large narthex. They also added offices and classrooms.
After paying off the loan early, several other projects needed attention. In addition to generous gifts from current members, an LCEF loan helped fund repairs that included a new furnace, a new stained glass window in the chancel, and most ambitiously, removing all the rest of the stained glass, cleaning it, re-leading, re-assembling, and finally, re-installing the windows. During installation, two clear layers of outer glass were added for protection and energy efficiency, especially for the winter months. “They look like new,” said Mount Olive Church Secretary Julie Jones.
The side windows—some of which are more than 100 years old—also had screens installed so they could be opened to provide better air circulation during the heat of the summer. To this day, the building does not have air conditioning so prior to their most recent project, the summer services could be quite uncomfortably warm.
The original stained glass windows feature several apostles. When the congregation realized that they would need an entirely new window, for the ‘new’ front of the sanctuary, they chose the image of Jesus. The new window is a beautiful complement to the older stained glass images along the sides.
The new and old aspects of this church building appear to be in great harmony. According to Franck, the congregation was even recognized by the Duluth Preservation Alliance for maintaining the architectural integrity of the structure amidst such a large renovation