Blessed Mary Margaret Catholic Church & Rectory
1471 88th Ave. W. | Architects: De Waard & Stauduhar | Built: 1918 | Lost: 2019
In 1918 Morgan Park’s western neighborhood became home to its first house of worship, Blessed St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church, part of the Diocese of Duluth. According to Morgan Park historian Arnold Alanen, the Minnesota Steel Company provided the lot for free and helped to fund its construction and maintenance. Within a year after it opened, a census determined that 504 Catholics lived within Morgan Park’s borders, 125 of them children.
Architects John De Waard & Frank X. Stauduhar designed a Spanish Mission Revival church constructed with—what else?—concrete blocks. It featured large, Roman-arch doorways and windows set in piers divided by tower buttresses. A pair of three-story corner towers framed the front entrance and were capped with domes themselves topped with crosses, elements traditionally associated with Orthodox churches. The domes were later removed, the towers were refitted with pyramidal caps, and the crosses were removed. The rear of the building featured a scalloped gable. The Spanish-style church was named for a seventeenth-century French nun and mystic who experienced visions of Christ and Mary pertaining to the Sacred Heart.
Alanen points out that the building was later painted white and outfitted with two stained-glass windows, one facing the steel plant showing Christ as a worker, the other looking toward Morgan Park School and depicting Christ as a teacher. Parishioners raised the funds for the windows themselves.
The Church of Blessed St. Margaret Mary, along with St. Elizabeth’s in Gary-New Duluth, served Catholics in Duluth’s far-western neighborhoods until 2015, when the diocese closed the Morgan Park church as part of a strategic plan developed in 2012 to better address a lack of priests and geographic changes. Its parishioners, then representing 125 families, merged with St. Elizabeth’s and St. James, with services held at both facilities. Blessed St. Mary Margaret was demolished in 2017, one hundred years after its construction began.
Rectory | 1467 88th Ave. W. | Architects: De Waard & Stauduhar | Built: 1918 | Extant
The Diocese of Duluth also tapped John De Waard and Frank X. Stauduhar to design a matching Spanish Mission–style house for use as the rectory of Morgan Park’s Blessed St. Margaret Mary Church. It stands two-and-a- half stories tall and is capped with a pitched roof with four hipped dormers; one—set above the central facade—was faced with a scalloped parapet gable that carries three narrow,
Roman-arch windows. More Spanish Revival influence can be found in the entrance portico and four-season porch that faced the church, as well as its white stucco facing. Offering three thousand square feet of living space, the home contains five bedrooms and three bathrooms. Outside of the two third-floor bedrooms, its interior layout closely resembles that of a traditional American Four Square home.
Blessed St. Margaret Mary’s first pastor, Reverend Hugh A. Floyd, became the rectory’s first tenant when he moved into the house in 1918. Over the years he was followed by at least a dozen other priests, including James Mahoney, Timothy Culligan, David Gleeson, Maurice O’Conner, David Taylor, Lawrence O’Shea, Joseph Hughes, Vincent Arimond, Frank Perkovich, Richard Partika, John C. Petrich, and finally James Bissionette.
When Blessed St. Margaret Mary Church closed, Bissionette became the pastor at St. James. In 2019 he was named diocesan administrator for the Diocese of Duluth.
A garage was added to the house in the 1940s, and the home’s front terrace was removed as some point. The diocese sold the rectory in 2016, and thereafter the house has served as a private residence.