Group earns history honor

FAIRMONT – Martin County Historical Society’s effort to restore the parsonage house is being honored with an award from the Minnesota Alliance of Local History Museums.

The “behind the scenes” work of the renovation – from fundraising to volunteers working as a team – was what made the project a success, and also the reason for the award.

“We were contacted to submit a proposal for an award for the project,” said Lenny Tvedten of the Martin County Historical Society. “There are a number of programs, and one of them was the ‘Behind The Scenes’ category.”

Tvedten wanted to capture that it took the contributions of everyone involved to make the project a success.

Work began in 2009, when the Historical Society was able to purchase the parsonage, which is located along Blue Earth Avenue next to the Pioneer Museum.

The house was originally the rectory for St. Paul’s Catholic Church when it was built in 1910.

The house was purchased by Dr. Anthony Ourada in 1956, and became his doctor’s office, used until 1968 when it was purchased by Norm Colton.?He used it as his home and rented apartments.

When Colton passed away, the Historical Society bought the parsonage from his heirs.

“The first year was spent planning and organizing, how many stages this would take, getting volunteers, raising funds,” Tvedten said. “We finally started the restoration process in 2010.”

Work was done on the structure to bring it back to its original layout from 1910-1930s. The landscaping around replicates the Japanese gardens of the Interlaken Park era of the early 1900s.

“It’s an extension of the museum,” Tvedten said. “But it’s also a community resource. It can be used for gatherings such as wedding receptions and bridal showers, reunions or community organization meetings.”

From the start to the completion of the project last year, it was a group effort.

“We had volunteers who put in thousands of hours of work,” Tvedten said. “They were skilled, willing and capable in doing and completing the projects. The financial supports, every bit counted.”

When applying for the award, Tvedten stated that the completion of the parsonage adds to the quality of life in Fairmont and Martin County.

“It provides an extension of the museum depicting like in the early 1900s,” Tvedten said. “The downstairs is set up for the 1910 to 1930s, while the upstairs is more 1950s. It gives us needed room for displays.”

The Historical Society will receive the award during the Minnesota Alliance of Local History Museums’ annual meeting on Thursday at the Blue Earth County Historical Society in Mankato.