Residents cry:;br; Don’t destroy historic cabin

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 23, 2000

Dozens of Austin area residents of all ages are pleading that Mower County’s historic 139-year-old cabin needs to be saved.

Monday, October 23, 2000

Dozens of Austin area residents of all ages are pleading that Mower County’s historic 139-year-old cabin needs to be saved.

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Thirty-five phone calls, seven e-mails and two personal visits later, readers responded unanimously to the question of the fate of the 139-year-old cabin at the Mower County Fairgrounds that was facing a demolition order.

Sixth-graders Micheala McCarty and Chelsea Lang tag-teamed their phone call to the Herald’s special call-in line on the cabin, taking turns introducing themselves and finishing their message in unison.

"We are taught that history is important, so please save the cabin," the pair said.

On the other end of the age spectrum, Gene Crichton also was adamant that the building be kept.

"It’s been here for years; it was there when I was growing up and I’m 72 years old now," he said. "I think it’s a shame the commissioners had to take and tear down all our old buildings."

Sadness and anger over the loss of other buildings – the courthouse, the library, the post office, the old bank – were repeated themes.

"We’ve gotten rid of enough history in this town as it is," Sandy Hunn said. "Absolutely save that cabin."

"Preserving our heritage is our duty and right," Patti Flynn Heimsness wrote in her e-mail. "Please sign me … someone who wept at the unnecessary destruction of our beloved ‘overhead bridge’ and the many other insignificant ‘things’ that were Austin, Minn."

The cabin that has touched off such a response has sat at the Mower County Fairgrounds since 1964. It was built in 1861 by the Ole Severson family in Frankford Township east of Grand Meadow.

However, the Mower County Historical Society’s board determined several years ago that the cabin was unsafe and decided to build a replica of the cabin that could be used to house exhibits. When a request came from the Fair Board recently to remove the cabin to make way for new bathrooms and showers on the fairgrounds, the society’s board voted 6-2 to allow its demolition.

The decision to replace the cabin with a replica has reaped criticism.

"I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that they would tear down a 139-year-old building and replace it with a spanking new one," Diana Rinaldi said. "The reason it’s out there is because it’s 139 years old. "

"Who wants to look at a replica?" Marietta Hylle said. "This is something we need to keep. We’ve torn down too many old buildings and this really stands for something – Ole Severson’s family."

Dean Pacholl is a member of both the Mower County and Nisswa Area historical societies, where he has been actively involved in the restoration of the old Nisswa depot and pioneer buildings.

"We should be doing as much as we possibly can to preserve and protect our history, not eliminate it," he wrote. "Reality is much more valuable than a replica. Once you destroy the real thing it can never be replaced.

Because of the strong response from the community, many hope the cabin will be saved. Some of the suggestions include returning it to the Severson family, moving it somewhere else on the fairgrounds, placing it inside another structure or – as one person suggests – selling it to the highest bidder on eBay on the Internet.

The Mower County Board of Commissioners has said the decision on the fate of the cabin is the historical society’s to make.

Anyone who would like to have some personal input on that decision can attend the society’s board meeting at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the Elkton Community Room on Main Street in Elkton.