The Story of the Martin County Preservation Association
The formation of the Martin County Preservation Association (MCPA) was triggered by an emergency. The City of Fairmont had decided to demolish the Chubb House to make room for an expansion of the parking lot for the city and county law enforcement. Although the house had recently been used in rather mundane ways including as a private residence and beauty parlor, many of the local citizens knew that the house was the oldest house in town, the first to be built of brick (made from local clay and fired in a local kiln), and had many other important historical aspects. A group of concerned citizens met and decided there was enough local support to save the Chubb House. The group included Lucille McNerney, Mary Don Kislingbury, Orel Barker, Vince and Jeanne Celander, Esther Edmdman, and others. They formed the MCPA to obtain legal standing. Then they approached the County Commissioners with a proposal to buy the Chubb House and to preserve it as an important element in Fairmont history, and to restore it as a facility for public events. The proposal was approved and the Association began serious fund-raising and restoration activity. In 1992 the Association purchased the house for $35,000. Although they raised a significant amount of money, most of the restoration work was done by volunteers over a five year period. Today, the Chubb House has been fully restored and has met its objectives of preserving this important artifact of local history and of providing a facility for public events.
The second major activity for the MCPA was started by another emergency. The Christian Science Church building was used by active congregations from 1898 to 1988. It is an excellent example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture designed by Harry Wild Jones, a well-known Minnesota architect. Later the congregation left the building. It was empty for a while and was also used as a second hand store. The roof had begun to leak badly and the walls had started to collapse. The city issued an ultimatum to the owner to either repair the building to meet building codes, or tear it down. The owner was not able to do either, so things had reached an impasse. Larry Vogel deserves considerable credit for saving the building from the wrecking ball.
The MCPA again stepped in with a proposal to the County. They proposed to restore the building and made it available to the public as a center for the arts. The County took ownership of the building and leased it to the MPCA for 100 years. About this time, Don Milbrandt joined the effort and volunteered to be manager of the restoration. Negotiations continued in the year 2000, and an architect was hired in 2001 to create construction and project management plans. Again the MCPA was able to raise a significant amount of money, but it was mostly required for materials and outside contractors. Much of the restoration work was done by volunteers who put in over 40,000 hours of often highly-skilled labor. The restored building was dedicated in 2005. This picture shows Governor Pawlenty and Don Milbrandt at the dedication. Today the facility has been restored to pristine condition and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is heavily used for public visual and performing arts, and private functions such as weddings, receptions, and organizational meetings.