I paid a quick visit Wednesday to the remains of the century-old church at 3115 E. 42nd St., which someone torched Monday. The place was deserted, apart from a couple who were collecting metal scraps. At one corner of the jumble of charred debris, one wall remained, including an old storm door with a green placard from a city inspector warning of a Sept. 19 deadline for fixing code violations of the unsafe boarded building.
Even before it fell into disrepair, the old church wouldn't have made any list of historic landmarks. But any building that was around that long surely has a story to tell. Indeed, the Minnehaha Christian Church - which occupied the building for its first half-century - once thought it was tough enough to survive a nuclear explosion.
A Minneapolis Star clipping from October 1961 that I found in the Star Tribune's basement archive carried this headline: "Church Plans for A-attack." A "slim, intense pastor" named Peter Moon wanted to make his church a refuge that "could help save 1,400 families in a nuclear attack." Such cataclysms were on the minds of folks back then, after the Cold War standoff between the Soviet Union and the United States in occupied Germany culminated in the construction of the Berlin Wall. Rev. Moon thought the little 35-family church in south Minneapolis had a role to play, so he organized members of the congregation, authorized the stockpiling of food and medicine in an annex of the church and planned disaster training. Within a month, church members had contacted 1,400 families and qualified 315 of them for the civil defense "Home Preparedness" award.
Fortunately, no Soviet warheads ever detonated in south Minneapolis, and in 1965, Rev. Moon moved on to a church in Benton, Illinois. I wanted to tell Rev. Moon the fate of his old church, but a quick Google search informed me that he died last November at the age of 75 after pastoring in Illinois, Ohio and Kentucky.