Minnesota’s Endangered Buildings

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A detail from the exterior of the Jackson County Resource Center – formerly the Jackson High School – which may be torn down to make way for a new resource center.

Photo by Doug Ohman of Pioneer Photography.

Each year the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota announces what it considers to be the ten most endangered historic places, in an attempt to inspire public support and advocacy for their preservation and restoration. The Preservation Alliance is hoping to raise money for its efforts tonight with what it’s calling an “Anti-Wrecking Ball” at The Soap Factory in Minneapolis.

Here are the unlucky “winners” of 2010:

The Bessesen Building, Albert Lea

This three-story opera house and conservatory was built by a wealthy young doctor in a (successful) attempt to woo worldly opera singer Beatrice Gjertsen, who shortly thereafter became Beatrice Bessessen (the building is inscribed with her intials). $100,000 is needed to stabilize the building and perform needed roofing, window, and masonry repairs.

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Roseville Dairy Queen

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Minnesota’s Oldest Dairy Queen, Roseville

1720 North Lexington Avenue in Roseville is the home to Minnesota’s oldest Dairy Queen. Built in the early 1950s, the building features soaring, angled glass planes, a concrete block base, and a large, distinctive neon sign. However the current owner is considering demolishing the existing building and replacing it with a new Dairy Queen.

Dodd Ford Bridge, Amboy

Blue Earth County’s Dodd Ford Bridge dates back to 1901 when farmers needed help transporting equipment and goods over the Blue Earth River to Amboy. Threatened with replacement since the 1970s, the bridge is believed to be one of only a few remaining camelback truss bridges in the state.

Garrison Concourse, Garrison

Known best perhaps for the mammoth walleye replica in its center, the Garrison concourse was designed by the National Park Service and constructed between 1936 and 1939. It’s widely considered one of the finest roadside rest areas in Minnesota, but after seventy years, the concourse is reflecting its age. The most critical area is the base of the overlook wall, which has been repeatedly thrashed by waves and ice.

Todd County Courthouse, Long Prairie

The Todd County Courthouse is one of only a dozen historic courthouses in Minnesota that were built before 1890. It’s already listed in the National Register of Historic Places for both its architectural and historical significance, but since 2006 it’s only been used for storage. The Todd County Board of Commissioners has decided to put the preservation of the building to a county-wide vote in November.

Wesley United Methodist Church, Minneapolis

Wesley United Methodist Church was built in 1891, and now sits across from the modern Minneapolis Convention Center. Both the exterior and interior of Wesley Church are designated local landmarks, a rare distinction. But because the building currently has no congregation and is a substantial financial drain, the Minnesota Conference of United Methodists is now considering a range of options that may include selling Wesley to the highest bidder on the open real estate market.

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Great Northern Railway Depot

Photo by Kate Scott of Black Box Images

Great Northern Railway Depot, Princeton

Built in 1902 to accommodate regional railroad freight and passengers traveling along the Milaca Line, Princeton depot is now the only remaining Queen Anne-style brick and stone depot built along James J. Hill’s famed Great Northern Railway. The Milaca line was abandoned in 1981, and now the depot serves as home to the Mille Lacs County Historical Society. Unfortunately the society lacks the funds to replace the roof, as well as the buildings electrical, fire-suppression, and life-safety systems.

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Jackson Country Resource Center

Photo by Doug Ohman of Pioneer Photography

Jackson County Resource Center, Jackson

Formerly known as Jackson High School, this building of the county resource center was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, and many of its builders were members of its first graduating class who went on to become the “Greatest Generation.” The building exterior has inscribed stone ornamentation characteristic of the Art Deco style, while the interior features wrought iron railings, decorative tilework, dark oak cabinetry, and a 700-seat auditorium-gymnasium with wood seats and stylized light fixtures. Now the county is looking to tear down the high school and erect a new resource center in its place.

Samuel J. Hewson House, Minneapolis

This private residence is a victim of the recent foreclosure crisis. The Samuel J. Hewson House was built in 1905 and its elaborate interior decoration is particularly vulnerable to theft or being stripped and sold piecemeal. In addition, the longer the house remains empty, the more likely it suffer water damage, neglect or vandalism. In order to survive, the Hewson House needs a new owner who will invest in its preservation.

Southeast St. Cloud Neighborhood, St. Cloud

Southeast St. Cloud is filled with properties that are listed, or are eligible for listing, in the National Register of Historic Places. But the proposed University Drive Corridor Project (designed to deal with area traffic) threatens to adversely affect several properties, as well as the look and feel of the entire neighborhood.

Since the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota began putting out its Top Ten list seventeen years ago, it’s helped save 66 buildings from destruction.

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