HHH campaign nears end

Published 12:07 pm Saturday, December 20, 2008

More than a century ago, George and Lillian Hormel moved into what is now the Hormel Historic Home on Fourth Avenue in Austin and lived there from 1901 through 1927.

Today, the location is a cherished landmark and the home to visitors, wedding receptions, conferences, Christmas parties and a wall full of Hormel family photos.

A year ago, officials for the Hormel Historic Home dreamed of expanding the residence and launched a campaign to raise $1.8 million for the project.

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As of last week, they’re almost there.

On Friday, a panel representing the organization announced the effort has produced more than $1.6 million, with more than $600,000 coming from more than 160 families. The goal is to raise the final $135,000 by Jan. 20 before construction officially begins in March and with a target opening date of next fall.

The Hormel Foundation contributed $1 million to the project, while Richard Knowlton, chair of the Hormel Foundation, and his wife, also donated $100,000.

“We’re in the home stretch, and we wanted to take the time and thank the community for the donations that came in,” said Bonnie Rietz, capital campaign co-chair for the Hormel Historic Home.

The 7,000 sq. ft. expansion will be built to the east and west of the Carriage House, will not disturb the original 1871 home and the Peace Garden and includes a banquet room, which can also be turned into three smaller meeting rooms.

A commercial kitchen for on-site food preparation and cooking classes will also be included.

Laura Helle, executive director for the home, said the expansion will help with the needs of the community in terms of meeting room space.

“This is our best December in terms of rentals,” she said. “But it’s still not close to the potential and to what the demand of the county is.”

As of now, the home’s facilities can hold up to 100 people, with the maximum in one room at 65.

The new space would create another room that could seat an additional 200 people.

Mahlon Schneider, retired Hormel employee and co-chair of the fundraising committee, called the fundraiser’s success remarkable, especially considering the economy and the market.

“It’s a testament to the community, the company and the foundation,” he said.

Helle said that at this time last year, the effort had raised $37,000.

“What a difference a year makes,” she said. “It’s what happens when you have the right idea.”