Honoring the Past

By: Paula Gillman

Each year Christ Episcopal Church of Grand Rapids  holds a worship service at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Coleraine.  This year the celebration of Holy Eucharist took place on Sunday June 10th am.  Following the service there was a potluck picnic with church members, local townsfolk, area visitors.

The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd was built in 1908, the first church to be completed in Coleraine. John C. Greenway was a member of this parish and it was he who supervised the construction of the church.

It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

The church resembles in construction and style the then superintendent’s quarters of the Oliver Iron Mining Company, first occupied by Greenway. That log structure, in the Oliver’s general shop area north of downtown, was also a Coleraine landmark but was torn down by the mining company in the early 1950s.

The logs used in the construction of the church were taken from one of the few remaining patches of virgin timber in the area. The interior of the church is built entirely of wood, including the cathedral ceiling. The altar rail and lectern are made of birch logs, still in their natural state.

Because of declining enrollment, the last regular church service was held December 26, 1982. In March 1987, Christ Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids deeded the church and its property to the city of Coleraine with certain stipulations.

One of those stipulations was that the city maintain the basic architecture and appearance of the church so that it would continue to qualify for placement on the register of historic sites with the State of Minnesota.

A preservation plan was initiated by the city in 1989 with the replacement of church’s roof, front porch and railings, while volunteers restained the log exterior.

Since then, with oversight by the Log Church Preservation Committee and support from the Minnesota Historical Society, the Blandin Foundation, and private donations, projects have included exterior log restoration in 2000; accessibility ramp and French drain installation, 2002; new retaining wall and landscaping, 2003; and total window restoration, completed in 2004.

In 1990, the Log Church was given honorable mention in Midwest Living magazine’s Hometown Pride Awards contest for historic preservation projects, and in April 2001, the Duluth News Tribune highlighted the committee’s restoration and fundraising efforts in a feature story published in its Northland Communities section.