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May 16, 1996: Demolition of Duluth’s St. Jean-Baptiste Church

On this day in Duluth in 1996, Letourneau & Sons Contractors began tearing down the 1904 St. Jean Baptiste Catholic Church at 2432 West 3rd Street. Built by Duluth’s French-speaking Catholics, the two-story red brick church employed an unusual design, with its school on first floor and church on second. The front gable’s tall triple-arched windows stood over a stone arched entrance; the gables were adorned with decorative brick work. The final Mass was performed on March 2 of the same year, and few parishoners seemed to mind demolishing the old church—88 percent of them thought it was a good idea. “People are tied to the past. They hate to let go. But I was baptized at St. Jean’s, and I don’t feel bad that it’ll go. I’m looking forward to the future,” seventy-eight-year-old Bea Walczynski told the Duluth News Tribune. St. Jean-Baptiste had absorbed the congregation of nearby St. Clement’s Catholic Church in 1975 when the German church was sold and joined with Sts. Peter and Paul’s Catholic Church, originally built to serve Duluth’s Poles. The congregation celebrated Mass at both churches until 1996, when St. Jean-Baptiste was razed and replaced by the Holy Family Catholic Church, where both former parishioners of and artifacts from all three churches found a new home. Learn more about St. Jean Baptiste here, St. Clements here, Stes. Peter and Paul here, and discover many more lost Duluth houses of worship here.

The 1904 St. Jean-Baptiste Catholic Church. (Image: Duluth Public Library)