Lanesboro proves to be 'perfect' place
to hold Historic Preservation Conference
Wednesday, September 25, 2013 4:16 AM
The tourist season is winding down in area communities and perhaps none more noticeable than in Lanesboro. However, from Sept. 11 to Sept. 13, local lodging in the valley was again filled to capacity as approximately 200 people from across the state of Minnesota visited Lanesboro for the Preserve Minnesota 2013 Historic Preservation Conference.
The two-day conference, held at the St. Mane and Commonweal theatres kicked off on Wednesday evening with a social event held at the Sons of Norway Heimbygda Lodge. Following a welcome by Lanesboro Heritage Preservation Commission chairman Shayn Jensson, Local Preservation Programs officer for the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) Mike Koop stood up and pointed to one corner of the 1910-built hall. There, a banner with the name of the lodge hung against the wall. After leading more than 70 people in reciting the word "heimbygda," Koop told the attendees that they had just said a word which roughly translates to mean "home village." The next day, Lanesboro would become this year's home village for the annual conference geared toward any person who is new or experienced in historic preservation practices.
Milling about the lodge and engaging in conversation while enjoying catered appetizers from Pedal Pushers Café were staff members from the SHPO, city officials, and residents of various Minnesota cities. They all had come to get different things out of the conference, but were all united in their interest in preserving Minnesota history.
Deputy SHPO Officer Barbara Howard stated that one main focus of the conference was to relate the past to the present and help cities realize historic preservation "doesn't mean it has to stay the same."
One way community members attempt to influence their respective cities to consider various preservation approaches is to form a Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) to make a connection with the SHPO.
Of just 52 HPCs in the state, 42 of them are also Certified Local Governments (CLG) through the National Park Service, which provides resources relating to historic preservation. The conference, which has been going on for 33 years, unites members of those several HPCs for educational sessions, mobile workshops and other instructional tours.
Lake City HPC member Don Schwartz said he was attending the session because he wanted to share ideas he had with other members.
Howard acknowledged the networking that goes on during the conference. "People can learn from others and gain an ability to ask questions they have," she said. Others came just because they liked history.
Awards were given to several Lanesboro businesses and people who have been dedicated to preserving the historical aspects of their buildings. The Stone Mill Hotel & Suites, Crown Trout Jewelers and Ted St. Mane were all honored.
Koop explained that many people who attend the conference aren't professionals, so the weekend acts as an opportunity to get trained by those who are experts. The sessions began on Sept. 12 at 10:30 a.m., but attendees first heard Noré Winter give a keynote address titled "Preservation Means 'Change,'" Winter is the principal at Winter & Co. in Boulder, Colo., and has realized "how adorable old buildings are."
Gesturing to the Sons of Norway lodge he stood in Wednesday night, Winter explained his speech as one that "pushes the envelope of what one can do with historic buildings."
Echoing Howard's thoughts, Winter explained, "People think you can't change anything. That isn't true. It just has to be compatible."
His keynote asked that people "refocus the definition of 'preservation'."
Throughout the next day and a half, sessions were held on public relations and marketing, signage, building codes, byways and brown signs, relationship building with local officials, grants and tax credits and archaeology. Attendees were able to choose which sessions they would attend.
In addition to those presentations, mobile workshops on masonry were held using the Cottage House Inn as an example and workspace.
Friday afternoon saw the conference focus locally as tours allowed attendees to see the Amish country, dams, bed and breakfast homes and scenic byways.
During breaks and after the conference finished for the day, attendees were able to walk around town and take advantage of discounts many of the local restaurants and shops had promoted for the conference.
Chamber Executive Director Julie Kiehne explained that Lanesboro tried to promote itself as a campus for events like the Preservation Conference since everything is in walking distance. Many of the area businesses kept their doors open later in the evening and to their benefit; many conference attendees were spotted carrying shopping bags.
The Chamber and City are planning on putting together data from the weekend to see how the town was economically impacted. The results will show if Lanesboro should consider putting itself out there for future events of a small to mid-size scale.
Kiehne said, "The trickle-down effect is in return visits and we can't measure that."
Habberstad House Bed and Breakfast owner Dave Huisenga, who is also on the Lanesboro HPC, stated, "The exposure is really valuable for all of us. We can offer something few other cities can."
State Historic Preservation Specialist Becca Johnson called the meeting spaces "perfect."
The Preserve Minnesota Conference travels around the state, visiting other towns and cities with interests in historic preservation. Having positive responses from many participants in Lanesboro may mean more people will attend the conference next year, wherever it is held. The message of preserving history through buildings will then continue to spread.