Minnesota State Preservation Office Weblog

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SHPO Presents at DEED Training Workshops

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

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.

Oral History Tidbit: Downtown Minneapolis Redevelopment with George Kissinger, Part 1

Thursday, March 7th, 2013
This photo was taken in 1973 as part of the Environmental Protection Agency's "Documerica" Project (1972-77) to document "subjects of environmental concern."

This photo of Block E in downtown Minneapolis was taken in 1973 as part of the Environmental Protection Agency's "Documerica" Project (1972-77) to document "subjects of environmental concern."

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.

History Matters Day at the Capitol

Tuesday, February 19th, 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.

Joe Hoover and David Grabitske, Historic Preservation, Field Services, and Grants Dept., Minnesota Historical Society

Joe Hoover and David Grabitske, Historic Preservation, Field Services, and Grants Dept., Minnesota Historical Society



Pinwheel craft activity at the Capitol
Pinwheel craft activity at the Capitol



Barbara Mitchell Howard, Deputer State Historic Preservation Officer

Barbara Mitchell Howard, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer



Rep. Paymar and me...sort of

Rep. Paymar and me...sort of




Behind the Scenes at the Uptown Theatre

Thursday, January 17th, 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.

Flood Recovery Funds Still Available

Friday, January 11th, 2013
Swinging Bridge at Jay Cooke State Park after 2012 Flood

Swinging Bridge at Jay Cooke State Park after 2012 Flood

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.

For more information, see Printable Documentation (PDF) or SHPO’s Flood Recovery Webpage.

Still have questions?  Contact Leslie Coburn at (651) 259-3457 or

Glazing the Way: Spring Window Restoration Classes Announced

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Instructor Paul Schmidt at the 2012 Statewide Preservation Conference in Fergus Falls

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 HighRegistration 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.

paul-schmidt 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. 



Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Treats from our neighbors down the hill (no, not Catholic Charities)

Treats from our neighbors down the hill (no, not Catholic Charities)

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

Eye-popping Number of Projects

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012


Mary Ann Heidemann, Leslie Coburn, and Kelly Gragg-Johnson

Mary Ann Heidemann, Leslie Coburn, and Kelly Gragg-Johnson

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.


Intern Marais Bjornberg Working on Preservation Specialists Directory

Thursday, December 6th, 2012
SHPO Intern Marais Bjornberg
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 .


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!