Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Award-Winning Rehab at Garden of Gethsemane Church
Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman
Last week I was asked at the last minute if I was going to attend a session of Happy Hour with a Preservationist, this time at the Garden of Gethsemane church in Jordan's Cottage Park. The name of the event was something of a misnomer, however, as there were no drinks served that one would typically associate with the phrase "happy hour." We didn't even get a nip of communion wine.
But the preservation and rehab work done at this church made the evening well worth our time. The site has won several prestigious architectural awards, such as...
the "Best in Real Estate Award" by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal, the "Neighborhood Preservation Award" by the Minnesota AIA and the Minneapolis HPC, and the "MN Preservation Award" by the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota.
The Ackerberg Group was instrumental in making sure this was successful, so we thank them profusely for everything they do in NoMi. Here is their website detailing the rehab, including amazing "before" and "after" shots and a terrific narrative. I really encourage readers to check that out, because it'll save me the time of re-typing much of the history of this redevelopment. The website also has a comprehensive list of partners and links to their websites. The lead architect and structural engineer were integral to this process.
The Garden of Gethsemane is an extraordinarily appropriate name for this church given the colossal amount of work the church needed. The name comes from the site where Jesus and his disciples prayed the night before his crucifixion. It is said that Jesus' anguish was so deep that "his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling unto the ground." (Luke 22:43-44) That's the kind of effort I'm sure went into the restoration here.
The walls and roof were literally bowing in. Lead paint and asbestos needed to be abated. Water damage was extensive throughout the structure. The interior had been open to the elements for an extended period of time. Does this sound familiar? It's the condition of so many vacant properties throughout NoMi. And instead of a checklist of needed repairs, this too often is used as the criteria justifying demolition.
Pictured below is an interesting tidbit that the architect shared with us. Notice how the shingles curve away from the structure ever so slightly? Well, the phrase "they just don't make 'em like that anymore" really applies here. Shingles nowadays are frequently sold as sheets already attached to each other, saving workers the time of nailing down each individual shingle. So there are really only a handful of roofers and builders who do this kind of work. Yet the partners here went out of their way to find the ones who could and would do so.
I was also quite impressed with the stairwell. Not only did it look beautiful...
...but apparently it was so bent out of shape that it had to be readjusted in a fashion similar to a chiropractor realigning a patient's spinal column. The structural engineer also inserted a metal rod in the middle of the staircase, going from the foundation to the top of the building.
This blog has celebrated a fair amount of demolitions, and I could take you to a dozen properties in Hawthorne alone that clearly need to come down. But seeing what can be done and what has been done here certainly calls into question many of the demolitions we've seen and will see in Minneapolis. If this building can be saved, then virtually any structure could be salvageable. The key components that this structure had going for it was a desire to save it and partners who came together to make that desire a reality. Here's hoping we see more of that throughout NoMi.