Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Historic mercantile building on the market in Faribault January 6, 2023

The Fleckenstein building centers this row of historic buildings in the 200 block of Central Avenue North, Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

LONG BEFORE SHOPPING MALLS, downtown Faribault had everything…Fleckenstein’s Dry Goods, as an example, sold many household necessities like sewing machines, hats, cloth, and ready-to-wear clothing.

Information about the Fleckenstein mercantile imprinted upon a bench in downtown Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo August 2020)

That information printed on an historic-themed bench in downtown Faribault references an iconic building that has stood since 1884 at 220 Central Avenue North. Today that impressive brick structure with signature green trim is on the market for $679,000. It’s among many aged buildings that have been renovated and restored through the years, defining downtown Faribault as architecturally and historically appealing.

My image from the July 2016 Car Cruise Night was printed on the Faribault tourism magazine cover in 2017. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2016)

Many times, I’ve photographed the long ago mercantile owned by Frederick Fleckenstein. In 2017, my image of a Faribault Main Street Car Cruise Night scene with the Fleckenstein building as a backdrop graced the cover of the local tourism magazine. My eye is continually drawn to this majestic structure.

This image from a July 2022 Car Cruise Night shows a building under repair next to the Fleckenstein building. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2022)

I appreciate the business owners and developers who value Faribault’s historic commercial buildings enough to maintain, improve, renovate and restore them. Funds are currently available through the Faribault Main Street Economic Revitalization Program to assist business owners and developers in repairing, renovating, developing and redeveloping properties in downtown Faribault, according to information on the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism website. Faribault Chamber Trust received a $750,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to fund the program.

This is great news for my community. While many buildings, like the Fleckenstein building, have been restored through the decades, many have not. One need only walk along Central Avenue and adjoining side streets to see failing facades, boarded up windows and other issues. And that’s just the exterior. I expect more problems inside. I recognize it takes money, lots of money, to keep up aging structures.

The lovely Fleckenstein building. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

The Fleckenstein building, though, is ready-to-go with a beautiful interior of original tin, exposed brick and beamed ceiling, according to the listing agent at Edina Realty. A diversity of small businesses currently occupy the 12,155 square feet.

Businesses come and go in Faribault, as in any community. But the buildings that once housed mercantiles and other businesses of yesteryear along Central Avenue mostly remain, repurposed, meeting the needs of today while retaining the architectural charm of the past.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling