By Starrla Cray
COKATO, MN With its tall smokestack and red brick exterior, the Cokato Cooperative Creamery near Highway 12 in downtown Cokato is a reminder of days gone by.
Built in 1916 by HE Swanson of Dassel, the same man who built the Dassel creamery, the Cokato creamery was an important part of business and social life for local farmers.
Farmers would haul milk to the creamery about three times per week. At the creamery, they would discuss weather, crops, markets, and politics, according to Cokato’s centennial history book from 1978.
“The creamery was the social center of town,” Cokato Museum Director Mike Worcester said. “For most smaller, agricultural-dominated communities, the creamery, local mill, and elevator were the most important structures in town.”
However, in March 1967, Cokato creamery stockholders voted to cease creamery operations, and the butter churn was shut down.
In 1969, Jack Glessing of Cokato, who owns Jack’s Marine, purchased the building. Glessing, now mostly retired, said he currently uses the creamery building for vehicle storage.
“I had a chance to sell it a couple months ago,” he said. He was offered $222,000, but said his family is hoping to sell it at a higher price.
“My kids think it’s worth a half a million,” Glessing said. “It’s a good location as far as business is concerned. Probably the best spot in town.”
Worcester said the creamery building is not eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places because of “significant alterations to the building.”
“It needs to have the same look as when it was built,” he said. New windows, a dropdown roof, and a garage were added to the building. Despite changes, however, the old creamery still has a distinct look that many people notice as they come into Cokato, Worcester said.
“Not to take away from the many other historical buildings, but in terms of visual, it is probably the most unique building in town,” Worcester said.