Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Inspired by an outdoor community gathering spot in Marshall April 13, 2023

Terrace 1872, under development in September 2022 in downtown Marshall, Minnesota. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo September 2022)

WHEN I PHOTOGRAPHED an under construction patio while visiting Marshall in mid-September, I wondered exactly what was up with this space. And then I forgot about it…until now.

The Lyon County Historical Society Museum, housed in a former library. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo September 2022)

It was a warm and sunny day when I happened upon the patio project in the heart of Marshall’s downtown business district. This ag-based community and college town sits on the southwestern Minnesota prairie, some 20 miles west of my hometown. I was back in the area to view two of my poems on display in the “Making Lyon County Home” exhibit at the Lyon County Historical Society Museum. After touring the museum, Randy and I did a short walk-about in a downtown that looks nothing like the downtown I remember from my last visit 40 years earlier.

During that brief tour, we came across the developing outdoor area. I was impressed by what I saw—by the well-laid pavers, the strong arched entry, the cluster of patio tables and chairs, and the then-unfilled planter bed. I envisioned plants and flowers adding a calming natural balance to hard surfaces.

An unreadable (to me) ghost sign speaks to Marshall’s history. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo September 2022)

My eyes saw all of this. But, still, I didn’t know the backstory until now. This is Terrace 1872, a public gathering space next to City Hall. It came to be after the former Marshall Hotel was demolished, leaving a narrow, empty lot. Local visionaries saw this as an opportunity to create a community gathering spot. And so it will be. And the name, well, Terrace is self-explanatory. But 1872 represents the year Marshall became a city.

A mural, “At the Bend of the Redwood,” sprawls across a business in the heart of downtown Marshall. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo September 2022)

I love this concept of an outdoor area downtown where visitors, shoppers and downtown employees can meet, relax, just be. I also envision Terrace 1872 as a site for pop-up events—mini art shows, concerts, poetry readings… The possibilities seem endless for this pocket park.

Plans are to add a sculpture or art piece to the terrace, enhancing a downtown already graced by murals. Online plans also show movable fire pits and patio lights strung between posts. I appreciate the vision of an inviting and welcoming space to gather.

Businesses across the street from Terrace 1872. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo September 2022)

I’d love to see my community of Faribault adopt Marshall’s Terrace 1872 idea and create a similar mini gathering spot in the heart of our downtown. We have many vacant lots left after buildings were demolished. Previously demolished buildings were replaced by parking lots. Faribault now needs some greenery and additional outdoor public art infused into downtown, creating a peaceful place for people to gather, connect, relax, grow a sense of community while outdoors. I hope the visionaries here follow Marshall’s lead…

TELL ME: Do you have a Terrace 1872 in your community or have you seen one in another community? I’d love to hear details.


14 Responses to “Inspired by an outdoor community gathering spot in Marshall”

  1. beth Says:

    What a wonderful community project. We are in a long process of trying to create a city center-

  2. We have several gathering spaces in our little downtown — currently they are redoing our Main Street with bump outs and places tor more benches which makes a huge mess for shoppers and drivers but will hopefully be worth it once it is all done.

  3. Love community green/gathering spaces and are blessed to have many in the community I live and work. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  4. Marshall is a nice town! I haven’t visited the area you photographed in years-clearly I need to again!

  5. Colleen Gengler Says:

    Slayton has a similar but probably smaller space between two buildings in the downtown. It’s called the Pocket Park. The town got its first outdoor mural installed here several years ago. In fact, the group in charge looked at Marshall’s murals for ideas and inspiration. The area has a small gazebo, a couple of benches and planters. The Friends of the Library put up a Little Free Library (noted your earlier blog on this!) and also, there is a bike repair station. People really appreciate what this area now is. I hope to check out Marshall’s sometime.

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