Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A reason to be happy in Le Sueur January 12, 2021

Posted on the marquee of the Le Sueur Theater. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo August 2020.

DON’T WORRY. BE HAPPY.

Ah, what a message, one that, in these turbulent times, seems difficult to follow. Or even consider. Yet, focusing on the positives and joys in life feels more important than ever right now. Not that we should ignore the challenges—and there are many today—but rather balance them with also viewing the bright side of life.

Soon this marquee will be restored. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo August 2020.

Don’t worry, be happy. Those words from the 1988 hit song by Bobby McFerrin make me smile all these years later. At the cheesy simplicity. At the thought that we can focus on the light of happiness even in the worries of darkness.

Photographed in August 2020 along Main Street South in Le Sueur. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

With that, I shift to a series of photos I took in downtown Le Sueur in late August 2020. I typically fall behind in posting my images given all I shoot during the warm weather months here in Minnesota. Regardless, this seems the right time to pull these photos from the archives and share a bit of “happy.”

In the process of being restored in downtown Le Sueur. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo August 2020.

Visually documenting small towns like Le Sueur, a community of some 4,000 in southern Minnesota, is often a focus of my photography. I delight in the details, the architecture, the only-in-a-small-town scenes, the history, people and more that define these communities.

PHOTOS FROM OCTOBER 2016:

Before work began on the Le Sueur Theater. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2016.
When I first photographed the theater in 2016, this eviction notice was posted on the door as the property went into foreclosure. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2016.
Signs of a once active movie theater. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2016.
A movie poster still posted when I first photographed the theater in October 2016. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

And so, while walking through the heart of downtown Le Sueur, I came across the vacant Le Sueur Theater and its once beautiful marquee. I remember photographing this theater previously and lamenting its abandonment. But then, while researching for this post, I discovered a reason to feel happy. Thankful, really.

I can only imagine how beautiful this marquee once its restored (or whatever it takes). Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo August 2020.

In March 2019, cleaning, repair (roof, walls, etc) and restoration began on this building vacated in 2008. Work to preserve, restore, replicate, replace and reinforce the marquee is expected to begin in the spring. You can find details about the ongoing project on the Le Sueur Theater Facebook page by clicking here.

A side view of the Le Sueur Theater marquee. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo August 2020.

Leading the project is Katie Elke of Le Sueur, who bought the building in 2016 and plans to reopen the theater for cinema, music, theatrical performances, comedy shows and other entertainment, making it a community gathering spot.

Some day this space will be filled with a new listing. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo August 2020.

I love this plan. This idea. I’ve watched as my own community of Faribault restored an historic theater into the Paradise Center for the Arts, a center for arts, entertainment and more. That the good folks of Le Sueur and the surrounding area will now have a similar hub makes me happy. I recognize that this happens only with plenty of funding (Katie started a go fund me site), hard work and enthusiastic support. Some day I hope to step inside the restored Le Sueur Theater and show you how a plan, along with grit, determination, effort, money and a whole lot of happy can take an idea to reality. Even, and especially, during a global pandemic.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Restored clock telling time again in historic downtown Faribault September 14, 2015

This restored 1915 clock was installed on the Security State Bank Building, 302 Central Avenue, on Saturday.

This restored 1915 clock was reinstalled on the Security Bank Building, 302 Central Avenue, on Saturday. This photo was taken Sunday morning.

THE TRANSFORMATION IS REMARKABLE, a stunning addition to a busy street corner in the heart of historic downtown Faribault.

Up close...

Up close…

It is the restoration and reinstallation of a 100-year-old clock suspended from the Security Bank building.

Mike Elwood at work on the clock.

Clock “doctor” Mike Elwood, whose clock shop is a block away, peers inside the clock.

Mike's son, Charlie, waits at the bottom of the ladder.

Mike’s son, Charlie, waits at the bottom of the ladder.

Another view of Mike Elwood working on the clock.

Another view of Mike Elwood working on the clock.

Mike's other son, Tommy, dressed in a Superman shirt, watches.

Mike’s other son, Tommy, dressed in a Superman shirt, watches his dad at work Saturday afternoon.

Saturday afternoon, much to my delight, I spotted Mike Elwood of the Hickory Dickory Doc Clock Shop atop a ladder peering inside the clock. His goal, he shouted down to me, was to get the clock working by the end of the day. He led the restoration and repair of the clock’s inner workings while Faribault artist Jim Pichner crafted the stained glass clock facing and lettering.

The beautiful glowing clock photographed at 9 p.m. Saturday.

The beautiful glowing clock photographed at 9:37 p.m. Saturday.

Steve and Peter McDonough check out the clock Saturday evening.

Steve and Peter McDonough admire the clock Saturday evening.

When I checked back at 9:30 p.m., the clock was aglow, working and being admired by Steve McDonough and his son, Peter. Like me, they were transfixed by its beauty. Steve, who owns the Village Family Theater several blocks away, says he loves his hometown’s downtown.

Telling time Sunday morning.

Telling time Sunday morning.

Although I didn’t grow up here, I’ve lived here 33 years and also hold a deep appreciation for historic downtown Faribault. The refurbished clock is just one more example of how much this community values history and its downtown.

The clock that graces the corner of the Security Bank building has fallen apart.

The clock before the restoration. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2011.

The late Al Burkhartzmeyer, second-generation co-owner of Burkhartzmeyer Shoes a block to the south of the Security Bank building, was instrumental in efforts to get the clock refurbished. After his death in 2012, all memorial funds given in his honor went toward the clock restoration fund. The Faribault Rotary Club, of which Al was a member, also worked hard to raise monies for the project. The city of Faribault provided additional funds to get the restoration going with the stipulation that the Rotary repay those monies. Clock ownership remains with the city.

Looking south on Central.

Looking south on Central.

Truly, this was a community effort to raise the $25,000-plus to restore what is now a beautiful piece of working historical art in the heart of historic downtown Faribault.

BONUS PHOTOS:

In 1964, Rhody Yule painted this picture of the Security Bank in downtown Faribault.

A 1964 painting of the Security Bank by Faribault artist Rhody Yule. The clock was restored to the 1950s era. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

The former Security Bank, today, along Central Avenue in downtown Faribault.

The former Security Bank, photographed in December 2011. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

UPDATE, SEPTEMBER 18: The renovated clock will be dedicated at 6:15 p.m. on Tuesday, September 22, at the Security Bank Building site on the corner of Central Avenue and Third Street. The Faribault Rotary Club and Faribault City Council are co-hosting the event.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling