ANY TIME AN HISTORIC BUILDING falls, I feel a certain sadness. You can’t replace a structure built half a century, maybe even 100 years, ago. Stories and memories remain. But there’s something lost when a building crumbles, collapses, comes down, for whatever reason.
Recently, the small town of Montgomery—self-proclaimed Kolacky Capital of the World—lost one (possibly two) historic buildings in an early morning July 29 fire. The fire started on the second floor of a vacant building previously declared hazardous and slated for demolition in mid-August. The blaze then spread to an adjoining building which houses a plumbing and air conditioning business and an apartment. Main Street Barber, located in a diminutive building next door, was spared.
Just days after the fire, the smell of smoke still lingered. Barricades and a fence blocked access to the pile of rubble. As I photographed the scene, I considered the depth of loss to this Le Sueur County community. Locals with the Montgomery Historical Society have been inventorying and documenting the downtown in an effort to get historic district designation, helpful in attracting visitors. This was a snag in that process.
I recognize the importance of that historic district designation. According to the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office, a historic district is “a geographically defined area with a concentration of historic buildings, structures, site, spaces and objects unified by past events, physical development or design.”
No one needs to sell me on the historic beauty and connections in downtown Montgomery. The aged buildings are one of the reasons I love this small town. Every time I visit, I walk through the main business area downtown, photographing buildings and signs and whatever else draws my eye.
But buildings do not define a place. People do. And I have always found the people of Montgomery to be incredibly welcoming. I appreciate their friendliness, their community spirit, their cohesive respect for their Czech heritage, their efforts to build Montgomery, even when buildings fall.
Please check back for more posts from Montgomery.
© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
We saw the burnt out building the same day you were there…and new it had been a recent fire. I hope they can rebuild something in it’s place.
It will be interesting to see what happens with that space. If it’s left vacant, a downtown mini park with benches, maybe a water feature and something kolacky-themed (for photo ops) would be a nice addition.
I am also saddened when I hear of an old historic building burned, or torn down. I love the designs, of the structure. I don’t like the modern buildings of glass, and just plain old square design. To me, where is the beauty in that? I have noticed recently in the past few years that more and more people are joining historic societies to preserve the older structures. Here in Bakersfield, there was a building that had survived the earthquake of ’52, and it was being considered for demolition. Thankfully, it was purchased by an individual who wanted to save it. After several years, it was scraped, cleaned, etc. and under all of the years of ” past progress”, beauty was found. It is now a beautiful building in downtown Bakersfield.
I’m thankful that Bakersfield building was saved.