When the Diocese of Crookston built a new Catholic Cathedral in 1991, the Care and Share Homeless Shelter bought the former rectory and land to expand their services to the homeless. The empty former Cathedral was included even though Care and Share had no use for it. Not wanting to lose the Tiffany style Stained Glass windows to vandalism, they sold them. (Read the whole story on prairieskyline.blogspot.com.) People always want to know about this gothic beauty with or without its stained glass. In 1996, Jennifer Peterson founded the Skyline Preservation Foundation, Inc., a non-profit, public charity to purchase the three-spired church. The former board researched the history and applied to be on the National Historic Register, which it is today. They fought a long legal case to be free from property taxes as an undeveloped building. They endured loss of leadership, loss of a grant-writer, and struggled to keep the building up with small fundraisers and their own funds. Yet the building still stands as a tribute to the strength and courage of that early French Catholic leadership and the steeples and freshly painted 10 feet tall crosses stand as a symbol of immigrant times, when battles were simpler.
In May of 2002, new Board members brought a fresh look at the situation in Crookston, a City with a National Historic Commercial District in which 10 of the 14 buildings were for sale and or vacant at that time. A long-range strategy was developed that was broader in scope to include the blight and disrepair of historic buildings in Crookston and the surrounding area. The new strategy can be summed up in the Skyline’s mission: To Rediscover, Redevelop, and Revitalize Historic Crookston. In our efforts to save historic buildings, we have worked to find the best use for them. Long waiting lists for low-income apartments and the condition of those apartments in Crookston, have caused the Foundation to move toward developing housing that is affordable, attractive, and is located in historic buildings. A brief surveys and the opening of the “Cathedral Gallery and Store” were pre-feasibility activities to determine if Crookston could be a Center for the Arts in Northwestern Minnesota. Skyline Preservation Foundation, Inc. name was changed to Prairie Skyline Foundation to reflect the broader mission that includes housing and the arts.
Goals: Past goals have included saving the former "Palace" or Wayne Hotel and lost that fight to the "old guard." We worked on rehabbing an existing downtown apartment building called the Union building, which is in the tax forfeiture process into permanent supportive housing. We applied for supportive housing funding for three years and ran a private consignment shop, Kay's Attic during those years. With the economic downturn in 2008, we closed both ventures. We opened the new thrift store to benefit the former Cathedral in the former Crookston Paint and Glass Building. We made enough to make repairs to the Cathedral, but not enough to be able to repay the $40,000 loan portion of a Small Cities Block Grant (SCBG) (another $40,000) to fix up the thrift shop building. The Cathedral didn't qualify for SCBG simply because it was vacant. It had too much to clean and repair before it can be occupied again. In the meantime, Scott Maves bought the Union building to save it from tax foreclosure to Polk County. Later, he sold it to the Persson's who used Scott's application for a SCBG grant and loan to "fix" up the building. The irony was not lost on the Foundation, as we were the promoters of getting a "Block Grant" to improve the historic downtown. For more details please read the whole story on prairieskyline.blogspot.com. We are happy now to focus entirely on the old Cathedral, however the Thrift Shop was fun and a great place to talk about the developments in the saving of the former Cathedral on Ash Street and if anyone wants to donate a building for the Thrift Shop, we will gladly start up again. Major clean-up efforts have been completed in the steeples, and the North Sacristy to prepare for its reuse as a Community Center with arts activities.
Photo by Cheryl Chafatelli, used with permisssion.