St. Anthony of Padua Catholic

St. Anthony of Padua Church ca. 1960, photographer unknown [Image: Diocese of Duluth]

1030 East 8th Street | Frederick German & Jenssen, Architect | Built: 1923 | Extant

Duluth’s German Catholics began worshipping at Sacred Heart in 1870. Those living west of Point of Rock found a new place to pray when St. Clement’s parish organized in 1887. After the Duluth Diocese was established and Bishop McGolrick installed as bishop in 1890, Sacred Heart became a predominately Irish church. In fact, it was at McGolrick’s direction that the diocese created a separate congregation. The congregation would be named for St. Anthony de Padua, a Portuguese priest who became a Franciscan friar and the patron saint of lost things. He died in Padua, Italy, located about thirty-five miles west of Venice.
In 1891 the newly formed congregation moved into the former 1870 First Presbyterian Church at 231 East Second Street and completely remodelled the interior to fit the needs of a Catholic church. The basement became a school, and Father Francis Kosmerl served as its first pastor. More and more Catholics of other nationalities began attending St. Anthony, and plans to build a bigger church began in 1914.

By the time it was built eight years later, the new facility was more school than church: like St. Jean-Baptiste, the entire first floor was dedicated to school purposes, and even the second-floor sanctuary would be used for educational purposes when Mass was not being held. Architects Frederick German and Leif Jenssen, likely inspired by the location of Anthony’s death, chose a Mediterranean Revival look for the two-and-a-half-story church, facing it with tan brick trimmed with stone and capping its peaked roof with a red clay tile. Ten rounded dormers, each holding an oval window, look out from the east and west side of the roof, with more Roman-arch windows along the second story. The Eighth Street entrance portico is held up by simple columns, and a prominent rose window is seated above it. A large, square tower with arched openings in the belfry acts sits at the southwest corner, providing a transition from the church and school to the parsonage.

Before the building was complete, the diocese had decided the church would no longer be just for Germans but would serve Catholics of every nationality living between Seventh Avenue East and Chester Park from Fourth Street to Villa Scholastica along Kenwood Avenue. Father Francis Hufnagel, pastor since 1907, lead the first Mass in the new church on June 24, 1923.
The school proved extremely popular, with an annual enrollment of 250 students. But as the congregation declined over the years, so did enrollment. By 1984 weekday Mmass had been discontinued, it had lost its resident priest, its single Sunday service drew just 80 worshippers, and school enrollment had dropped to 90. The church and school closed that year, after which the forty-family congregation was absorbed by St. Benedict’s in Kenwood.

Since the building closed as a Catholic church, St. Anthony’s has served as an adult day care, housing for Benedictine sisters, and a child day care run by Benedictines; it is owned today by foster-home provider New Hope for Families.

St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church. (Image: Zenith City Press)