Late in 2013 PCHS acquired ownership of the Ferris Grand Block (masonic hall,) including the separate “L” building. It was given by the Pipestone Masonic Bodies with the mind to preserve the historic building. This acquisition, which more than doubled the square footage PCHS was responsible for, came with quite a responsibility. With staff and dollars stretched thin over three other historic properties, the question became how to merge the building with our mission.
The Pipestone Performing Arts Center has been a tenant on the main floor of the building since the 1990s and it is hoped that they will continue to be successful there. Whereas the rent the Performing Arts pays for their space covers most everyday maintenance and tax expenses, the financial responsibility of this large building has been a real undertaking for PCHS. Especially after it was realized how much work the building really needed in order to carry it into the future.
The building is old. It was built in 1898 which means this year it will be celebrating its 122nd Birthday. The building has a large footprint. It covers the entire lot, facing Main Street with three-stories, part of the building, which is an addition from the 1930s, has two-stories.
In 2015, PCHS entered a partnership with the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota to conduct a “Reuse Study,” or consultants’ report, to review the structure of the building itself and to produce some guidance on the possibilities of its future use. The report, which was released in 2017, gave us the first real feedback on the condition of the building and also outlined some definite areas of concern, which we are addressing, but overall, it is a sound building. There are also many ideas for its future use, but first things first, right?
The report revealed concern over alterations in the structural beams in the basement. There is concern over one roof truss which appeared to be bowing. And, perhaps the most obvious concern is the overall condition of the mortar in the tuckpointing of the structure inside and out. We know there is leaking in the building and that prolonged water issues quickly weaken a structure. We have taken steps to minimize that while we work for funding to fix the problems.
In 2019 we were awarded a grant (financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society) to hire an architect to produce construction papers which will be used in the future to have the structural work done. LHB Architecture of Minneapolis has been hired and has begun evaluations during the summer of 2020.
The Ferris Grand Block (masonic hall) has been a huge responsibility for the historical society to take on. But we are certain of the building’s importance to both the history and the future of downtown Pipestone. Our mission is the preservation of the history of Pipestone County by collecting artifacts for the Museum exhibits, by telling the stories of the people who have lived here, and by advocating and working toward the historic preservation of structures: all of this in order to tell the story of the past so that we may achieve a better future. The Ferris Grand Block is ideal to bridge the gap between the past and the future if we maintain it in the present.