Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Anniversary event features amateur silent film clips from Faribault March 16, 2016

 

A mural, one of several in the downtown area, promotes historic Faribault.

A mural, one of several in the downtown area, promotes historic Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

I MAY NOT BE A FARIBAULT NATIVE. But I’ve lived here long enough—34 years—to surface-know local history.

A downtown Faribault mural featuring Fleck's beer.

A downtown Faribault mural features Fleck’s beer. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

So when Brian Schmidt, native historian, collector of Fleckenstein Brewery memorabilia and member of the Rice County Historical Society Board of Directors, called me recently, I listened. Faribault history interests me because, even if I wasn’t born and raised here, this community is now part of my family’s history.

Inside the historic Village Family Theater. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

Inside the historic Village Family Theater. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo August 2015.

On Saturday, March 19, a previously publicly unseen piece of local history will debut on the big screen at the historic Village Family Theater in the form of a silent movie. I could hear the excitement in Schmidt’s voice as he talked about amateur film footage shot between 1935-1938 by Charles Fleckenstein of Faribault brewery fame.

Schmidt purchased the unmarked film at a Faribault auction house. When he started viewing the clips, he knew he’d stumbled upon something remarkable. And now he’s sharing that discovery in a 10-minute professionally produced silent film montage reminiscent of a bygone era.

Stacked inside the Harvest and Heritage Halls are these crates from Fleckenstein, which brewed beer and made soda in Faribault.

Stacked inside the RCHS Harvest and Heritage Halls are these crates from Fleckenstein, which brewed beer and made soda in Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2015.

Viewers will see workers digging a tunnel and celebrating a birthday at Fleckenstein Brewery (yes, they’re drinking beer), plus other footage of a long ago golf course in the middle of town, the 1938 Faribault Jalopy Race and Thrill Day, The Top amusement ride on Roberds Lake, and the old Faribault Airport and The Bluebird Inn (a former high-end restaurant) south of town.

An edited photo of a sign at the Rice County Historical Society. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2015.

An edited photo of a sign at the Rice County Historical Society. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2015.

The silent film, followed by the feature film, The Quiet Man starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, kicks off the Rice County Historical Society’s 90th anniversary celebration. Set and filmed in Ireland, the movie seems the ideal classic for a post St. Patrick’s Day show.

I did a quick tour of the theater in August 2015. This sign sat in the lobby. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

I did a quick drop-in tour of the theater in August 2015. This sign sat in the lobby. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

After the movie, attendees can tour the historic theater, purchased in 2103 by Steve McDonough and since refurbished. The building, just off Faribault’s Central Avenue, was built in 1896 as an Armory, then converted to a funeral parlor in 1912. In the late 1940s, the building became the Village Movie Theater, closing some 40 years ago. It also served for awhile as the Village Bar and as a church.

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The wooden floor is original to the theater. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo August 2015.

Schmidt says attendees at the RCHS event should take special note of supporting timbers in the basement. Those were cut to angle the floor for the movie theater. The floor is a floating floor, unattached to the walls.

Surrounded by history while watching history. That’s how I see it.

FYI: The 90th anniversary celebration begins with the silent film showing at 3 p.m. followed by the feature movie and tour. The Village Family Theater is located at 20 Second Street Northwest. Admission is $5 for RCHS members and $7 for non-members.

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12 Responses to “Anniversary event features amateur silent film clips from Faribault”

  1. Love your sentence – “Surrounded by history while watching history”. History is right up there with literature for me. It is pretty cool to watch and read history and then to experience it too. How Exciting! Thanks so much for sharing – Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  2. If walls could talk. That building has seen it all from an armory to a church with a funeral home, movie theater and a bar in between. Oh the stories they could tell.

  3. Love that hardwood flooring. I love how hardwood floors talk to you when you walk across them.

    • You’re right. I was watching the Minnesota State High School Basketball tourney on Friday evening because my nephew was playing for St. Croix Lutheran. The entire time, the players’ shoes were squeaking on the floor of the Target Center. Drove me a bit crazy.

  4. Tami Schluter Says:

    Like you, I am not a Faribault native, but I love this community for all its rich history. Much of that history reaches out far beyond Faribault’s boundaries. Tangible stories that to this day touch people’s lives like the Faribault Woolen Mill, The Cheese Cave, Shattuck-St. Mary’s, the State Academies and the Tilt-a-Whirl. Not to mention appreciable stories like Bruce Smith, Cannon Valley Milling, Fleckenstein Brewery and SO many more. Thank you Brian Schmidt for keeping these stories alive and people like Steve McDonough and Audrey Kletscher Helbling for telling them!

  5. Sere Fleckenstein Burford Says:

    Currently and still…writing the Fleck’s Beer Family History and I always appreciate interest in our history! My story should be done this year and available! Sere Fleckenstein Burford

    • Sere, be sure to reconnect with me when your book is finished either here in the comments section (I won’t publish) or via my blog email (audrey at mnprairieroots.com). I may be interested in reviewing your book. If you have not contacted Brian Schmidt, collector of all things Fleckenstein Brewery, I’d suggest doing so. Thanks for commenting.

  6. Sue Ready Says:

    So how was the event? Give us a follow-up as the silent film sounds quite interesting


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