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Compromise near to move historic SL log house, schoolhouse

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Idea - move Alta Danish church to SL exhibit

Negotiations are wrapping up on a positive note for the relocation of the landmark Buena Vista County Historical Society's Prairie Heritage exhibit, which will apparently soon be displaced by the Project Awaysis destination park development.

After examining various alternative sites for the exhibit, which includes a classic one-room schoolhouse and a log home, a compromise is under discussion that would move the buildings to a site just north of the municipal campgrounds, where a steel shelter house is planned for removal.

"I think that it is the best possible solution. Being so near the golf course and the visitors at the campground, we should be in a good location to have a better chance to attract more people," said Mel Grundmeier, acting Historical Society Board president.

"Awaysis is a big project for the city, and we probably need to go along with the program," Grundmeier said.

He notes that not everyone on the board is in favor of moving the historical buildings. "There are probably as many different opinions as there are people on our board," he said. "Some are really against going anywhere else with the buildings."

There was some discord when the city first proposed moving the buildings, and more distant sites such as Frank Starr Park, Radio Park and the middle school area were being looked at.

"Having a location near the campground is a better option, and I think it could work out well for everyone," Grundmeier said.

According to Historical Society officials, the city is offering to pick up the tab for the move, which Grundmeier guesses could cost $10,000-12,000. A timetable for moving the buildings has not been set, with attention currently focused on wrapping up the various funding sources needed for Awaysis, including a bond issue election likely for early 2005. If all is successful, a portion of Sunrise Park Road in the area of the historical exhibit would be among the first stages of Awaysis construction.

A proposed lodge hotel will be located in the area where the Harbor House, Kolb Gardens and historical landmarks now sit. Plans also call for the Kolb Gardens to be moved, closer to the new Great Lawn development.

Grundmeier said the log home and school building, a century old, have been maintained in excellent structural condition, and as long as an experienced moving company is retained, they should endure a short move with few problems. The city has also agreed to provide some dirt work to the site in advance to provide a good foundation for the development.

The historical society is in the process of determining if its stone sign could be moved. It is not known if the "prairie garden" development could be included at the new site. It was added to the historical display a few years ago when the Buena Vista Regional Medical Center expanded, to preserve plantings from "Bessy's Garden," a well-known spot once tended by a hospital neighbor. "We just don't know - some people on the parks board seem to think the garden is an eyesore as it is," Grundmeier said.

Historical Society Issues

The historical society has not yet discussed the possibilities of expanding their exhibit or adding hours for public tours if the new site is realized, although those are possibilities. "We haven't heard for certain how much space we would have," he said.

The public has shown an interest in expanded hours for the society's historical locations, he said, especially for added weekend open hours at the main museum on West 5th Street, which is under consideration.

Also, after a long absence for study and display elsewhere, the Society's priceless collection of Mill Creek Native American artifacts are due to be returned to Storm Lake. Liberty Foods has donated upscale display cases that may be used to show off the collection at the museum, gathered many years ago by a well-known local archeologist. The Historical Society is in the process of deciding a theme for the coming year, which may center around the Native American artifacts.

Grundmeier is filling in as board president for Marge Neulieb, who recently suffered a heart-related illness. Neulieb will continue on the historical society board, and the group plans a new election of officers in January.

Preserving Alta's Danish Church

If the Prairie Heritage Exhibit is moved, some area residents would like to see it expanded to include the Danish Church that still stands on its original site in Alta.

The church dates to 1874, and although it has only been used for storage for many years, it is in "amazingly good shape," according to historical society members who had the chance to inspect the church.

"It still has its embossed metal features, and it is an important landmark that would be a shame to see just deteriorate," said Mel Grundmeier of the BV Historical Society.

The Society board has not taken any action on the idea, but if it is approved, the board could open negotiations in hopes of having the church donated. They could then approach Danish groups in Newell and other area communities to contribute toward the cost of moving the church to Storm Lake for restoration and opening as a museum near the log house and Elk Center Schoolhouse.

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