NEWS STORIES

Courtesy Brainerd Dispatch,

Dispatch article, BRAINERD HISTORY WALK project, 4/30/2008:

Historic walk

Health and history linked in city

By RENEE RICHARDSON

Senior Reporter

Take a walk on the historic side.

A volunteer effort is providing a way to celebrate Brainerd's history as part of Minnesota's sesquicentennial with a health component - a history walk. Organizers say Brainerd's history is neither dry nor beyond relevance today and the walk both celebrates the past and provides a platform to think constructively about building the future.

For more than two decades Carl Faust has been uncovering history, literally moving earth and snow looking for building footings and markers. Faust, an amateur historian, grew up by Gregory Park.

As an adult, he envisioned an effort where area walking trails would be marked and not discovered by chance. Articles about the benefits of walking seemed everywhere, but Faust said he couldn't seem to get anyone involved in marking urban trails. And he saw great potential in walking trails that pointed out Brainerd's plentiful historic sites.

The former First National Bank building, on the corner of South Sixth and Front streets in Brainerd, was the site of a 1933 armed bank robbery. The bank building, which now houses a pawn shop, is a landmark in the downtown area. Baby Face Nelson led the five gunmen who robbed the bank more than 64 years ago. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
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This year, Faust said fate stepped in.

Faust pointed to a series of articles on a recent social capital survey included a list of what people could do to help build a sense of community, with a walking tour at the top. Walking, jogging or information on trails seemed to be daily health and better living news topics.


Andrew Hook, a new resident to the region with an interest in community building and history, saw an opportunity to commemorate the state's birth by looking at Brainerd's legacy. When he talked to Brainerd Librarian Marta Mersereau, she provided the link to Faust. That was in March. In an extremely compressed time schedule, the two and a handful of other volunteers, took on an ambitious project. They came up with a detailed brochure, reference markers and plans for guided walks to coincide with the sesquicentennial.

"It's just amazing when you get a guy like Andrew tying everything together and lighting a fire under everyone," Faust said.


Hook said he is very much aware he is still an outsider here. An economist, Hook's work often revolved around developing and post-conflict countries. He realized the most successful development came when multiple parts of the community were involved.

For the walk, Hook talked to representatives at Central Lakes College, the Crow Wing County Historical Society, the Crossing Arts Alliance, the Brainerd Lakes Chamber and Mainstreet Program, Brainerd Community Action, Brainerd School District and area business owners.

Hook said the walking tour is one way to be part of the state's birthday celebration by linking past and present from economics to regional identity. While the May sesquicentennial will launch the history walks, organizers don't want it to end there.


"We really want to have an ongoing set of walks," Hook said. "The downtown walk will be the start of it. We are trying to get a lot of effort in order to make sure this is something that is a value to the community in a lasting way."

Kevin Thesing, Lakes Printing owner, is donating work for the walking brochure. The event that encourages walking, showcases Brainerd's history and brings people downtown is a nice blend of people and ideas, Thesing said.

said. "Whenever a group of volunteers wants to do something progressive for the community, we want to support that. If we can help, it's just a great way to do that."

Additional historic sites in the city from mining to logging and brewing may all be included in future walks, along with area neighborhoods. Walks could be included for other community events, such as the Fourth of July.

"Part of it is so that when people think Brainerd they actually have a vision of the history, they have a vision of how this was part of Minnesota, how this was part of the United States as it developed and what's the next step," Hook said.

"I would say we're at a threshold. We're not asking for a lot, but in the longer run we think if we do this right this will really help in terms of the overall community. That's where it comes back to economic development, community strengthening and building. The most successful development is where you get different parts of the community that are working together."

Statehood week

Minnesota will celebrate its 150th anniversary since becoming the 32nd state in the union on May 11, 1858.

The sesquicentennial is a yearlong statewide commemoration with statehood week festivities May 11-18.

Volunteers have organized an historic walk in Brainerd to kick off the week of May 11.

A series of guided walks in downtown Brainerd will look at what was and may lead to consideration of what may be.

For more information, go online to http://lakesarea.brainerddispatch.com/groups/brainerdhistorywalk or to volunteer contact Carl Faust at fertfaust@msn.com or Andrew Hook at andrewthook@hotmail.com.

 

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5852.

INSIDE PAGE:

Organizers hope to pave way for self-guided tours

By RENEE RICHARDSON

Senior Reporter

Imagine a walking tour in Brainerd on a spring day and getting a real glimpse at how people lived here complete with historic markers and a detailed brochure and guides.

In May, that is just what will happen here.

A walk through history will be launched in downtown Brainerd and will coincide with Minnesota's sesquicentennial celebration from May 11-18.

"This is something that is exercise, it gets you outside, it's valuable," said volunteer organizer Andrew Hook. And, he said tying it in with area businesses will make it sustainable for ongoing interest.

Once the sesquicentennial celebration is past, brochures and markers will pave the way for self-guided tours, which the organizers behind this event hope to expand in the future.

Aqua historic markers in the shape of the Brainerd water tower are being used to identify the historic points of interest.

In many cases notable buildings, like the eye-catching Villard Hotel, were destroyed by what seemed to be a Brainerd plague - fire. Others, like the Northern Pacific Depot on Washington Street, were torn down in what now may seem to some a lack of foresight. The brochure will connect the present day to the city's legacy.

Items worthy of note include the Iron Exchange Building, created with yellow enamel brick, that once dominated South Sixth Street between Front and Laurel streets. Another is the Sleeper Opera House with its 1,000-seat auditorium on South Eighth Street.

A Minnesota Historical Society field worker is expected to visit Brainerd and provide expertise on the history walk here. The volunteers behind the effort hope others with an interest in history will be willing to serve as guides during the week of May 11 and help bring the past to life.

Hook said ideas for the walk include a treasure hunt with participating stores as businesses host photos of their vintage exteriors or other buildings that no longer exist downtown.

One thing organizers say may come out of the event is an ability to attract and preserve an oral history. Who knows, 50 or 100 years from now lakes area residents celebrating Minnesota's birthday, may wonder how present day people lived and worked. If they are lucky, a walking tour may help them envision it.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5852.

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OUR OPINION: HISTORY WALKS (5/8/2008)

Take a walk on the historical side

Maybe it's a case of nostalgia or next week's celebration of Minnesota's sesquicentennial. Whatever the reason, the idea of history walks in downtown Brainerd is sure to appeal to area history buffs.

History buffs, of course, are those folks who irritate family members by stopping to read every plaque they see or who pester building owners for the background story on old buildings. They're constantly wondering how old a structure is or what it was used for years ago.

While they may never rival Boston's Freedom Trail or the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas, Brainerd history walks might satisfy a few curious souls who don't mind a little exercise.

The answers to some of those vexing historical questions might come next week as a small group of amateur historians are organizing walking history tours of downtown Brainerd. Sites that are expected to draw particular interest are those of the Iron Exchange Building on South Sixth Street and the Sleeper Opera House on South Eighth Street.

Cities such as Brainerd always benefit when they can draw people into their downtowns. Whether the walks are conducted by guides or whether they're self-guided, they should appeal to both architecture and history enthusiasts. Visitors to our community often have questions that go unanswered. The walking tours are a way to answer those questions while enticing tourists into the downtown's retail area.

Anyone interested in scheduling a guided history tour may contact Larry Kellerman at Central Lakes College, 855-8178 or Andrew Hook at (218) 546-2822 or 829-0137.

5/9/2008:

City History Walk starts on Sunday with guided tours

The Brainerd History Walk, planned to coincide with 150 years of statehood, begins with guided tours starting Sunday.

Guided tours are 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. from Sunday through May 17 starting from the Brainerd Public Library. Tours are expected to last one hour. Additional tours may be set up by reservation by calling the library.

Brochures of the Brainerd History Walk, with a map and information about the buildings and life in Brainerd's early days, will be available from the public library and the Brainerd Lakes Chamber. The maps include photos of historic buildings lost, in many cases, to time and the wrecking ball.

Volunteer organizers report the walk will help people rediscover the frontier town that was Brainerd as it grew from 1871 to present day. The walk is a way to learn about the city, the buildings and the way people lived. An information sheet about the walk includes trivia questions about the origin of Brainerd's name, transportation, entertainment, business and education.

A volunteer effort formed the Brainerd History Group, which is behind the walk. The group is providing a way to celebrate Brainerd's history as part of Minnesota's sesquicentennial. Minnesota became the 32nd state on May 11, 1858. By turning the history reflection into a walk, the group hopes to add a health component for people and offer another aspect to area attractions. The brochures will be available for self-guided walking tours.

The historic walk in downtown Brainerd has 34 sites of note on the brochure. Some buildings are gone like the Ransford Hotel and the Iron Exchange. Others exist to this day, such as the Parker Building, the old fire hall and the Cullen Block, which was built by a pop manufacturer. The brochure includes information on various buildings, where they were and what happened to them along with tidbits of information.

The Arlington Hotel was moved to Brainerd from North Dakota by Ransford Wise and reassembled here piece by piece. As the brochure says not one light or window was broken in the process.

Other history walks are planned for the future with a south loop by Boom Lake, a west Brainerd loop, a southeast Brainerd loop and a north Brainerd loop.

More information is available online at http://lakesarea.brainerddispatch.com/groups/brainerdamateurhistorians and there is a link to the Brainerd History Walk.

Touring downtown, 5/13/2008:

Carl Faust lead the Brainerd Kiwanis Club and visitors on a walking tour Monday of downtown Brainerd. As part of Minnesota's Sesquicentennial celebration, the Brainerd history walk originated at the Brainerd Public Library. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls

 

Carl Faust lead the Brainerd Kiwanis Club and visitors on a walking tour Monday of downtown Brainerd. As part of Minnesota's Sesquicentennial celebration, the Brainerd history walk originated at the Brainerd Public Library. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
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photo.

 

 

 

City History Walk starts on Sunday with guided tours

The Brainerd History Walk, planned to coincide with 150 years of statehood, begins with guided tours starting Sunday.

Guided tours are 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. from Sunday through May 17 starting from the Brainerd Public Library. Tours are expected to last one hour. Additional tours may be set up by reservation by calling the library.

Brochures of the Brainerd History Walk, with a map and information about the buildings and life in Brainerd's early days, will be available from the public library and the Brainerd Lakes Chamber. The maps include photos of historic buildings lost, in many cases, to time and the wrecking ball.

Volunteer organizers report the walk will help people rediscover the frontier town that was Brainerd as it grew from 1871 to present day. The walk is a way to learn about the city, the buildings and the way people lived. An information sheet about the walk includes trivia questions about the origin of Brainerd's name, transportation, entertainment, business and education.

 

A volunteer effort formed the Brainerd History Group, which is behind the walk. The group is providing a way to celebrate Brainerd's history as part of Minnesota's sesquicentennial. Minnesota became the 32nd state on May 11, 1858. By turning the history reflection into a walk, the group hopes to add a health component for people and offer another aspect to area attractions. The brochures will be available for self-guided walking tours.

The historic walk in downtown Brainerd has 34 sites of note on the brochure. Some buildings are gone like the Ransford Hotel and the Iron Exchange. Others exist to this day, such as the Parker Building, the old fire hall and the Cullen Block, which was built by a pop manufacturer. The brochure includes information on various buildings, where they were and what happened to them along with tidbits of information.

The Arlington Hotel was moved to Brainerd from North Dakota by Ransford Wise and reassembled here piece by piece. As the brochure says not one light or window was broken in the process.

Other history walks are planned for the future with a south loop by Boom Lake, a west Brainerd loop, a southeast Brainerd loop and a north Brainerd loop.

More information is available online at http://lakesarea.brainerddispatch.com/groups/brainerdamateurhistorians and there is a link to the Brainerd History Walk.

8/15/2008, 1971 PLAQUES PROJECT:

PLAQUES GET BACK IN

Enthusiastic amateur historian leads hunt for misplaced markers

By RENEE RICHARDSON

Senior Reporter

Misplaced for decades, plaques meant to celebrate Brainerd's 1971 centennial are returning to their rightful places.

And it all started with the interest and tenacity of the Brainerd History Group. With the help of others in the city and building owners, the long-lost plaques are making their way back. At the Northern Pacific Center, the plaque was returned 37 years after it was initially installed on the front brick of the clock tower building.

And it all started with the interest and tenacity of the Brainerd History Group. With the help of others in the city and building owners, the long-lost plaques are making their way back. At the Northern Pacific Center, the plaque was returned 37 years after it was initially installed on the front brick of the clock tower building.

Metal plaques celebrating Brainerd's centennial year were created for historic sites around the city, but some were lost to time and faded memories. This plaque was created for Northern Pacific's headquarters in east Brainerd. After disappearing from the site for years, the plaque is now back in place on the clock tower building. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
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For Brainerd's centennial year, 17 historic markers were created. Some were attached to stone and cement pedestals still seen throughout the city. Others were attached to area buildings. But some never made it to their destinations. As the years passed and memories faded, the markers disappeared from view.

But amateur historian Carl Faust was interested in what happened to those markers. It seemed like unfinished business.

"It's almost like the city started and there was all this enthusiasm," Faust said. "I see it kind of like history didn't go away, it just got further away."

So Faust's Brainerd History Group started digging. And when Faust was talking about the markers at the Crow Wing County Historical Society Museum, he jostled a few memories. At the museum, people remembered seeing similar metal pieces. An attic search found five markers that had fallen behind a desk. When Faust went up to see the find, "I jumped so hard I hit my head on the ceiling," he said.

Thursday, Faust and a group of people interested in Brainerd history, were on hand for the reinstallation of the historic marker at the Northern Pacific Center, former home of the railroad's headquarters.

"Carl knows so much history, it's unbelievable," said Brainerd resident LaVonne Danzl, who is interested in the Brainerd History Group. "We're really trying to get some interest in this history group to get some people to appreciate what's gone ahead of us."

David Hutton, an owner of the Northern Pacific Center, said Faust approached him about the marker, and when they walked outside to check where it once was secured to the wall, they found that the bolts were still in place. Rick Fargo, property manager, said they wondered what the bolts once secured. At some point, the plaque was removed and found its way to the dusty confines of the

museum's attic. Hutton speculates that someone took it down in fear it might be stolen once the railroad building was left vacant.

Frank "Bud" Kittleson, owner of the Brainerd Foundry, donated the metal markers. Some of the markers were cast in stone and cement pedestals, which are still seen throughout the city. The 1971 Brainerd Dispatch reported that the pedestals were being made through Don Samuelson and the concrete and masonry members of Brainerd Trades and Labor.

In addition, the Brainerd History Group, which is looking to expand its membership to more interested residents, is continuing the Downtown History Walk it started this spring to commemorate the state's sesquicentennial. The history walk is available with brochures for self-guided tours by reservation.

For more information on the plaques, other area history or the history group, go online to http://lakesarea.brainerddispatch.com/groups/brainerdhistorywalk - the Web site has the full list of sites chosen for markers and their status to date. Some markers remain missing, such as the one for the original Brainerd courthouse. But Faust has faith that more of the lost items will be rediscovered in time.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5852.

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Find the article online here: http://www.brainerddispatch.com/stories/081508/new_20080815037.shtml

Carl Faust (left) from the Brainerd History Group met with Rick Fargo, Al Gmeinder and David Hutton, owner of the Northern Pacific Center, Thursday at the Northern Pacific Center's clock tower in east Brainerd. The group re-created the installation of a historic marker originally created for Brainerd's 1971 centennial. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
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