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New History Center to host annual Historical Society meeting

Mavis Fodness

The Rock County Historical Society will conduct its annual meeting Tuesday, Sept. 15.
As part of its agenda, it will elect four of the 12 board members with expiring three-year terms.
“We all agreed to run,” said Historical Society President Betty Mann, whose term is expiring along with Jane Lanphere, Merlyn Lopau and Ron Feucht. “My intention was to retire, but I will take another three-year term to see the History Center project through to completion.”
Beginning at 5:30 p.m., the Historical Society will thank its supporters with a picnic-like lunch complete with homemade ice cream. Serving will continue until the 7 p.m. board meeting.
The meeting and the picnic will take place at the former Herman Motor building on East Main Street, which will become home to the society’s new History Center. Participants will get a look at the center’s revised plans and walk through the soon-to-be renovated facility.
In April 2014, the Historical Society announced plans to move from its current Freeman Street location to a new location in downtown Luverne. The former Herman building was built in the early 1900s and fulfilled the group’s desire for more display area, handicap accessibility and a more public location in downtown Luverne.
The group then began fundraising for the estimated $989,000 in necessary repairs.
Work on the History Center is expected to begin this fall under a new architect and construction manager agreement through the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership (SWMHP) in Slayton.
James Arentson is the partnership’s new architect and the History Center will be his first under SWMHP’s integrated project development services program.
“There is a lot of need out there … to bring design services and construction together.”
Similar to its residential program, SWMHP focuses on affordability by working with communities to develop plans and manage the construction, he added.
Having worked as an architect in the Twin Cities for 14 years, Arentson is excited to use his experience in blending the past with the present in Luverne.
“It (the Herman building) was built in five phases over a period of more than 100 years,” Arentson said.
The five separate construction phases used five construction techniques (some not in existence anymore) in various parts of the single facility. His challenge is to keep these techniques exposed to visitors while making the space functional and comfortable against the area’s extreme weather elements.
“It is really a unique project,” he said.
Arentson met recently with the Historical Society members and together examined the center’s completed blueprints making one minor change — moving the bathrooms to the building’s interior.
Also at the meeting was SWMHP’s Director of Construction Services Jorge Lopez, who will take care of bids and the lining up of local construction contractors.
However, before the History Center renovation can go forward, the roof will first have to be replaced.
Mann said after crews began removing office and work area walls and ceilings, it was discovered portions of the initial building had been leaking.
“It’s just a minor glitch we have to work around,” Mann said.
The most work, however, will be in affording the repairs.
The fundraising committee recently wrapped up its efforts by raising $900,000. With $150,000 used to purchase the building, the committee will need to replace that amount to bring coffers up to the estimated amount.
An anonymous donor has indicated he or she will match each dollar the Historical Society raises up to $300,000.
“We have roughly matched $90,000,” Mann said, leaving $210,000 left to be claimed under the match agreement.
Donations can be dropped off at the Luverne Area Community Foundation on Main Street or mailed to the Rock County Historical Society, 123 N. Freeman Ave., Luverne, MN 56156. Checks should be made to the Rock County Historical Society.

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