[UPDATED, June 6]

Email of 5/11/2010:

Greetings Brainerd History fans!

Sorry for the delay in info of late on past events and future Gatherings! I have been working nights full time until the end of the school year, and I need to work around my daughter's RN graduation this month. I'll follow this up with a report on past activities. So here is the notice as it would appear on the website, which is still on the fritz.


NEXT MEETING/GATHERING as it will (if inserted this month) appear in the prior Sunday's Brainerd Dispatch What's Doing section):

“The Brainerd History Group will meet for its May Gathering at 1:00 PM at the Boom Lake Kiwanis Park, south parking lot. Anyone interested in Brainerd history is welcome! Call 218-820-2424 for more information.” (Sun., May 23, 2010)"

UPDATE!!!: For our May Gathering, I am not available for our regular third Wed., so we're pushing it back to the following Sunday, and avoiding the fishing opener, so Sun. May 23 at 1:00 PM is when we'll meet...kind of a "working gathering". We will be at Kiwanis Park (south of the High School), south parking lot, for 3 different projects:

---our regular Spring Cleanup of the Brewery site, as per our agreement with Parks & Rec. (the marker's plexi-glass has been repaired), spring perennials...how did they fare the winter?

---determining the path of the old Ski Jump so we can place a small marker post at its base, by the paved trail. We'll use a bunch of people to make a line-of-sight from the top down.

---clearing off the Stairway on the south end of the park, going up to Jenny St. This is just moving years of dirt and vegetation, and maybe cutting brush back a foot or two to open it up a bit. The steps are in amazingly good condition yet, as is the railing, except for a bit of spot welding needed on the top rail. Bring flat-nose shovels, pruning & lopping shears and gloves! Now we just need to find out what the heck this old Stairway was used for so we can mark it!!!



BRING A FRIEND!!! We may as well fill up the room! I hope to see you there!

-Carniege Library. Done, March, 2010.

WALKABOUTS whereabouts, some suggestions:

-Brewery dig. DONE!

-Brickyard by the paper mill/river bank, locate

-Carniege Library. Done, March, 2010.

-Frenchie's Island trip DONE!

-Pump House on the end of 7th St. by the river,visit, then try to find the nearby electric plant. Done, spring, 2010.

-Ski Jump, define base by line-of-sight


It has been decided that the TERM Meeting will be TERMinated, in favor of "Outing"! This is due to the fact that we have had good interest via email, phone and in person, but poor turn-out at meetings, often a bad word since most folks have too many regular meetings to attend in a month now. SO, after seeing the wonderful interest in the NP Center 1971 Plaque installation, we thought we'd "kick it up a notch", by holding our monthly get-togethers "out in the field". The idea is to gather some place with an historical interest, do our business in the first half hour or less, then have some FUN exploring!

We will try for outdoor locations in the warmer months, then can go indoors during the winter. Put your thinking caps on and help suggest some interesting destinations. For summer, look for picnic tables and rest rooms, like any of our wonderful City Parks. Try to tie it in with the current project of the BHG. For winter, try for a place with the same in mind, like a restaurant or large business, in a cool (warm) old building! Here's the suggestions so far:

Gathering Locations:



-Boom Lake/JJ Howe Sawmill/Brewery Sept. location, Wed., Sept. 17, 2009. Done.

-Cemetery: Done, April, 2010.

-Chamber of Commerce/concrete water tower tour!

-Gregory Park/Band Stand/Memorial Bench and Tree Program/Architecture. Done.

-Lum Park/Brainerd Ice Co. location (there are still footings showing here). Done in May 2009.

-NP Center Done, 2009.

-NP Sanitarium Nurses Residence and Surgeon’s Residence houses, tour location of water tower and foundation of root cellar

-Paper Mill/Dam, 1971 Monument, Done Oct., 2009.


-Chopper's in NE Brainerd (lots of photos there of old businesses). Done in Feb., 2009

-Elks Building (Northwind Grille), entire building, inc, the old bowling alley in basement. This would be a repeat trip.

-Fire Hall

-Franklin School (former), now Franklin Arts Center. Done Nov. 18, 2009!

-Last Turn Saloon (lots of old photos here). Done in March, 2009!

-Northwind Grille/Elks Building (photos in back room). Done See Elks Building.

-Parker Building (E.L. Menk)

-Rafferty's Pizza (GOBS of old photos and documents here, for sure)! Done in April, 2009.

-Sawmill Inn/former Brainerd Lumber Company office building (photos of logging here). Done.

-*SENIOR CENTER: Idea - how about having a "gathering", a "social event" at the Senior Center inviting "seniors" to share their memories, anecdotes and perhaps artifacts of old Brainerd with the rest of the people in the room. -J.F. Done in Aug., 2009. We should schedule another one here as the turnout was low. Also include a meeting with the folks!


Upcoming meeting info is at this page.

9/18/2008: Outing/meetings will remain on the third Wed. of the month at 5:30. We will post the location in the Brainerd Dispatch via their free Sunday What's Doing section...thanks to the Dispatch for this wonderful service! An exception would be a tour that needs prior registration. Default location for inclement weather will be Perkins Restaurant. This will be determined AT THE GATHERING SITE at 5:30, since there is currently no way to alert everyone at a moment's notice. This IS Minnesota after all!

LAST MEETING/OUTING (or 2 or 3 or...):


May, 2010:

BHG May Gathering, Sunday, May 23, 2010

We began with a chat of about only 20 minutes as it was VERY muggy, and hot. There were surprisingly few mosquitoes but they were hard to distinguish from hummingbirds. Items discussed:

-2 gals are working on a Northside version of the Brainerd History Walk, and we were shown a map and a list of sites. The tour starts at Franklin Arts Center where there is parking, and goes to St. Francis then somewhat surrounds Gregory Park in a counterclockwise fashion. Featured are private homes of historic or architectural significance, churches and the old court house to name only a few. They may add more or remove some, but the final product will be a walk of about an hour, and each location will be featured on a separate page with a history and photo, able to be bound at some point. This will be a nice leisurely walk in Brainerd’s First Neighborhood. Stay tuned!

-We discussed our websites in their new location, and may include links to many other Brainerd related sites.

-The first item on the labor list was to scrape off the old caulking on the Brewery Marker and replace it with something that adheres better. The initial thin plexiglass was destroyed with a boulder by vandals. I then replaced it with thicker plastic, which was then peeped off by someone. So hopefully this good goop will slow them down a bit.

-The cleanup of the area was easy as it just was not out of place at all as far as litter or brush! The trash bin placed by the Parks Dept. is apparently doing its job.

-Sitting at the picnic table however was, well, quite gross because of graffiti, so we painted the top and seats, so it looks brand new.

-The brick retaining walls were in pretty good shape and required only a small amount of replacing of the bricks, but we could have spent more time on this but for the heat, so if anyone gets over there feel free to restack some bricks. They need only placing and stepping in.

-The rope “fence“ is still intact and seems to be keeping the many perennials from getting trampled, and they are coming up in fine shape. The Bluebells and Golden Glow is about 2’ high, and the Hostas are yet untouched by the deer.

-Early on we determined it was too hot to tackle the Stairway excavation, so we put it in the fall project bucket.

-We did however want to get that Ski Jump landing area determined, and that took much longer than we figured on. We put someone at the very top of the hill, and with them standing on the old footings another stood on the flat area where it then dropped off over the bank. The problem was that none of us was 16’ tall! But with the help of a 1938 newspaper article that John V. uncovered, we were able to find all of the footings and line them up, and we think we found the landing spot within a few feet or so. We sunk a steel post in the ground and reinforced it with concrete, but are waiting on installing the marker on the green board pending more info on the dates of the Ski Jump…namely, when it was torn down! So far all we have is:

“Landing spot of the Brainerd Ski Club Ski Jump, 1939-19?? You can locate the footings of this structure at the top of the hill, accessible by the path 50’ south of the Brainerd Brewing Company site just north of here.”…or some such thing.

I am sure open to better verbiage, and we need to do some detective work on this removal date.

-So, in about 2 hours we were all in and went home to our air conditioning, but we got a lot done nonetheless.

-For our June Gathering we might consider an idea some of the gals had for a summer month, just a nice good old-fashioned picnic. This might be a good month for it as July and August get even hotter with more bugs. Send me your thoughts on this and where we might have it, or any other ideas.



October: Water Power & Dam site tour

You'd best get another cup of coffee:

Our Oct. Gathering at the Water Power plant and dam at the Wausau Paper Mill was a great success, even if a bit challenging due to the weather. I asked Gary Renel, our tour guide if the cold rain would preempt our tour, but he said that most of it was inside so he saw no problem with it.

About a dozen hearty souls were on hand at 5:30, and we took 3 vehicles from the parking lot down to the plant thus saving us a lot of steps skirting through the mill, and the long walk between the 2 buildings. It was nice and warm in the plant, and Gary handed out some info sheets on the history of the dam and statistics of the power generating plant. Donning safety glasses we proceeded to the long building built in 1916 that housed the dynamos, some appearing to be 12' in diameter. He pointed out that we were actually several feet below water level, which was now quite low even for this time of year. Everything in the building was of huge proportions, and a lot of it was actually devoted to fire protection and paper production water pumps. Three items are on the National Historic Record, and the plant produces 17% of the paper mill's needs, the remainder being bought from Brainerd Public Utilities.

Moving west towards the dam's spillway we saw the original grinders which are no longer used, as the pulp is now and long since shipped in. At one time the pulp plant across the river, no longer visible, shipped pulp up to Cloquet, before there was a paper mill here! One grinder was still humming on its wooden shaft that has a continuous water drip on it for lubrication. It is inline with a pump or dynamo so still spins. Gary pointed out one turbine that was missing, being shut down and sent out for rebuilding, and its water inlet plugged with wood...and a few rags, with 10' of water head above it. Total head of water above the dam is now 20', and this particular dam is regulated by law to let pass all that nature is sending to it...none is saved for level control of the river below. The 2 old grinders still remaining are open and viewable to the exposed chippers, so you can see how each had 3 holes in which to place a mere 2' log, and a huge ram to then send it to the grinder. One could only imagine how labor intensive this must have been with dozens of these in this building at one time, and 3 men on each feeding these logs in by hand...and how dangerous it must have been! And how about the noise level?

Going up a flight of steel stairs then we were standing on a platform overlooking the whole operation, and could see out a window down river, looking at an even heartier fisherman up close to the dam. Exiting this building we stepped back outside and only then realized how low to the water we were in that old building, and gazing up upon the spillway, how high above us the water really was! Only one of the 2 spillways was open. Far to the west end of the dam we could see the old log sluiceway of yesteryear in the former logging days. The dam has no provisions for fish to ladder upriver, but Gary pointed out the portage path that is across the river. They even provide restrooms for the boaters. He also said some old cribbing of stones and pilings from the original 1888 dam still exist under the modern concrete. The inlets to the turbines were just steel grating, and Gary said it is cleared of debris such as logs every day, some times more than once, with just simple tools like rakes and poles. Not much here has changed since 1916!

Walking up even farther we stopped short of going out on the walkway above the spillway as it was made of wooden planks that could be dangerous when wet, and there was still a spit of rain coming down. We were out there only about 10 minutes, but Gary had to practically pry us off to get us to return to base! The view was awesome, not like the Boulder Dam perhaps but still an eerie feeling just to see...and hear the power of 20' of water just above where we were standing.

Gary was very accommodating for the whole hour and eagerly answered the most simple and even the technical questions we had. We did get a lot of good photos so if you want to send some in I will post them on the Dispatch Spotted website. I'm sure I got some facts wrong, and missed some that Gary recited as the group got spread out, so if you can add anything by all means send it along and I'll post it all on the website.

Now how are we going to top THAT tour??? ...the water tower?


September: Brewery site, install plaque on pedestal. The pedestal was not quite done, but it is now (10/2009)!

August: Senior Center. This was an awesome tour!

July: Gathering at the Lumberman's Hospital location: Several hearty souls were on hand to install the 1971 Lumberman's Hospital plaque. It was nicely welded then beautifully painted in Evergreen green powdercoat, and sunk in to the garden area just a few feet to the west of the NE Liquor building on 1st Ave. NE. This was the former location of Jul's Pure Oil Co. Check it out!

June: NP Center. Great turnout indeed, over 20 people! The June Gathering went SO well at the NP Center! Over 20 folks got a wonderful tour from Rick Fargo of the huge blacksmith shop building to the south, the Rounhouse area, and the entire Clock Tower. Rick has an impressive collection of NP artifacts in a museum-type area which includes many early 1900's blueprints. The building itself is impressively finished in hardwoods, with tall ceilings and rooms galore. We toured the entire upstairs and it just seemd to go on and on! You could clearly see evidence of past use of the spaces, and where the additions were put on. Thanks to Rick and the NP Center for providing this great tour!

May Gathering at Lum Park:

This is from the Topics to be Discussed list, but we didn't get to ALL of them!

-Stella pointed out, after seeing a photo of the plaque at the entrance to the park's north road, on that big boulder, that THIS day of the gathering, May 20, was the day Leon Lum was born (1858/151 years ago), and also it was 100 years ago (1909) that he donated the land to the City! Creepy!!!

-As mentioned in the May ad, we will try to determine where to go for a few extra events I call Walkabouts. I used the term Field Trip in the ad; a bit more recognizeable to most folks. See WALKABOUTS below.

-photo archiving, accessability. Check the Dispatch's Spotted section!

-map inventorying, archiving, accessability, reproduction? Check the City of Brainerd website under Maps, then Historic Maps.

-Fred Drexler 1971 plaque, new info.! I never got to this, remind nme at the June gathering.

-Brewery artifacts, bottle, Dispatch article.

-Next project??? (Boom Lake stairway, NP Hospital root cellar)

-Artifacts found downtown (electric RR rail, wooden water pipe).

-City website Maps section. Now 5 maps, 2 or 3 to follow.

-Dispatch Forums questions.

-Determine rainout location. So far we'll go with Perkins. coffee, food, big area in back, no reservation needed.

-Ice plant in the park? We found it, but need more...ANY info on it!

-1898 Laurel St. bridge plaques found

-1971 plaques found, 2 more (First School, Headquarter's Hotel). Only 2 missing now!

-installation of 1971 plque at NE Liquor, Lumberman's Hospital


-There are some upcoming Brainerd History Walk requests, so we'd like get some more folks trained up as Tour Guides. This really only entails going on the walk once, then doing it yourself just reading the Guide Booklet, and watching for traffic! I even did it once when I had a raspy throat, and someone from the group did the reading. Hopefully, it will get to the point where the Guide Booklet is so good that one can do it as a totally self-guided tour if desired.

We may be able to add the Walk to the new trail system going through the city...it's right on the trail on 8th St.!

Marta and I did one for the League of Women Voters on Thurs., April 9. I took a dozen on the actual walk and Marta did a "virtual tour" back at the Sawmill Inn. We will report on how great this went at our next Gathering!