In early March 1944 World War II raged in Europe and the Pacific, and accounts from the front lines and the home front dominated the pages of the Grand Forks Herald. A late winter blizzard swept through the Northern Great Plains, and the paper maintained a daily update on road conditions as North Dakotans dug their way out the snow. Along with these headlines, the March 10 edition included a picture and caption that recorded smoke billowing from the Grand Forks Church of God as firemen worked to contain the flames.[i] (See figure 1) The building at 224 Walnut Street sustained extensive damage, but the church, undaunted, decided to repair the structure, which remained in service for the congregation until after the Grand Forks flood of 1997. The flood accomplished what the 1944 fire did not. Citing an unsound structure, the City of Grand Forks scheduled the old building for demolition in early 2012.
The old Trinity Lutheran Church, built around 1905,[ii] was not terribly unique in design. Although it was the last of the wood-framed churches in Grand Forks, many similar wood-framed church buildings continue to dot much of the American landscape, hearkening back to an idyllic time in the nation’s history. Trinity Lutheran was not an imposing landmark on the city streetscape. The church tended to blend in with the surrounding homes in the neighborhood, and the simplicity of the structure was very much in line with that of its congregation. It was not the oldest church in town. St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church has expanded over time, but it still resides at the same lot it occupied in the early 1880s and the congregation it serves is the oldest in town. However, Trinity Lutheran and the two assemblies that worshiped within its walls were an important link to local and national history. The church at 224 Walnut Street was a tangible reminder of the immigrant struggles of early settlers on the Northern Plains as they attempted to integrate into their new homeland. This connection to early Norwegian settlers made the building important to Grand Forks history.