A two-story building at the corner of 5th Street and 5th Avenue NE, which began life as the first Church of All Saints, was demolished recently. “Old Yeller,” as it was affectionately known for its yellow exterior paint, had served generations of its predominately Polish-American parishioners as a place of worship and as an elementary school.
The building was completed in 1918, two years after the church was established, and masses which had been held at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel were celebrated at the new site. In 1939, a Spanish Romanesque-style church was completed on an adjacent site, where it remains today. The original building continued operating as a school until 1969. In the 50 years of the school’s operation, 54 female graduates became nuns, and four male graduates became priests.
In the mid-seventies, after extensive renovations, the building became the Church of All Saints Parish Center. While still used largely for church activities, the center was rented to nearby Webster School during the 2000-2001 school year. In 2012, Catholic Eldercare proposed buying the center, an adjoining rectory and convent and use the site to build a memory care facility, which did not go through. In the final few years, the center housed a daycare co-op, serving over 200 children.
Over the last ten years, maintenance costs and code compliance issues made operating the building increasingly more difficult, and the church decided to tear it down. All Saints pastor Fr. Gerard Saguto said “preliminary discussions” for the site, which is property of the Archdiocese of St. Paul, included a new parish center, but no final decisions have been made.
During the demolition, a “time capsule,” in the form of a small copper box, was discovered in the building’s cornerstone. Saguto said the demolition company’s workers always check the corners of older buildings for this possibility. During an interview, Saguto showed the box and its contents, which included newspapers from 1918, lists of the church’s founders, holy cards, coins, letters and three savings bonds. He noted that nuns from the church’s convent were able to preserve the waterlogged papers by carefully unfolding and drying them. He added that the papers would likely be included in a future cornerstone of any new building on the site.
The Church of All Saints celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding in 2016. Its first pastor, Fr. Francis Matz, presided at the church for 52 years, ending only with his death in 1968. All Saints has been served by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter since 2013. Saguto said church attendance has been on the rise, and roughly 600 people attend All Saints masses each Sunday.
Below: The current Church of All Saints overlooks the original’s rubble. (Photo by Mike Madison) As the building was coming down, a time capsule of old trinkets was unearthed. (Photo by Mark Peterson)