2006 Ten Most Endangered

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A community’s historic neighborhoods, historic farms, an urban street, a modern religious architectural landmark, and a downtown hotel represent a sampling of diverse sites named to the 2006 Preservation Alliance of Minnesota “Ten Most Endangered Historic Places.” This year marks the 13th year the Alliance has released its listing of the state’s most endangered historic sites.

The 10 Most Endangered program is designed to shine a spotlight on historic sites and buildings that face imminent danger through demolition, neglect, or inappropriate public policy. Through this program the Alliance seeks favorable outcomes that can be achieved through restoration or creative re-use. A number of structures that have appeared on the list since its inception have been saved including the Ivy Tower and Sears buildings in Minneapolis, the Stillwater lift bridge, Camp Rabideau in Blackduck and the Androy Hotel, Hibbing, to name a few.

A photographic exhibit featuring the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places created by Doug Ohman, Pioneer Photography, and sponsored by Kodet Architectural Group, will be displayed at museums, libraries and other public spaces throughout the state during 2006.

This list is selected from nominations submitted by citizens and groups from around the state. The selection committee included members of the Preservation Alliance; State Historic Preservation Office of the Minnesota Historical Society; the Society of Architectural Historians, Minnesota Chapter; Historic Resources Committee of the American Institute of Architects-Minnesota; and the Minnesota advisors to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

All photos © 2006 Doug Ohman / Pioneer Photography unless otherwise noted.

Fasen Round Barn,
Le Sauk Township, Stearns County

The 1928 Peter Fasen Round Barn in Sartell is one of two round barns still standing in
Stearns County. It is a fine example of a barn type that is rapidly vanishing from the rural landscape. According to Peter Fasen’s descendants, a drawing in a farm journal may have
inspired the barn’s design.

The barn is located in one of the fastest growing corridors in Minnesota as development progresses north along Interstate 94 and Highway 10 toward St. Cloud. Situated adjacent to Sartell’s commercial area, the barn stands in the path of a new commercial center for the community. A new use for the barn could allow its integration into the commercial center if a preservation-minded entrepreneur would step forward.

Palace Hotel,

Crookston’s Palace Hotel served as a hub of activity for the bustling railroad town in northwestern Minnesota during the late nineteenth century. The building is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a pivotal building within the Crookston Commercial Historic District.

Today, the imposing, four-story edifice of the 1896 building is distinguished by the lack of activity within its abandoned interiors. When the previous owner ceased paying taxes on the building, Polk County acquired it through forfeiture. Now, not only is the building off of the tax base, it has also become a drain on the County’s limited resources and the County Board has voted to demolish the structure. Further commitment on the part of the County to find a buyer for a building that they admit is in good physical condition, and a resourceful private developer are two things that could return the historic building as a viable part of the community.

It is buildings just like this that the proposed Minnesota Historic Preservation Tax Credit is designed to help. Existing federal tax credits are not enough to turn around the Palace Hotel’s preservation challenges, but supplementing it with a state tax credit could be the trick. The Palace would be easily adaptable to a mix of commercial space and senior housing. The successful rehabilitation of the Palace could serve as a catalyst for economic redevelopment and revitalization of downtown Crookston.

Superintendent’s Residence,

Standing north of Pipestone, the Pipestone Indian School Superintendent’s Residence is a rare remnant from a once sprawling farm campus of 60 buildings, eleven of which, like the residence, were constructed of red, quarry-faced quartzite.

The school was founded in 1893 to assimilate Native Americans into white culture through government-sponsored education. Built in 1907, the two-story Foursquare is in dire need of stabilization and future adaptive reuse. A local Native American group hopes to convert the house into a museum to showcase the 60-year Indian School history.

Anoka’s Historic Neighborhoods,

Situated at the confluence of the Mississippi and Rum Rivers, Anoka was largely populated during the last half of the 19th century and first half of the 20th. The ensuing housing stock represents a variety of styles from Greek Revival and Italianate to Victorian, Craftsman, and post-war tract homes.

Suburban development surrounded the once rural area and many of the historic neighborhoods adjacent to the commercial core have seen neglect due to absentee ownership.

To encourage redevelopment, the City of Anoka upzoned many parcels in the historic neighborhoods for higher density use. The result has been the demolition of historic, single-family homes for higher density apartment or condominium blocks improperly sized as infill development.

Citizen attempts to stop such development have been unsuccessful. Anoka is just one example of how inappropriate zoning can negatively affect historic neighborhoods in any historic city or town.

Gehl-Mittelsted House,
San Francisco Township, Carver County

The Henry and Christina Gehl House is a Chaska-brick farmhouse built in the mid- 1880’s for a prosperous German immigrant farming family. Its regional architectural style is known as the Carver County cottage or farmhouse.

The house and rare brick privy sit on a series of rock ledge terraces close to the west bank of the Minnesota River. Both are solidly built and in good condition still conveying a historic sense of their late 19th century character. The Gehl-Mittelsted house is notable for its workmanship in stone, brick and wood, much of which has been retained over the home’s 120-year history.

The U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service owns the property and is incorporating the site into the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. They plan to build a new educational and visitors center uphill from the house and to demolish the historic structures according to their policy that no structures can be built or maintained in a flood plain.

The house has flooded just twice in the past 100 years, both times to just below the floor joists. The Fish and Wildlife Service has no intended use for the house at this time and does not have the budget to move the house to an alternate site.

Andrew Peterson Farmstead,

The life and times of Swedish emigrant Andrew Peterson lives on in a half-dozen novels,
published in Sweden and the United States. His pioneering horticultural work with northern apple varieties lines the produce sections of supermarkets, yet the five buildings of his Carver County homestead face an uncertain future.

Peterson penned the events of his and other local settlers’ daily lives through over 14,000 entries in a diary maintained between 1855 and 1898. His homestead, located in an area formerly known as Scandia, encompasses nine buildings located in the rapidly growing urban corridor between Waconia and Victoria.

Buildings on the site, including the farmhouse constructed between 1867 and 1870, include two barns, a log house used as a granary, which was the founding parish site of the Minnesota Swedish Baptist Conference, and a smoke house. Immediate preservation needs include roof replacement on the granary and North Barn.

Preservation of the site would recognize its importance as a well-documented location of Swedish emigration to America.

Grove Street,

Grove Street was included in Nicollet Island’s original 1865 street platting and is today part of the St. Anthony Falls Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated locally both by the City of Minneapolis and the State of Minnesota.

Nicollet Island has seen a mix of commercial, industrial, and residential uses. Over the years, the south end of the island changed as it became more industrialized but the north half remained primarily residential.

By 1900, the Christian Brothers had built a two-story school building, DeLaSalle Institute, on the south side of Grove Street. An addition was built in 1907 and residential property on Grove Street was acquired in 1914 on which a new high school building was eventually completed in 1922.

In 1942, the Eastman Flats row houses were razed to make room for the school’s athletic fields.

Now, Grove Street itself is threatened by DeLaSalle High School’s proposed development to build an athletic complex that would include a regulation size football field and spectator bleachers for 750 people. The development would remove the east half of this two-block long street from the street grid that has remained intact for 140 years.

Although most of the early structures are gone, Grove Street is still important to the character of the district and in understanding the district’s history. The proposed development would destroy a significant part of that character and negatively impact the historic district.

Ramsey County “Poor Farm” Barn,

In 1885 when Ramsey County moved its “poorhouse” from the site that is now the State Fair grounds, it chose to develop a nursing home and working farm on White Bear Avenue in Maplewood so its “inmates” could contribute to their own support.

Several residential and farming structures were eventually built at the site. A large cattle barn, capable of sheltering up to 75 cows, was added in 1918 and served for many years as a production facility for milk and butter. The University of Minnesota kept some test cows at the barn and it became a stopping place for foreign visitors to inspect the herd.

Today the farm site includes a golf course, a hockey arena, and the city parks and recreation office.

The original nursing home was demolished in 1978 and was replaced by a new facility two years later. Only the imposing barn remains on the site to remind the community of the site’s long agricultural history.

The barn is in good condition and has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The building is partially vacant, but the county extension service occupies a portion of the ground floor.

A proposal to raze the barn and replace it with housing units threatened its survival when initially chosen as a 10 Most Endangered Place. Since that time, the Ramsey County Board has decided to preserve the barn as part of the development plans.

Prince of Peace Lutheran Church,
St. Paul

Built in 1959 and designed by Minnesota’s renowned Modernist architect, Ralph Rapson, the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church of the Deaf succumbed to development pressures.

The rectangular, light brick building sat nestled among trees in a quiet residential neighborhood in St. Paul—-a location selected by the congregation for its peace and seclusion.

Rapson designed the non-traditional church to accommodate the needs of the deaf congregation, with unobstructed site lines to the free-standing altar. He has described the project as one of his favorites.

The original congregation moved to another location a few years ago, leaving the building vulnerable to development. Just one block from the Mississippi River, the site is now prime real estate, on which a developer will be erecting two mid-rise condominium buildings.

Amid neighborhood opposition, the new development is currently underway, adding yet another Rapson- designed building to the annals of history.

With the loss of the Pillsbury House and the imminent demise of the Guthrie Theater, Rapson’s contribution to the Modernist movement as well as many other examples of post-World War II modern buildings are quickly being relegated to the pages of a history book.

Fire Station 19,

Built in 1893 to house Engine Company 19 and Hook and Ladder Company 6, Fire Station 19 is best known as the site where “kittenball” was invented.

The building served its purpose for 83 years until the Fire Department moved out. One year later, Darrel LeBarron purchased the building where he now houses his architectural practice, Station 19 Architects.

Now, just three blocks from where Memorial Stadium stood until razed in 1992, the University of Minnesota plans to construct a new football stadium. Fire Station 19 is seen as ‘critical to the future development of that area’ according to University Director of Real Estate Susan Weinberg quoted in a March 3, 2006, Star Tribune article.

The University offered to purchase the building from LeBarron, but he doesn’t want to sell. Rather, the University is exploring using its power of eminent domain to take the property.

Proposed uses by the University have included a ticket booth or museum for Fire Station 19. However, the stadium’s Environmental Impact Statement shows the building as an island amidst a sea of rerouted streets and parking lots making pedestrian access to the building appear challenging.