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Turner Hall: a revival in the making

August 1, 2010
The Journal

NEW ULM - Buoyed by the award of a $200,000 Legacy grant in late June, the Turner Society is intensifying fund raising efforts, looking forward to preserving the viability of its historic building.

Turner activists are in the process of making donor visits, and have raised $50,000 so far in addition to the grant, reported campaign manager Kathy Backer, during the passed week.

The renovation of Turner Hall is intended to keep the building up to modern standards, without compromising its historic integrity, say Turners.

Article Photos

This architectural drawing (courtesy of Turner Hall) depicts a concept of a planned new main entryway and addition to Turner Hall (in back) — which Turner promoters hope to eventually turn into reality.
The “matching” photo below (by Journal photographer Steve Muscatello) shows the way the same part of the building and lot look now.

The grant is specifically for an accessibility project, which includes the installation of an elevator, and other improvements.

Turner Hall promoters proudly point out that the new "fund injection" is one of top five Legacy grants awarded statewide.

"This grant adds obvious credibility to our efforts to restore and renovate historic Turner Hall," Ed Weber, Turner Hall Board of Directors President, said upon announcing event.

Fact Box

Following the award of a $200,000 Legacy grant in June, Turner Hall has raised an

additional $50,000 to aid renovation of the

historic building. It is seeking to raise a total of $600,000, for a facility that's of "living," as well as historic, importance

Turner Hall: a question & answer

session with Dan Hoisington:

Dan Hoisington, a Turner Society board member, provides the following answers to questions often asked by the public (printed with minors edits).

Q: What has Turner done to care for its historic collections (including funds, grants received, etc.)

A: In 2006, the board adopted a collections policy and authorized a standing committee to implement it. This was a recognition that it is an organizational responsibility to care for its archives and objects.

In 2008, we received a $2,000 grant from the New Ulm Area Foundation to buy conservation supplies (acid-free folders and boxes). The collections committee thought that the basic stabilization of the collections was an important first step. Since then, volunteers have worked to organize the collections and clean up the old "Boy Scout Room."

In 2009, we had the Hermann Lodge banner professionally cleaned and restored by the Midwest Art Conservation Center (one of the best in the country). There were a couple of small donations, plus a gift from the Turner Ladies ($1,000).The Pfaender and Flandrau portraits are next in line. This project will also provide heat/air to the Boy Scout Room, a great step for collections preservation.

Q: What has Turner done in the past five years to cultivate its relationship with the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS), and what kind of working relationship do you presently have? Please include any grants or any other consideration they have extended to Turner Hall (prior to the latest Legacy grant)?

A: In 2008, Turner Hall received a grant from the MHS for $10,000 to hire a team to write a historical structures report, and we hired preservation architect bob Claybaugh. He is currently the chair of the state review board for the National Register of Historic Places (under MHS). Beginning with a historic structures report is the essential first step in best professional practices, which is why MHS gave us the grant. Patching up as problems arise is not a long-term solution. Claybaugh (with a systems engineer and a structural engineer on the team) presented his report in December 2008. While daunting, given the number of issues, it gave us a road map.Total project budget: $27,550, including $10,000 grant, $8,509 from Turner Hall and $8,260 in-kind contribution from me for project coordination, report writing and historical research. That last figure isn't just made up - MHS understands that this would be a standard consultant's fee for the work that I did. We can provide a copy of Claybaugh's Historic Structures Report to any prospective donor.

In January 2010, we received [an earlier] Legacy grant ($7,000) from MHS to hire an architect [Richard Engan] to develop plans for accessibility and storage. Claybaugh and Engan recommended basically the same plan (and Engan had not seen Claybaugh's recommendations) for entry/elevator and storage (also opening up use of the Damenzimmer and front hall of the 1873 section). Architect Engan and I met with Natascha Weiner, architect for the state historic preservation office, to discuss his plans before final submission of the current Legacy application. We made a few modifications to meet their approval.

For 150 years, generations of New Ulm and surrounding area residents have come to Turner Hall for plays, concerts, physical fitness and gymnastics classes, lectures, public meetings, political debates, high school graduations, dances, banquets, weddings, festivals, trades shows, Red Cross Bloodmobile visits and to enjoy a good meal and friendship.

"Net income from Turner Hall operations goes to support the gymnastics program which is an extension of our mission: "Sound Mind, Sound Body," adds Backer.

The Legacy grants are a result of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution, passed in November 2008.

That amendment raises funds from a sales tax increase, to be divided among projects benefitting the outdoors, clean water, parks and trails, and arts and cultural heritage.

The Minnesota Historical Society's Cultural Heritage Grants Program is one outcome of the amendment.

According to Turner Hall board member Dan Hoisington, who conducted research related to, and wrote, the grant application, "Turner Hall is recognized as one of the most important buildings in German-American history, not just in Minnesota, but in the United States."

That's one reason, he states, that the State Historic Preservation Conference met here in 2003, for example.

"The staff of the state historic preservation office also related to the grant review committee how important Turner Hall is to the community; that it is real 'living history' and not a museum or adaptive re-use," said Hoisington.

"We carry on our original mission on the original site, more than 150 years later. That's incredibly special."

Turner Hall resumed its capital campaign in mid-June, with a goal of raising $600,000, according to the campaign manager, Backer.

Some $618,000 had been raised in the first phase of the campaign, in 2005-07.

The next phase of construction includes the addition of an entry on the Washington Street side of the structure, which will house an elevator to make the facility accessible to wheelchairs.

Some of the remaining renovation needs will be funded with reserves - roughly $290,000, says Backer - and some with the upcoming funds.

Funds are needed for lower level renovation, a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system for the Founder's Room, and a two-level permanent addition to the back of the building, to store the Turner Society's historic collections and use as office space.

The upgrades to the Washington Street side would provide a main floor entry, through an elevator or stairway, explained Backer.

The parking lot area would be regraded to a level grade, and a new circular drive would be the main access to the building.

The deck would slide over to accommodate the addition.

The award of the Legacy grant was assessed by Turner Hall manager Virginia Suker Moldan.

"One of the most significant roadblocks to holding a successful event at Turner Hall has been the lack of handicap accessibility. The changes that are to come will literally open the door for many more families to enjoy our facilities," Moldan was quoted as saying.



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