17 October 2011

Grand Forks Church History

Mondays are generally a heavy work day for me, even though I typically don't venture onto campus. I usually use Mondays as an opportunity to catch up on reading and other assignments for the upcoming week. I have a book review due tomorrow, so I submitted it today.  I also read a huge chunk of a book on the World-system of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.  In world history circles, world-systems deal with core and peripheral economic zones.  I also did a bit of writing on my major piece of original research for this semester.  As I've mentioned on the site before, I'm doing some work on a couple of local congregations that occupied a building now slated for demolition (which happens to be in a historic district--although I will also point out that it is not structurally sound by even the most liberal definition of the term).  I've also mentioned the maps that I'm utilizing to show change over time in the religious landscape of Grand Forks.  Here is a short excerpt of a (very) rough draft of this study.  Enjoy :)

The Grand Forks Religious Landscape
            As people began to migrate into the valley of the Red River of the North after the opening of the Dakota Territory to homesteaders, religious organizations followed closely to minister to their adherents and win converts to the Christian faith.  One way to track the entrance of new religious bodies into the town of Grand Forks (or other communities) is through a study of insurance maps.  Although their technology now includes the most up-to-date geographic programs, the Sanborn Map Company produced several fire insurance maps that detailed the landscape of Grand Forks beginning as early as 1884.  These maps indicate change over time as the town’s streetscape expanded over the prairie.  The maps also give an estimate of Grand Forks’ population in intervals that do not necessarily correspond to decennial censuses, so it is possible to track growth in both the number of buildings and streets, as well as the estimated population.  These maps are particularly useful in ascertaining the relative wealth and importance attached to specific buildings.  Sanborn color coded structures to indicate the particular building materials used in construction.  Most buildings on the Sanborn maps of Grand Forks had a yellow designation as dwellings with a basic frame construction.
            The Sanborn maps also indicated other building uses, such as businesses and churches.  An 1884 map estimated that Grand Forks had a population of approximately 6,000.  The same map recorded only five church buildings in town: the Methodist Episcopal Church at 722 4th Street, the Presbyterian Church at 817 5th Street, the Baptist Church at 815 Alpha Avenue, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at 314 5th Street, and St. Michael’s Catholic Church at 101 6th Street.  Each of the denominations recorded in 1884 were major nation-wide denominations.  However, one interesting point that is evident from a perusal of the maps is the building materials that the churches used in their respective buildings.  All of the buildings at this early date utilized a wood frame in construction, although the Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Catholics had strengthened their structures with a brick veneer.[1]

[1] “Grand Forks, Dakota,” Sanborn Map & Publishing Co., 1884. North Dakota Sanborn Fire Insurance Map Collection (hereafter ND Sanborn Maps), Folder 519. Orin G. Libby Manuscript Collection, Chester Fritz Library, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND.

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