State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) Staff–Mary Ann Heidemann, Kelly Gragg-Johnson, and Leslie Coburn–met face-to-face with grants administrators from Greater Minnesota who frequently send projects to SHPO for review under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (1966). The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) had invited SHPO environmental review staff to explain compliance with federal preservation law at training workshops held June 18-20, 2013, in Bemidji, Alexandria, and Mankato. Workshop attendees administer grants funded by the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency and distributed by DEED through a program that targets areas within smaller communities for rehabilitation and economic development, called the Small Cities Development Program. Consultation with SHPO about the impact program activities may have on historic properties, in compliance with the Preservation Act, is just one of the many program requirements grants administrators must follow. Coincidentally, while in the Bemidji area, manager Mary Ann Heidemann collected an award from the US Dept. of Agriculture’s Forest Service recognizing her participation, through Section 106 process, in planning for the sensitive rehabilitation of the Rabideau CCC Camp, a National Historic Landmark in Chippewa National Forest.
July 10, 2013
March 7, 2013
On a chilly January day, I convinced my former colleague, George Kissinger, to give me a tour of downtown Minneapolis redevelopment projects with which he was involved during his 30-year career as a project manager for the City.
In this first video clip, George describes the local government’s role in creating a large tax increment financing district to facilitate redevelopment of entire blocks which now contain City Center, Gaviidae Common, and the Block E complex. Community pressure to rid downtown of the seedy influence of degraded properties, porn shops, and bars prompted city officials to get involved.
In 1988, at a community event to celebrate the impending demolition of Block E’s small-scale commercial buildings between 6th and 7th streets on Hennepin Avenue, the executive director of the Minneapolis Community Development Agency was quoted in the Star Tribune: “We’re now removing this blight to bring life and people back to Hennepin Avenue.”
Stay tuned for more of George’s recollections in future posts.
George Kissinger retired from the Minneapolis Community Development Agency in 2006, having worked on projects such as the acquisition and restoration of the State, Orpheum, and Pantages theaters, the Schubert Theatre move, the Ivy Tower rehab, and the new Federal Reserve Bank. He is a Viet Nam vet and retired Captain from the Naval Reserve. More recently, George has served as captain of the restored Steamboat Minnehaha on Lake Minnetonka.
February 19, 2013
Bugle wails and drum beats echoed through the Minnesota State Capitol Rotunda as historical organizations celebrated History Matters Day on Monday, Feb. 18. Several Minnesota Historical Society departments were represented, including Membership, Publications, The Oliver Kelly Farm, and our own Historic Preservation, Field Services, and Grants Department. Despite the gray weather, a number of schoolchildren and parents showed up to enjoy tours of the Capitol, craft activities, and a visit to the new Then Now Wow exhibit at the History Center.
Joe Hoover and David Grabitske exhibited photos, booklets, and other products from various historical organizations that have received Legacy-funded grants through the Minnesota Historical and Cultural Grants Program. Department Head Barbara Mitchell Howard and David Mather, National Register Archaeologist, joined the festivities throughout the day. This blogger (Leslie Coburn) visited her state representative, Michael Paymar, to advocate for continued preservation funding and tax credits…but, despite his graciousness, she was too jangled to ask for a photo at the time. See remedy below.
January 17, 2013
Last night (1/16/2013), Preserve Minneapolis and Landmark Theatres hosted an insider’s look at the recently completed Uptown Theatre rehabilitation project. Architects Bob Mack and Amy Meller of MacDonald and Mack Architects described the challenges of meeting the client’s needs while advocating for retention of character-defining features.
“We had a few discussions,” Mack said diplomatically, of Landmark’s plans to re-vamp the theater, reducing underutilized seating capacity from around 900 seats to 350 and increasing leasible retail space. The most noticeable change, apart from the tangy lime-green and orange lobby colors, is that the two flanking stairways to the mezzanine level have been moved inside the auditorium to make room for additional storefront space.
Theater manager Patrick Cross was on hand to give his impressions of the new spaces. “I wouldn’t have put the stairs in the interior of the auditorium,” he said, because you can’t access the new bar on the mezzanine while the movie is playing. Cross said that, on the positive side, the improved cash flow from leasible space meant the theater could remain a single-screen movie house, usually a money-losing model in current film industry economics. Without that, a second auditorium might have been carved out of the balcony seating and mezzanine areas, dramatically altering the interior spaces.
About the project, from the Preserve Minneapolis event flyer:
Originally built in 1916, the Uptown Theatre was modernized in 1939 by the architectural team of Liebenberg and Kaplan in the Streamline Moderne style. It was designated a local landmark in 1990. After years of use, several remodelings, and minimal general maintenance, the Uptown Theatre was in need of repair when new building owners took over in 2009. In addition, changes in theater technology and usage required the long-term tenant, Landmark Theatres, to update interior spaces.
MacDonald & Mack Architects worked with the owner to develop an exterior restoration plan which included masonry, tower sign, and marquee repairs in addition to replacement of non-historic storefronts. On the interior, Landmark Theatres wanted to decrease their rental space providing the owner with an opportunity to expand the retail spaces flanking the main entrance, improve accessibility, and update restrooms. Remaining character-defining interior elements – such as the open lobby and mezzanine relationship, re-created Acousti-Celotex murals, and light fixtures – were preserved although the stairs to the balcony and mezzanine were relocated to accommodate retail expansion. Landmark Theatres also took advantage of the remodeling to update interior finishes, install more comfortable seating, replace projection equipment, and address ticketing and concession deficiencies in the main lobby and mezzanine level.
Wednesday’s tour included a trip through the theater’s subterranean tunnel, which constricts menacingly the farther into it you go. Vintage graffiti graces the walls, and an abandoned microwave labeled “MURDER” lends a macabre air.
Catherine Sandlund, staffer at Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office, was there to see the finished results, in anticipation of other theater rehab projects she’ll be assisting through the historic tax credit program in the near future.
January 11, 2013
Funds are still available to assist historic properties damaged in June 2012 storms. The Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) is administering $250,000 in state funding. A simple pre-application will help determine whether a property is eligible for assistance. Grants are available to owners who have exhausted other sources of disaster assistance, such as FEMA and insurance.
Where must the property be located? See this map for counties and tribal areas included in the grant program.
Which properties are eligible? Those that are listed in or eligible for lising in the National Register of Historic Places, including buildings that are contributing to a historic district. If you’re not sure whether your building is eligible, send in the pre-application, along with photos, for a determination. Other kinds of historic resources, such as museum archives, that were damaged by flooding also may be eligible.
Who may apply? Homeowners, commercial property owners, owners of rental properties, units of government, and nonprofit organizations.
How much? The maximum grant for most historic properties is $15,000; the cap for properties listed in the National Register is $30,000. For special cases, more assistance may be requested.
How do I apply? Complete the pre-application (PDF) and mail it to the address on the form.
What’s the catch? Repairs will need to meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.
Still have questions? Contact Leslie Coburn at (651) 259-3457 or
January 8, 2013
Learn how to repair, restore, and weather strip your home’s old windows in evening classes offered in Spring 2013 through St. Paul Public School’s Community Education. Even if you don’t plan to do the work yourself, you’ll learn the basics and vocabulary to hire a competent contractor. Instructor Paul Schmidt, a local window restoration expert, brings window samples, tools, and materials to class to give students an up-close look. Paul tailors his advice to the students’ specific projects.
Window Restoration: Energy Efficiency is offered on February 25 and repeated on May 13; Window Restoration: Glazing Repair will be held on March 4 and May 20. All classes are 6 – 9 PM at Ramsey Junior High. Registration is online.
Original windows are character-defining features of a building and should be repaired rather than replaced. Replacement windows often cost more than repairing the originals, and the new materials won’t last as long as historic wood frames. For an excellent discussion of replacement versus repair, complete with loads of photos, see the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Repair or Replace Old Windows: A Visual Look at the Impacts.
You may recognize Paul Schmidt, owner of Restoration Window Systems, from his presentations at past Minnesota Statewide Historic Preservation Conferences, most recently at the 2012 Fergus Falls conference, where he demonstrated window restoration techniques at the former Northern Pacific Depot.
December 20, 2012
The State Historic Preservation Office will be open, as usual, over the next two weeks, except for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Many staff members will be on vacation, but those of us who drew the short straws will be available to assist you during regular office hours.
We’d like to thank our many admirers for the holiday treats we received over the last few weeks. Disclaimer: The treats were made available to the public at all times. But in the interest of public health and welfare, SHPO staff—pictured above—worked diligently to remove the threat of sugary snacks to the public’s waistlines. Participating staff will remain anonymous and resolutely uninfluenced in the performance of their duties.
SHPO’s Holiday Hours:
Mon., Dec. 24 – Staff are working, but the building is closed to the public
Tues., Dec. 25 – Closed
Wed., Dec. 26 – Open 8:30 AM – 4 PM
Thurs., Dec. 27 – Open 8:30 AM – 4 PM
Fri., Dec. 28 – Open 8:30 AM – 4 PM
Mon., Dec. 31 – Staff are working, but the building is closed to the public
Tues., Jan. 1 – Closed
Wed., Jan. 2 – Open 8:30 AM – 4 PM
Thurs., Jan. 3 – Open 8:30 AM – 4 PM
Fri., Jan. 4 – Open 8:30 AM – 4 PM
December 12, 2012
At the end of every fiscal year, the Compliance team sends a year’s worth of projects to archives to make room in its cramped files for another year’s worth of work—typically 3,000 to 4,000 projects. Here, Manager Mary Ann Heidemann, Leslie Coburn, and Kelly Gragg-Johnson, with tears in their weary eyes, give a fond farewell to 15 boxes of projects from 2007. For the past few years, camera-shy volunteer Kathy Matson has been preparing the boxes for their journey. (We offered Kathy a Droopy Eyes disguise for her photo, but she didn’t go for it.)
The stack of boxes will be higher when the 2010 files are archived. Federal stimulus funds (via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) caused the number of projects to spike to just over 5,000. Residential rehabilitations and demolitions accounted for the majority of federal stimulus projects, followed closely by energy-related projects, such as small wind turbines, geothermal systems, and weatherization.
December 6, 2012
- SHPO Intern Marais Bjornberg
Have you ever wanted to hire a contractor to work on your historic preservation project, but you had no idea where to find someone with the expertise to do the right thing? Staff at the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) have recognized this dilemma and are working on a directory of historic preservation specialists, to include trades people, architects, archeologists, researchers, historic tax credit specialists, among others.
Minnesota Historical Society IT staff are creating an online interface with the directory database so that anyone can search for individuals and firms by name, specialty, or location. The tentative roll-out date for the online directory is March 2013. For an idea of what the directory will look like, see the Utah SHPO’s online directory at http://history.utah.gov/apps/contractors.html .
This fall, intern Marais Bjornberg has been contacting preservation specialists throughout the state to add to the directory. Marais has a BA in Architecture, with a Sustainability Studies Minor, from the University of Minnesota. Part of her time at SHPO has been spent talking with various staff members to help inform her plans to return to school for a Masters in Architecture and/or Historic Preservation. Thanks to Marais, we’ll be able to debut over 150 contractors in our directory. Best of luck to Marais in her future endeavors!
November 30, 2012
106 Success Story - Four Agencies, One Goal: Restoring the St. Croix Recreation Demonstration Area, Hinckley, Minnesota
The following post is from FEMA Region V, in conjunction with the National Park Service Midwest Region, the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
During the evening of July 1, 2011, storms accompanied by straight-line winds at speeds of more than 100 miles per hour tore through the St. Croix Recreational Demonstration Area (RDA), felling trees, blocking roadways, and damaging buildings across the park. Temporary closure of the park due to a budget stalemate just prior to the storm assured that there was no injury to park patrons, but the park’s facilities were significantly damaged. The storm devastated buildings directly and also produced tons of woody debris which further damaged structures throughout the park, a National Historic Landmark with an almost 80-year history.
In 1934, 18,000 acres of land midway between Minneapolis–St. Paul and Duluth were acquired for the development of the St. Croix RDA. During the New Deal, the National Park Service (NPS) planned 46 such parks as part of a program that sought to create jobs while repurposing marginal agricultural lands for recreational use. The RDAs were established with careful consideration of topography, viewsheds, and future reforestation. Swimming pools, open meadows, separate hiking and bridle trails, roads and plantings were developed in these parks to provide opportunities for outdoor sports and activities, particularly for children from urban areas.
Pre-disaster photos of an Adirondack at Crooked Creek and the Superintendent’s Cabin at Headquarters Area.
St. Croix ultimately became a state park and eventually grew to 30,000 acres, with many Rustic-Style structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration to serve as campgrounds, lodges, group centers and administrative areas. The St. Croix RDA’s 164 extant historic structures, roads and trails comprise the most extensive collection of individual New Deal projects in Minnesota, and they are located within one of the largest and best examples of RDA planning and design in the country. The park’s significance is reflected in the listing of one section of the park as a district on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989 and the subsequent designation of the entire park as a National Historic Landmark (NHL) in 1997.
The park’s historic and architectural significance is reflected in the Rustic-Style structures, trails and recreational areas, much of which were damaged in the July 1 storms. On July 28, the president declared a major disaster for Minnesota, making federal funding available on a cost-sharing basis to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which is responsible for maintaining the park.
Storm damage to Adirondack cabin at Crooked Creek and the Superintendent’s Cabin at Headquarters Area.
It took weeks of steady effort to clear debris so DNR staff could even begin an assessment of damage to historic structures within the park. Within two months, the park was again open to visitors but with the damaged buildings cordoned off. At that point, the work to define specific repairs to the many damaged Rustic Style buildings in the park had only begun. The damaged structures included simple Adirondack- type shelters, masonry and log cabins, bicycle and picnic shelters, and administrative buildings. Most structures suffered damage to roofing systems, though two were completely leveled by the storm, and two were damaged beyond repair, requiring the complete dismantling and salvage of their remains prior to complete reconstruction. The number of resources affected and the variation in the types of damage sustained complicated recovery efforts as well as the reviews required to assure that repairs met the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards. The goal of these reviews was to protect the character-defining features of the individual structures, thereby maintaining the integrity of the park as a whole.
Damage to Cabins A-2 andC-2 at St. John’s Landing.
The 106 Process
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was on the ground soon after the disaster declaration to provide support as the DNR continued its work and assessed the damage to historic structures. As part of regular disaster operations, the public was notified of and asked to comment on FEMA’s intent to use federal funding for disaster recovery projects, including those that could affect historic properties, such as the St. Croix RDA. In addition, section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) requires the federal agency to notify the Secretary of the Interior when federal funding will affect an NHL. As the extent of the damage became clear, FEMA’s Regional Environmental Officer (REO), responsible for overseeing the agency’s compliance with the NHPA, reached out to the NPS Midwest Office, the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office, the Minnesota State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and the DNR to review the projects being developed and to discuss ways to assure that the many historic structures damaged by the storm would be appropriately repaired.
Beginning with building inventories maintained by the DNR and working closely with the state and FEMA’s Public Assistance Branch, FEMA’s environmental review staff prepared summaries of proposed treatment measures and coordinated review with the consulting parties. As the DNR identified programs of repairs for individual resources or groups of resources and shared those with the consulting parties, FEMA managed discussions of those treatment measures through a series of conference calls and email exchanges.
Winter storms limited access to the park and therefore project development. Beginning in February, 2012, and continuing through July, the consulting parties gathered regularly to review repair specifications and discuss treatment measures to assure that the historic character of the RDA would not be compromised by the repairs. This level of engagement, driven by the DNR’s plans for repairs and managed by FEMA’s environmental review staff, resulted in the timely review of nearly 60 separate grant projects affecting almost half of the structures in the RDA.
Damage to Lodge A at St. John’s Landing, St. Croix Recreation Demonstration Area.
The scope of work and treatment measures for each project were formally documented, providing clarity regarding the expected outcomes of the repairs, whether they involved work as simple as the replacement of roofing shingles or as complex as the complete disassembly and reconstruction of buildings which suffered serious structural damage. After approval of the final project, a summary of treatment measures was developed to provide a record of the decisions made by the consulting parties.
As work continues on repairs over a year after the storms did their damage, the process followed by the consulting parties assures that repairs will maintain the park’s integrity, and that a record of these treatment measures will be available as guidelines for future repairs and maintenance.
Despite the damage sustained in the summer of 2011, the Section 106 process successfully addressed damage to the park’s historic resources, preserving an important part of our nation’s history. That success allows the park to continue providing opportunities for outdoor recreation as originally envisioned almost 80 years ago. The consulting parties, guided by the requirements of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, preserved St. Croix’s place as the best example of RDA design and planning and maintained its collection of architecturally-significant Rustic-Style buildings for the enjoyment of future generations.
Repairs to Lodge A at St. John’s Landing, in progress (left) and complete (right).