Built in 1886, the Swedenborgian Church was designed by Cass Gilbert, the St. Paul architect who later became famous for the Minnesota State Capitol, the Woolworth Building in New York, and the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. This was an early commission (he was 37 years old), during what he called his “house building”period.
The design was intended to reflect the tenets of the Swedenborgian faith. Emmanuel Swedenborg, 1688 – 1772 -- was a Swedish scientist and self-taught theologian who experienced a series of revelations over the course of decades. He received a different version of the Trinity, with Christ as both Creator and Redeemer; Father, Son, and Holy Ghost comprised three aspects of His nature. Christ's Second Coming had already occurred – in His revelation to Swedenborg in 1747.
Objects in the physical world have spiritual correspondences. The fieldstone foundation of the Virginia Street church, unique among Gilbert creations, “represents the enduring faith in Jesus Christ, the Divine/Human who as God incarnate is Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.” The simplicity of the interior, little changed since Gilbert's time, reflects , in the words of the congregation, “a sense of spiritual harmony.”
Swedenborg never established a church, but his followers in England did so, 16 years after his death. The first American congregation arose in 1792. There are believed to be about 10,000 Swedenborgian parishioners in the world today. William R. Marshall, governor of Minnesota from 1866 to 1870, founded the Virginia Street congregation, first in 1860 and again in 1873, making this one of the longest-established congregations in the city.
The addition to the east end of the building from 1922 was designed by St. Paul's second-most-famous architect, Clarence Johnson.
The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.