Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Preserving Trondhjem, a Minnesota country church February 25, 2019


Completed in the fall of 1899, the Historic Trondhjem Church sits atop a 100-foot high hill near Lonsdale. Listed on the National Register of Historic Sites in Minnesota, this Norwegian church has walls constructed with 24 corners to brace it against the wind. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


HOW SACRED THESE PLACES. These country churches. These structures built long ago as gathering places for the faithful.

Country churches, at one time, centered worship and social life in rural areas. Their importance in family and community histories continues. Not so much as active entities, although some still are, but as places preserved. Places of value for their connections to family roots, their history, their art, their stories.


Volunteers prepare a luncheon at Trondhjem. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


Because I’m drawn to the simplicity and beauty of country churches, I’ve toured many in mostly southern Minnesota. I’ve also attended socials and festivals at many. There’s nothing like the cooking and baking of church folks who welcome guests into basements and fellowship halls.


Historic Trondhjem Church. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


Among the churches I’ve visited is the Historic Trondhjem Church in rural Lonsdale. While years have passed since I attended an event at this hilltop church and museum, I remain appreciative of this Norwegian landmark. And I remain on Trondhjem’s mailing list.


Some of the grant monies will fund preservation of the altar painting. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


Recently a letter arrived from the Trondhjem Community Preservation Society Board about a matching grant of up to $15,000 from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation. Through a program titled “Engaging Artists and Communities to Preserve Nordic Heritage Churches,” the preservation group hopes to fund several repair and restoration projects. Those include painting the exterior of the 1899 building, preserving the original altar painting of Christ in Gethsemane by Marcus Holm, replicating the front stair entry and restoring the “Eye of God” window.


Members of the Trondhjem Community Preservation Society/The Hallelujah Chorus sing at an event several years ago. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


That’s a lengthy list of projects. But if I know people like I think I do, they will step forward by the March 31, 2019, deadline with enough monies to match that $15,000 grant administered through Partners for Sacred Places.

If you are interested in donating to the preservation and restoration project at this rural Minnesota church, please send your gift to:


P.O. Box 259

Lonsdale, MN. 55046


TELL ME: Have you supported a similar project? Let’s hear.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


18 Responses to “Preserving Trondhjem, a Minnesota country church”

  1. Ruth Says:

    A lovely sacred space worthy of preservation. Wonderful that you make the effort to publicize the effort.

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    What a beautiful church. Thanks for sharing it with us. Beautiful place of worship that deserves to be preserved.

  3. Thanks for sharing – I will have to look into this and see about donating. My grandfather was a mason and I remember how heart broken he was when the one country church he helped built could not be saved and was taken down. He and my grandma are resting in that church’s cemetery. Family keeps a close eye on the cemetery to make sure it remains maintained and cared for.

  4. Valerie Says:

    I’ve seen the outside of this beautiful church, but have not been inside. One day I hope to. I, too, love the quaint, historic churches peppered throughout SE MN. They are worth preserving.

  5. This is good to know, thanks for sharing this. You know I love old country churches as well….preserving them is so important! The inside of this church is just a beautiful as the outside.

  6. Marilyn Donnell Says:

    I greatly enjoyed reading about this rural church, it reminded me of the church I grew up attending. It never occurred to me that that the greater number of corners would add stability against the strong prairie winds.

  7. Almost Iowa Says:

    Those white clapboard churches are going the way of barns and silos. Saint Mary’s in Geneva closed two years ago, and though I will not miss the way we used to stumbled and mumbled our way through the hymns, I will miss everything else about it.

  8. Gunny Says:

    Beautiful church well deserving of preservation! At Round Top (I think) is a Lutheran church built in 1900. Church has been repurposed as the town library which has a sweet / sour affect on me. There is a church in San Diego – Balboa Park which has been turned into a military museum which is really saddening. I like the “museum” but I miss the “church”. Sad that we have to re-purpose a building just to save it! We need to save more structures and leave them for their intended purposes.

    • I can understand your mixed feelings about the re-purposing of churches. I old church I grew up in became an apartment building after the congregation built a new church.

      My current church features lots of stained glass windows from our old church building. Randy is currently redoing two for our under construction office addition.

  9. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    Beautiful church thanks for sharing pictures

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