Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Building on history in Montgomery August 12, 2020

Fire destroyed an historic building at 104 South First Street in downtown Montgomery during the early morning hours of July 29.

 

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.

 

The long-time barbershop, a local gem, did not catch fire.

 

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.

 

The fire site.

 

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.

 

One of many historic buildings in Montgomery. Several are already on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

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.”

 

A snapshot section of Montgomery’s downtown.

 

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.

 

In the window of a downtown business, art promoting Montgomery’s Kolacky Days, held virtually this year. Kolacky is a Czech pastry.

 

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

 

Downtown Faribault in December in black & white December 22, 2011

The former Security Bank building anchors a corner of Central Avenue in downtown Faribault.

PHOTOS DEVOID of distracting color possess a certain surreal, dreamy quality and a vintage feel that have always appealed to me.

Some of the best images I’ve seen hearken from years ago which just goes to prove that technology doesn’t always equate better results.

While filing through photos I shot in historic downtown Faribault on Saturday afternoon and evening, I decided to play with my photo editing tools and desaturate several images. I liked the results so much that I stripped every frame of color.

The results, I think, impress even more upon the viewer the history of this early Minnesota community that stretches back to its founding by fur trader Alexander Faribault in 1852.

We’re a city rich in history with 40 properties on the National Register of Historic Places.

With that perspective, please join me on a quick photo tour of the downtown area. Certainly much more comprises our downtown than what you see in the seven images here.

I invite you to explore on your own, to immerse yourself in the history that defines Faribault.

Historic buildings along Central Avenue.

Dandelet Jewelry occupies the former 1882 Dandelet Dry Goods building, which was renovated in 1985.

A scene from the movie, "Grumpy Old Men," was shot in the former drug store to the right in this image. Today the building houses a pawn shop.

A holiday display window at Erickson Furniture, in business since 1956 and located along Fifth Street Northwest just a block off Central Avenue. Erickson Furniture won first place in the Main Street window decorating contest with its suspended green chairs, holiday ornaments and lights.

Holiday decorations in a business window along Third Street Northwest just off Central.

A sign in the window of Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, a third-generation family-owned shoe store founded in 1949.

CLICK HERE to read a previous post about Faribault’s historic downtown.

Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling