Where 37th Street meets Chicago Avenue, there stands a stately brick building with a facade dominated by four towering white columns. Since its construction in 1927 it has served many purposes, including stints as a dance hall and a funeral home. Today, it is the Bahá’í Center of Minneapolis.
The Bahá’í Faith was founded in 1863 in Persia (now Iran), by Bahá’u’lláh, whose name means “the glory of God.” It spread worldwide, and now has several million adherents.
Bahá’í beliefs share much in common with other monotheistic faiths. Jesus, Mohammed, and Buddha are regarded as manifestations of God, along with Bahá’u’lláh. A core principle is racial unity, the oneness of all humankind.
Bahá’ís have been in the Twin Cities since the early 1900’s. Every municipality has its own Bahá’í community: Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington, etc. By the 1990’s they had organized the Bahá’í Glad Tidings School for children in a University of Minnesota building. But the rent was expensive, and desire for a permanent regional Bahá’í center arose.
The communities united to raise money, and began a search. The building on Chicago Avenue was identified as ideal, and in 2000 the Bahá’ís purchased it from Exodus, an African American church. The city wanted to build a watershed, and negotiated a trade: in exchange for the back part of the property, they gave what had been 37th Street to the Bahá’ís for use as a parking lot.
Several hundred Bahá’ís use the Center for holy days, conferences, and study groups. Regular devotional gatherings are held Sunday mornings at 10:00. Everyone is welcome.