Sept. 11, 2006

Dassel historical landmark receives statewide recognition

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

The Universal Laboratories Building in Dassel was named one of the Preservatiton Alliance of Minnesota’s top 25 in its traveling exhibit, “Minnesota Saved.”

In honor of its 25th anniversary, the preservation alliance chose 25 of the best historical sites out of 1,500 listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The sites were chosen by a panel of architects, historians, and preservationists based upon several criteria.

Some of the characteristics are how the community came together to save the building, its industrial history, its location and more.

The Universal Lab Building, “Fit the criteria really well,” said Executive Director for the Preservation Alliance Bonnie McDonald.

The exhibit is to “Thank the community in its effort of saving it,” McDonald added.

“The many workers and volunteers have been validated by being chosen for such an honor,” said Julie Lindquist, museum director.

Restoration of the former Ergot laboratory began in 1994 and over a period of seven years, six phases, and approximately $500,000 became a reality. By 2001 the building had become a museum and community center.

Mary Jane Arens and Carolyn Holje were the grant writers for the project. One third of the money came from DAHS memberships, the City of Dassel, and the Minnesota Historical Society, according to Lindquist.

Architect Kevin Anderson, formerly of Dassel, had experience with historic renovation and knew the importance of following guidelines for renovating historic places, Lindquist said.

Dick Johnson of Dassel was the contractor for the project and Pete O’Fallon, also of Dassel, was instrumental with the renovation, according to Lindquist.

“They did a wonderful job at securing the structural integrity of the building,” Lindquist said.

The renovation process included duplicating and using as much of the original materials from the original building. This included flooring and light fixtures.

“They did a great job in preserving the equipment,” McDonald said. “That was really unique about the building,” she added.

The building now serves many purposes for the community, including being home to the Dassel Township, an election polling location and a community center for groups, according to Lindquist.

“It serves a broad range of uses,” she added.

“This is a special community and this honor speaks to that,” Lindquist said.

The traveling exhibit will be seen throughout Minnesota for the next two years.

With this honor, people across Minnesota will see the Universal Lab banner.

“This is an opportunity for people to come to Dassel and see the building for themselves,” commented McDonald.

Dr. Bill Morgan was on the committee for the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota that helped chose the top 25. “It’s a creative reuse of a building that served an entirely different purpose at that time,” he commented.

“They did a wonderful job in designing and rebuilding,” Morgan added.

The alliance serves to protect historical sites throughout the state that are in danger of being destroyed and the DAHS took it upon themselves to save the Universal Laboratories Building, according to Lindquist.

“There are many times along the way when people decide to tear down an old building, but there is only one opportunity to say ‘no’ and save it,” Lindquist said.

“The Dassel Area Historical Society and the community can be thankful that the Universal Laboratories Building has been saved,” she added.

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