Relics photo essay: Saving the school in Chatfield

In many ways, the rehabilitation of the former Chatfield high school represents an ideal scenario for how to save old, iconic buildings in small communities. This is a topic Ground Level is exploring this week or so in a project called Reviving Minnesota Relics.

When the school district in Chatfield, near Rochester, decided to build a new school six years ago, the city agreed to take the old one, but only if the district gave up the money it was going to use to tear it down. That amounted to $275,000, enough to keep the building insured and heated while the city began fixing it up.

Given a longstanding appreciation for brass band music in Chatfield, an arts center seemed a good reuse for the school. “It’s the natural heritage of the community,” said city clerk Joel Young. “We’ve had bands active in Chatfield since the 1800s.  The heritage of this community says we are into that sort of thing.”

The city is renovating the school and auditorium room by room, with donated money and volunteers. The community has helped with painting, floor refinishing and more. “We chipped away,” said Young. Presently, the Center for the Arts is home to live performances, classes and events.

Location: 405 Main St. S.