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Cook County Historical Society selects MacDonald & Mack Architects to complete a Historic Structure Report on the Chippewa City Church

Grand Marias, MN, 10/31/2023 – Cook Coun­ty Historical Society is pleased to announce that Minnesota-based MacDonald & Mack Archi­tects has been awarded a contract to complete a Historic Structure Report (HSR) for the Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church, known local­ly as the “Chippewa City Church”, in Grand Marais, Minnesota. The HSR is a preservation and rehabilitation tool that will provide extensive documentary, graphic, and physical information about the church’s history and existing condition, as well as concerns about the structure in consideration of its current and potential adaptive use(s). The information from the HSR will aid in the development of a preservation plan for the church.

MacDonald & Mack Architects have worked on the restoration and documentation of over 500 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including many in Minneso­ta such as the Mill City Museum in Minneap­olis, Sons of Norway Lodge in Lanesboro, and Christ Church Lutheran in Minneapolis. Their goal in completing a HSR for the Chippewa City Church is to “obtain a greater understand­ing of the developmental history and charac­ter-defining features, and plan for the long-term viability and ongoing use of the structure.”

As part of creating the HSR, MacDonald & Mack will work with Pigeon Consulting out of St. Paul, Minnesota, architectural historians responsible for completing the developmental history of the building, and Beane Engineering out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as the structural engineer.

The completed HSR will help determine a period of significance when the church activity reached its peak and when its appearance and functions were most closely linked to the broad range of the institution’s activities. Other information the HSR will provide includes deter­mining the stabilization needs of the building. It is anticipated that future work will include repairs such as rebuilding the chimneys, repair­ing the foundation, structural repairs to the rot­ting logs and spreading walls, and addressing the declining siding.

The St. Francis Xavier/Chippewa City Church has been listed on the National Reg­ister of Historic Places since 1985, and has undergone previous repairs and studies in the past. One study done was a 2017 archeologi­cal survey and inventory conducted by Grand Portage National Monument employees and volunteers within the yard of the church. The two-week-long survey, which included shovel testing, unit evacuation, and metal detecting, was done to determine the state of the church foundation for later rehabilitation and repair, and to locate any potential archaeological re­mains that can be amended to the St. Francis National Register nomination.

Research and onsite assessments began in October and MacDonald & Mack will return in the spring for further testing before completing a draft of the report for review by Cook County Historical Society.

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