Church of the Incarnation Historic District

You can read about the history and designation of the Church of the Incarnation Historic District historic landmark.


Church of the Incarnation Historic District Design Guidelines

Church, 3801 Pleasant Avenue South, circa 1920                 





Rectory, 3817 Pleasant Avenue South, 1934                  



Moynihan Hall, 3800 Pleasant Avenue South, 1935         


Address: 3800, 3801, and 3817 Pleasant Avenue South

Neighborhood: Kingfield

Construction Date: 1912–1963


Rectory: F. H. Raidt

Church: H. N. Leighton           

Moynihan Hall: C. H. Peterson Co.


            Rectory: Bertrand and Chamberlin

            Church: Emmanuel Louis Masqueray

            Moynihan Hall: Ellerbe and Company

Architectural Style:

            Rectory: Colonial Revival

            Church: Italian Renaissance and Romanesque Revival

            Moynihan Hall: Art Deco and Art Moderne (1963 addition constructed in International style)

Historic Use:

Rectory: residence for clergy

Church: church building

Moynihan Hall: parish school

Current Use: Church and charter school

Date of Local Designation: 2018

Date of National Register Designation: N/A

Area(s) of Significance: Significant architecture, association with master architects and builders

Period of Significance: 1912–1963

Historic Profile: The Church of the Incarnation Historic District at 3800, 3801, and 3817 Pleasant Avenue South is historically significant for its association with master architects Emmanuel Louis Masqueray, George Bertrand and Arthur Chamberlin, and Ellerbe and Company, as well as its association with master builder Horace Newell Leighton.

The district’s buildings are also significant for their embodiment of the distinctive characteristics of several architectural styles; namely, Colonial Revival (the Incarnation rectory); Italian Renaissance and Romanesque Revival (the Church of the Incarnation); and Art Deco, Art Moderne, and International style (Moynihan Hall).

The Church of the Incarnation was designed by master architect Emmanuel Louis Masqueray. Masqueray, who immigrated to the United States from France in 1887, worked under the famous American architect Richard Morris Hunt in the late 1800s and was employed as chief of design at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition from 1901 to 1904. In 1905, Masqueray moved to St. Paul, where he designed numerous Catholic and Protestant parish churches and several cathedrals in the Twin Cities and the Upper Midwest under the patronage of Archbishop John Ireland. Most notably, he designed the Cathedral of St. Paul and the Basilica of St. Mary, two structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to his role as a prominent designer of Roman Catholic parish churches in the Midwest, Masqueray was a founding member of the Beaux-Arts movement in the United States. The movement was named after the École des Beaux Arts, a physical school in Paris and its associated school of thought. Practitioners of this style used a set of strict guidelines to guide their building designs and preferred classical Greek and Roman, Renaissance, and Baroque architectural styles. Masqueray, who attended the École des Beaux-Arts as a student in the late 1800s, held to the principles of the movement throughout his life. The Church of the Incarnation was Masqueray’s last and largest design for a parish church. The building incorporates several features characteristic of his parish church designs: the use of brick and stone trim, symmetry, and Renaissance and Romanesque architectural styles (two of the three most common styles employed by Masqueray in parish churches).   

Horace Newell Leighton, the president of H. N. Leighton Co., was another prominent individual whose association with the church contributes to its significance. H. N. Leighton Co., the contracting/building firm which oversaw the construction of Incarnation Church, was a successful Minneapolis business responsible for the construction of many structures within the city. Among these are five structures designated by the City of Minneapolis as historic landmarks—the Basilica of St. Mary, the Thomas Lowry Memorial, the Farmers and Mechanics Bank, the Wesley Methodist Church, and the Advance Thresher Company—and several contributing buildings within the St. Anthony Falls and Minneapolis Warehouse historic districts. Leighton has been identified as a master builder by the Heritage Preservation Commission.

The Incarnation rectory, constructed from 1912 to 1913, was designed by the successful architectural firm Bertrand and Chamberlin. George Bertrand and Arthur Chamberlin’s partnership lasted from 1897 until 1931, the year of Bertrand’s death. Notable Minneapolis buildings designed by the master architects include Asbury Hospital (915 E. 15th Street), Dean & Company warehouse (406–410 Washington Avenue North), Salisbury Mattress Company (212 Southeast Main Street), Minneapolis Athletic Club (619 Second Avenue South), the North Chamber of Commerce Building (Third Street South and Fourth Avenue South), the Munsingwear company buildings (275 Market Street), and Shriner’s Hospital (2025 East River Road). The North Chamber of Commerce Building is part of the Grain Exchange building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a local historic landmark. In addition to the Incarnation rectory, Bertrand and Chamberlin designed the former Incarnation convent and school buildings on the northwest and northeast corners of West 38th Street and Pleasant Avenue South.

Finally, the original Moynihan Hall was designed by Ellerbe and Company. Under Franklin Ellerbe, the firm designed commercial, educational, and industrial structures in South Dakota and Minnesota during the early 1900s, including the first building of the Mayo Clinic. When Franklin died in 1921, his son Thomas Ellerbe assumed control, eventually creating the largest architectural firm in Minnesota. Under Thomas’ watch, the company continued its association with Mayo Clinic and specialized in medical, educational, industrial, and commercial buildings. By 1980, Ellerbe and Company was one of the top 10 largest architectural and engineering firms in the United States, as well as one of the oldest. The firm’s notable works include the Plummer Building of the Mayo Clinic (1922–28), the St. Paul City Hall and Ramsey County Court House (1931–32), the Cardozo Building (St. Paul) (1931), the College of St. Thomas (St. Paul) (1928–46), the Northwest Airlines hanger at Holman Field (St. Paul)(1942-43), the Cleveland (OH) Clinic and Hospital (1922), the Mayo Clinic Diagnostic Building (1953–69), Sacred Heart Church (St. Paul) (1949), and multiple buildings for the University of Notre Dame (South Bend, IN). While Moynihan Hall, constructed at an estimated cost of $91,000, was not the largest of the firm’s works, it is representative of Ellerbe’s specialization in educational facilities which began during the 1920s.

The Church of the Incarnation district is significant not only for its association with significant architects but for its embodiment of several architectural styles. The Incarnation parish rectory is an example of the Colonial Revival style. Most commonly found in houses built between 1880 and 1955, Colonial Revival was patterned off of the Georgian and Federal styles employed in the eighteenth and early 19th centuries. The rectory’s largely symmetrical façade, entry porch with a pediment supported by Doric columns, sidelights flanking the prominent, centered front door, and double or single hung windows with multi-pane glazing in the upper sashes embody the Colonial Revival style. Additionally, the building’s brick veneer is a reflection of the new masonry technology that became available to builders around 1920.

The Church of the Incarnation embodies the characteristics of Italian Renaissance and Romanesque Revival architectural styles. Before World War One, the Italian Renaissance style was used by architects to design urban landmarks. This style imitated the buildings constructed in Italy during the Renaissance, which were themselves reflections of renewed interest in ancient classical architecture. The church’s tile roof, symmetrical front façade, round arches above windows and doors, columns, dentiled cornice, stone belt courses, brick walls, and square tower identify it as an example of Italian Renaissance architecture.

The second style, Romanesque Revival, had its roots in the Romanesque period of architecture, which began at the end of the Ninth century and continued until the 12th century. Structures built during this period were modeled on the ancient classical designs of Roman architecture and marked by rounded arches. In the mid-19th century, a period of renewed interest in French and Spanish Romanesque architecture began in the United States. Buildings produced during this period, patterned after earlier Romanesque structures, are said to be constructed in the Romanesque Revival style. The church’s brick walls and stone belt courses; prominent, semi-circular arches above windows, entrances, wall recesses, and porch supports; square tower; and gabled roofs are indicative of this type of architecture. In addition, the church’s two gabled and parapeted wall dormers and the conical roof of the half-dome represent elements of the Richardsonian Romanesque style, a later variant of Romanesque Revival. Masqueray’s use of two architectural styles in his design of the church was an outgrowth of the architect’s Beaux Arts principles, which did not require adherence to a single historical style. The church’s mix of historical styles also drew on the practices of the late Victorian era of architecture (1850–1910), during which many structures were designed as conglomerations of multiple architectural traditions.

The original Moynihan Hall building embodies two modern architectural styles of the early twentieth century: Art Moderne and Art Deco. Employed during the 1920s and 30s, the two styles are closely associated and are usually found in combination. Both were formed as a reaction to the highly-ornamented architecture of period revival buildings and are marked by their geometric massing and streamlined appearance. Moynihan Hall’s flat roof, simplified design, and relatively smooth exterior surfaces are a reflection of these two styles. The building’s horizontal emphasis (achieved via horizontal bands of stone around the east and north elevations) and stone coping are characteristics of the Art Moderne style, while its vertical lines (on portions of the stone façade and around entrances), straight-edged spiral designs (on the west elevation), low-relief carvings, and stepped façade identify the structure as Art Deco.

The 1963 addition to Moynihan Hall displays elements of the International style, an approach to architecture that developed in Western Europe in the 1920s and spread to the United States in the 1930s. According to the Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide, the European pioneers of this style aimed “to create a new modern form and functional theory of architecture … abandon[ing] tradition to create a pared down, unornamented style that emphasized geometric shapes …”  The Moynihan Hall addition contains several elements of the International style– a flat roof, strip windows, a box-like structure, smooth wall surfaces, and a general lack of architectural ornament. Its practical, plain design, including the convenient parking lot, expresses the International emphasis on functionality. Furthermore, the addition is representative of the style as practiced in Minnesota, where International-style buildings were often utilitarian and austere.

The Incarnation district is unique for its embodiment of architectural traditions that span the Roman Catholic Church’s 2,000-year history, beginning with its Roman origins, to its Renaissance-era prominence, through America’s Colonial roots, and into the era of architectural modernism. Its association with master architects Masqueray, Bertrand and Chamberlin, and Ellerbe and Company, along with its association with contractor Horace Newell Leighton, also gives the district historical significance.

Photo Credits:

Circa 1920, 1934, and 1935 - Minnesota Historical Society
2017 - CPED Staff

Work Cited:

“Church of the Incarnation Historic District Designation Study,” 2018.

Updated: April 2018

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