Minnesota History: Building A Legacy

Teaching Trades Preserves History, While Building Lifelong Skills

Preservation student Edward Harthorn of St. Paul applies a final coat of paste wax over the newly refinished Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Duluth.

Preservation student Edward Harthorn of St. Paul
applies a final coat of paste wax over the newly
refinished Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Duluth.

Visit the Duluth Civic Center and you can’t miss the grandeur of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which commemorates soldiers from St. Louis County who served in the Civil War. While the granite and bronze statue glistens today, this was not the case before Northern Bedrock Historic Preservation Corps got involved. In July 2016, eight Northern Bedrock crew members worked alongside an expert conservator to restore the 1919 statue, thanks to a Historic Recognition Grants Program.

“There’s an ongoing and growing need for maintenance and repair on historic structures and buildings,” said Rolf Hagberg, executive director of Northern Bedrock. “On the flip side, the pool of crafts people who have the skills to make the repairs is diminishing. Our goal is to get young people, ages 18 to 25, interested in this work by giving them exposure to a variety of trades and crafts.”ACHF has supported a partnerships between Northern Bedrock and MNHS since 2014 which is ensuring this program can succeed.

The idea is simple: Bring in technical specialists who are experts in their fields, such as stone masonry or building log structures. Allow these experts to teach their craft to the Northern Bedrock crew members and project hosts, providing much needed support for restoring local historic buildings and structures.

In the past year, a Northern Bedrock crew worked with the Historical Society of Pope County in Glenwood to restore their first courthouse, a oneroom log structure. A specialist taught the crew how to jack up one part of the building, knock out the rotted logs and place new logs to fit. Another project involved restorative lath and plaster work in the former St. Peter’s Church in Duluth, now home to the Great Lakes Academy of Fine Arts. The team also restored headstones in several cemeteries across the state. These are a few of many historic preservation projects the organization has completed since its inception in 2011.

“Our partnership with the Minnesota Historical Society has helped us connect with historical preservation specialists to build our business plan and determine where to put our resources to make the biggest difference,” added Hagberg.

The strategy is working. Not only are buildings being restored, young people are gaining a passion for preservation work. “When I came into this organization I hadn’t done much trade work,” said Dylan Klein, who serves as a Northern Bedrock crew leader. “Through the process, I found out that I really enjoy this work.” Klein is now seriously contemplating a career in the preservation trades, an outcome that everyone considers a win-win.

This site is updated regularly with descriptions and data related to Legacy projects funded through the Minnesota Historical Society by the Legacy Amendment's Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund (ACHF).
Further information about the use and impact of all Legacy Funds can be found on the Minnesota Legislative Coordinating Commission's Minnesota's Legacy site.