2008 Ten Most Endangered

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An abandoned jail, a small-town bank, below ground resources, and a mid-century modern icon represent just a few of the diverse sites named to the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota’s 2008 list of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places. This marks the fifteenth year the Alliance has released its listing of the state’s most endangered historic properties.

The 10 Most Endangered program is designed to spotlight historic places that face imminent danger through demolition, neglect, severe alteration, or inappropriate public policy. Through this program the Alliance seeks favorable outcomes that can be achieved through a preservation approach. Of the 122 places listed over the life of this important program, two-thirds have been saved in part through the awareness generated by its listing. Success stories include Minneapolis’ Midtown Exchange and the Ivy Tower, St. Paul’s Head and Sack House, the Stillwater Lift Bridge, the former Red Wing High School, the Litchfield Opera House, and Virginia’s B’Nai Abraham Synagogue. A full listing of previous 10 Most Endangered properties, and more information about the Alliance’s work to preserve, protect, and promote Minnesota’s historic resources, can be found at archive.mnpreservation.org.

Raising awareness for the 10 Most Endangered Places is the key to ensuring a preservation solution. The Alliance provides two promotional vehicles to raise the profile of these ten places statewide. Throughout 2008, a traveling exhibit featuring this year’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places – created by Kodet Architectural Group with photography by Doug Ohman, Pioneer Photography – will be displayed in museums, libraries and other public places. This detailed brochure, designed by Chris Evans of Drumminhands Design, is widely distributed to provide more detailed information about each property.

The 10 Most Endangered Historic Places are selected from nominations submitted by citizens and groups from around the state. The selection committee is comprised of preservation professionals representing the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota; State Historic Preservation Office; Minnesota Historical Society; Historic Saint Paul; Preserve Minneapolis; the Historic Resources Committee of the American Institute of Architects-Minnesota; and the Minnesota advisors to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Preservation Alliance of Minnesota would like to thank the following sponsors for making this year’s 10 Most Endangered program possible:

sponsor logos

All photos © 2008 Doug Ohman / Pioneer Photography unless otherwise noted.

Saint Louis County Jail,

The St. Louis County Jail was built in 1923 as a component of Duluth’s Civic Center complex, which also includes the St. Louis County Courthouse (1909), Duluth City Hall (1928), and the Federal Building (1929). The complex, planned by renowned architect Daniel Burnham and constructed over twenty years through the work of local architects, is a monument of the national City Beautiful Movement. With these buildings Duluth’s civic leaders asserted that the city was poised to transform itself from a frontier town to a leading economic, social and cultural center. The Civic Center is on the National Register of Historic Places and has local landmark status.

Designed by the Duluth architectural firm Holstead and Sullivan, the neoclassical jail is faced in St. Cloud granite with extensive terra cotta ornament. An imposing structure that serves to anchor the civic center complex, the jail stands empty, following the relocation of its functions in 1995. While the three other buildings in the complex continue to serve their civic functions, the county jail faces an uncertain future. No reuse for the building has been identified, and St. Louis County officials have published a position paper that states the case for demolition of the jail. At a minimum, the building should be mothballed and maintained to preserve its structural integrity, with the hope that a private developer or public/private partnership can determine a viable reuse for this historic structure.

Action Steps:
• Call your county commission to voice support for preserving the St. Louis County Jail and encourage revisiting solutions identified in the 1999 Reuse Study.
• Contact Duluth Mayor Don Ness’ office to voice your support for preservation as a City priority.
• Become a member of the Duluth Preservation Alliance to support local preservation efforts. Download a membership application from http://www.duluthpreservation.org/
• Join the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota’s effort to pass the state rehabilitation tax credit providing additional preservation development incentives.

Mantorville Unaffiliated Normal School,

The Mantorville Unaffiliated Normal School is located at the northeast corner of Clay Street and 8th Avenue Northwest, just north of the National Register-listed Mantorville Historic District. The limestone building, constructed in the late nineteenth century, housed a teacher training school beginning in 1912. The one-story structure’s most notable feature is its unique masonry pattern of alternating wide solid stone blocks and narrow tri-stacked blocks. Although the building is currently vacant and needs additional restoration, volunteers have stabilized its chimney, roof and a portion of the foundation. The most immediate threat to the Mantorville Normal School is the school district’s plan to sell the building, including two adjacent parcels. In that context the building is seen as a potential impediment to the sale of the land to a future developer. An advocacy group, the Mantorville Restoration Association (MRA) is currently seeking a commitment from the school district to preserve the building or to allow the MRA to purchase and restore it. The Mantorville Unaffiliated Normal School building is a notable example of local vernacular architecture representative of the progressive spirit of the pioneer school district as well as long-lasting craftsmanship of local masons.

Action Steps:
• Contact the Kasson-Mantorville School District to voice your support for the onsite preservation of the Normal School.
• Send editorials in favor of onsite preservation to the Star Record, Dodge County Independent, or the Rochester Post-Bulletin.
• Support the Mantorville Restoration Association—become a member, volunteer, or make a donation by contacting (507) 269-8704 for more information.

The McGrath Old State Bank,

The McGrath State Bank opened its doors in the autumn of 1913 in its small community, twenty miles east of Lake Mille Lacs. Closed during the Depression, the one-story wood structure sat empty for several years, until the McGrath town council reopened it as a municipal liquor store. For a time it served as a bingo hall for the VFW and today the old McGrath State Bank building is once again vacant and quickly falling into disrepair. The 1,300-square foot stone foundation is in poor condition, the windows are broken and the front door is boarded up. However, many of the bank’s original features remain within the building, including the safe and teller’s cage. A proposal to restore the building is being developed for consideration by a newly formed grass roots organization called Bear Creek Community Development Corporation. Unfortunately the McGrath City Council voted 3-2 to reject a reuse proposal. As McGrath celebrates its centennial in 2008, restoration of the bank building would serve as an appropriate memorial of the town’s history. Area descendants of town founder James E. McGrath are willing to help save this rare example of a small pioneertown bank. However, the effort will need broader public support to succeed.

Action Steps:
• Contact the McGrath City Council to voice your support for the preservation of the Old State Bank.
• Suggest reuse ideas at the May 14, 2008 public meeting taking place at 6:30 p.m. at the McGrath Fire Hall.

Layman’s / Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery,

Layman’s Cemetery was established in 1853 at 2925 Cedar Avenue South in Minneapolis, five years before Minnesota achieved statehood. In 1928 Layman’s was renamed Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery in honor of the settlers and early residents buried there who contributed to the growth and prosperity of the city and the state. Today the cemetery contains 20,000 graves on a twenty-seven acre site and is the only cemetery in Minnesota listed as an individual landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. Unfortunately, the absence of a perpetual maintenance fund has left Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery in a fragile condition. The wrought-iron fence that defines the boundaries of the site is in need of restoration, and the effects of pollution, neglect and vandalism threaten grave markers and other elements. Burial records and other historic documents in the cemetery office building remain to be inventoried and cataloged.

A nonprofit group, Friends of the Cemetery, is working to promote appreciation and revitalization of Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery, and the City of Minneapolis has taken initial steps to document important elements, make capital improvements and prepare a long-term maintenance plan. In 2006 the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission designated the site as a local landmark. These efforts have provided some relief, but private, nonprofit funding is needed to ensure the future preservation of Minneapolis’ oldest cemetery.

Action Steps:
• Contact your Council member to encourage the City of Minneapolis to conduct a survey and conditions analysis of the cemetery and to carry out capital improvements according to the new Maintenance Plan and Design Guidelines.
• Make a donation to the City of Minneapolis toward the maintenance of the cemetery—earmark your gift in the name of the Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery.
• Visit the Friends of the Cemetery website to learn more about this historic site and offer to volunteer for an event. http://www.friendsofthecemetery.org/

Oakland Apartments,

The Oakland Apartments is a three-story, red limestone and brick residential building located on the east edge of downtown Minneapolis at 213-215 South Ninth Street. Designed by Minneapolis architect Harry Wild Jones in 1888, the building is an excellent example of the Richardsonian Romanesque style. The building also stands as a rare remnant of the nineteenth-century residences that once spread across the south and east sides of downtown Minneapolis. In spite of its significant historic integrity and connection to the renowned local architect, Harry Wild Jones, the Oakland Apartments is not locally or nationally designated as a historic landmark.

Originally surrounded by similar residential structures, the Oakland Apartments is now one of only two buildings on its block, isolated among surface parking lots. The building is vulnerable to future development, which could claim the entire block. Because the Oakland Apartments is not historically designated, demolition of the building could go unnoticed and unchallenged. Advocates of the building are working to obtain local historic designation for the structure. However, the nomination will need significant public support to convince the Minneapolis City Council to approve designation of the building over any objections from the owners. If preserved, the historic apartment building could serve as the centerpiece of a residential or mixed-use development of the type and scale of similar recent developments in the nearby Elliot Park neighborhood, which have served to revitalize the area.

Action Steps:
• Contact your City Council member to support moving forward with a local historic designation study for the Oakland Apartments.
• Attend the June 14, 2008, debut of Harry Wild Jones, American Architect, at the Hennepin History Museum (www.hennepinhistory.org). Voice your interest in the formation of the Harry Wild Jones Society, a local group interested in the identification and promotion of Jones’ designs.

Peavey Plaza,

Peavey Plaza in Minneapolis, created by renowned landscape architect, M. Paul Friedberg, and constructed in 1975, is a landmark of modern design. Trees, shrubs and a corner fountain define the edges of the plaza—located in front of Orchestra Hall between 11th and 12th Streets on Nicollet Mall—and concrete steps directly connect the sunken plaza with the street. Peavey Plaza serves as an amphitheater for annual events such as the popular Sommerfest, as well as a stage for both residents and visitors to enjoy the theater of everyday life in the city. As the only urban gathering space in the core of downtown Minneapolis, and as a unique example of modern landscape design, Peavey Plaza is an urban treasure and an historical icon worthy of preservation.

Currently, two real and imminent threats endanger the integrity and future of Peavey Plaza. First, the plaza has been subjected to a combination of neglect and ill-advised renovations that have altered the original design and intent of the space. Second, the planned remodeling and expansion of the Orchestra Hall lobby threaten to culminate in a wholesale redesign of the plaza. Advocates for the preservation of Peavey Plaza are hopeful that they can work with the City of Minneapolis and Orchestra Hall to develop a maintenance plan for vegetation and materials, as well as a design plan for rehabilitation, to address contemporary needs while preserving historic resources. With advocacy and cooperation Peavey Plaza will remain an iconic modern landscape and a beloved place in the city.

Action Steps:

• Read more about the Cultural Landscape Foundation’s Landslide designation of Peavey Plaza as one of twelve endangered “Marvels of Modernism” in the U.S.
• Contact your City Council member to voice your support for the continued maintenance of Peavey Plaza in a way that is sensitive to its original design.
• Contact the Minnesota Orchestral Association to voice your support for renovating Peavey Plaza in a way that preserves the original design intent of M. Paul Friedberg.
• Make a donation to the Minnesota Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (MASLA) in support of Peavey Plaza (www.masla.org).

Saint Anthony Falls Historic District Archaeological Resources,

The St. Anthony Falls Historic District in Minneapolis spans both banks of the Mississippi River, including several islands in the channel. The district’s historic properties are the legacy of the early history of city, including the water-powered industrial development fed by the falls. Significant archaeological resources in the area have been documented and are visible at such sites as Mill Ruins Park and the Mill City Museum, but equally significant artifacts and ruins lie buried throughout the district. Some correspond with extant historic structures; others contain the history of structures long demolished and activities forgotten.

As a prominent local landmark long before Father Hennepin’s visit in 1680, the archaeological record of the falls district is fragile, but holds the source material for a deeper understanding of Minnesota history. However, construction projects on both public and private land constitute an ongoing threat to the district’s archaeological record. As in a forensic investigation, the meaning and significance of artifacts and related data are entirely dependent on their context. If they are disturbed without proper documentation, their value will be irretrievably lost.

Action Steps:
• Visit Mill Ruins Park on the west bank, and Water Power Park on the east bank, of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis to learn more about the riverfront’s archaeological resources.
• Voice your support for the preservation of the riverfront’s underground historic and prehistoric resources by contacting your City Council and Park Board member.

Floral Hall,
Olmsted County Fair Grounds,

Floral Hall, built in the 1930s by Depression-era WPA workers, is one of the most architecturally compelling county fairground buildings in Minnesota. Its limestone walls support a gabled roof of recycled-wood trusses that span an open interior. The spacious exhibition hall represents the history of county fairs in the growth of the state, and is a notable local example of the programs of the federal Works Progress Administration.

Olmsted County officials plan to demolish Floral Hall, citing structural concerns and the need for extensive repairs. In response, a coalition of Olmsted County preservationists has started an energetic campaign to save the building. Among the group’s work is a series of architectural surveys that conclude that the repairs are minor, isolated, and pose no significant problems affecting Floral Hall’s basic structural integrity.

Constructed using local labor and materials—including the recycled-wood roof trusses—Floral Hall is a compelling historical model of green architecture. In addition, as a warm-weather facility, the building’s energy use is minimal. Restoration of Floral Hall would save energy and materials while honoring its historic origins, serving to demonstrate the principle that historic preservation is a sustainable practice.

Action Steps:
• Contact the Olmsted County Board to thank them for voting in April to preserve Floral Hall.
• Attend the Rochester Heritage Preservation Commission’s press conference in honor of National Preservation Month on May 9, 2008 at 9:30 a.m. in the Rochester City Hall Rotunda.
• See Floral Hall up close when the Olmsted County Fairgrounds hosts Rochester Gold Rush May 10-11, 2008.
• Donate towards the preservation of Floral Hall to the Friends of Building #31 Fund, managed by the Rochester Area Foundation.
• Contact the Friends of Floral Hall for volunteer opportunities at jane@blueplanet-consulting.com.

Saint Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church
(Rock of the Ages Church),
Saint Paul

Saint Matthew’s Church is a Gothic Revival style church located near the intersection of Dale Street and University Avenue in the Frogtown neighborhood of Saint Paul. Built in 1919 and designed by Saint Paul architect William L. Alban, the church served its first congregation of mainly German immigrants. Throughout the twentieth century numerous congregations used the building, as varying demographic shifts changed the character of the neighborhood.

Saint Matthew’s Church is one of several small brick churches in the Frogtown neighborhood. It has a towering wood-shingled steeple and unique stained glass windows. Unfortunately there is considerable structural damage to the building; the walls are bowing outwards and the sanctuary ceiling is collapsing. Water damage further threatens the condition of the structure. In addition, redevelopment along University Avenue, with the planned Central Corridor light rail transit route, could pose either a significant threat or a reuse opportunity for Saint Matthew’s.

While community organizations such as the Greater Frogtown Community Development Corporation, the Neighborhood Development Center and Historic Saint Paul support the restoration and revitalization of this church, a well-developed preservation plan that identifies potential occupants and financial sources, and raises awareness of the church’s history, is needed to save this important piece of Saint Paul’s heritage.

Action Steps:
• Make a donation in support of Rock of Ages Church to the Greater Frogtown Community Development Corporation (www.greaterfrogtowncdc.org). Funding is needed for projects ranging from $150,000 in structural repairs to research for a local designation study.
• Help to interpret the history of Rock of Ages Church. Provide your stories about the church to info@greaterfrogtowncdc.org.
• Contact your Saint Paul City Council member to support studying local historic designation for the church.
• The church is currently for sale—interested buyers are encouraged to contact the Greater Frogtown CDC to discuss reuse opportunities.

The Buch House,

The Buch House at 227 Fourth Avenue West in downtown Shakopee was built in 1875 of locally manufactured brick for lumber merchant Frank Buch. An 1891 illustration reveals the delicate details of the roof, bracketed cornice, and open porches of the two-story Victorian dwelling. Although many of the original details have been removed, the building is an increasingly rare remnant of the history of Shakopee. Now owned by the Scott County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA), the Buch House is threatened by plans to expand the parking lot for the nearby courthouse and jail. As a result, the HRA has not invested in the building’s long-term maintenance. The recently formed Shakopee Historic Preservation Advisory Commission has designated it as a historic site worthy of preservation, but the commission lacks a regulatory ordinance to enforce protection of the house. A number of compatible reuses have been suggested and advocates believe the county can achieve their parking objectives while preserving the house. The Buch House demonstrates the need for local heritage preservation commissions with regulatory authority, especially in the growing metropolitan area, as development expands into historic small towns once on the periphery of the Twin Cities, such as Shakopee.

Action Steps:
• Contact the Scott County Board to voice your support for moving the building as an alternative to demolition.
• Learn more about the Buch House, and Shakopee’s history, by purchasing the historic walking tour book available at the Scott County Historical Society and the Chamber of Commerce.
• Contact the Shakopee City Council to support the creation of a local preservation ordinance providing building and demolition permit review.

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