Minneapolis College Commemorates the Basilica’s 150th Year

Top of the Minneapolis College Parking Ramp on Hennepin Avenue

For more than a century, Minneapolis College and the Basilica have stood side-by-side as neighbors along Hennepin Avenue with the common mission of creating hope and serving the needs of the community. The remarkable intersections in time between the two institutions tell an inspired story.

“As the Basilica celebrates its 150th anniversary, it is an ideal time to reflect upon its importance to the community and the cherished neighbor it has been to Minneapolis College,” said President Sharon Pierce.

On May 31, 1914, the Cathedral celebrated its first Mass at its current location on Sixteenth Street and Hennepin Avenue. On December 14 that year, the College was founded with 83 girls and eight teachers as the Girls Vocational School by education pioneer Elizabeth Fish.

In 1917, the Cathedral’s parishioners set aside construction on the building to focus on the war effort by opening a Red Cross center. Meanwhile, 36 students in the College’s first graduating class completed their programs in homemaking, junior nursing, dressmaking, millinery and commercial training.

In 1921, construction on the interior of the Cathedral was completed just as the first boys were being admitted to the College to prepare them for careers in the electrical, auto mechanics, telegraphy and printing industries.

In the 1940s, hundreds of Basilica parishioners served with the armed forces, knitted and sewed garments, made surgical dressings and helped with hospital work. At that time, the number of students at the College had grown to 2,250.

The new freeway system constructed adjacent to the Cathedral and College in the 1960s brought significant change to both institutions as automobile access was improved, traffic increased, neighborhood dynamics changed and the College established open enrollment. 

The 1980s was a time of growth for both institutions, now firmly established as recognizable entities on the western edge of Minneapolis. The Basilica began a major restoration effort as the College’s vocational and technical facilities spanned its 418,000-square-foot campus.

Radical shifts in the 1990s brought greater visibility to the area with the introduction of an annual rock concert at the Basilica to raise funds for restoration and outreach ministries as well as the merging of Minneapolis Technical College and Minneapolis Community College now serving a broader segment of the city’s population.

Since the turn of the century, these two neighboring institutions have continued to advance their shared mission to serve the community through continually expanding their facilities, outreach and offerings. Pierce continued, “The stretch of Hennepin Avenue they watch over has become a symbol of hope, inclusivity, growth and unity in social well-being.”

For additional information, please visit The Basilica of Saint Mary or Hennepin County Library