Polk County Fair set to demolish pioneer home, but faces objections
A decision by the Polk County Fair Board to demolish a historic cabin in Fertile, Minn., has upset some over what the board says is a necessary decision.
Featured at the fair, the 131-year-old pioneer log home happens to be located in the path of a plumbing project needed to appropriately handle the estimated 60,000 residents who annually attend the event, said board members. But members and resident Carole Larson, who advocates preserving the building, have been at odds over whether it should be destroyed or maintained.
Damaged sewer lines, no funding from the Polk County Historical Society and a lack of volunteers to manage the home led to the decision, said member Dan Skanson. No one is trying to destroy history, he said.
“We’re just really in a bind,” he said.
Several people had conflicting accounts about the decision, the options available and whether it’s been open for public use.
Larson said she found a contractor who could cheaply relocate it. She even attempted to speak before the board and offered to fundraise for the cabin herself, she said. Members disputed her claims.
“They don’t care about input from the community,” she said.
Board members could not provide a cost estimate to restore the cabin but maintained it would be prohibitive. Tree roots that have grown around the sewer line have caused repeated problems that need to be fixed, Skanson said.
“The fair board would really like to keep it, but we have a limited budget that we work on and we can’t throw away taxpayer money with moving that and not having any use for it,” he said.
Several years ago, Larson and her friend, Jeannie Erickson, volunteered to maintain the cabin after members of the county historical society could no longer do it, they said. Larson previously renovated three other homes and wanted to maintain this one, too, she said.
Both women said people love the tiny home, which has a bed, a wood stove, a table and chairs and antiques such as a butter churn. They’ve managed the home at the fair every year for the past six years, they said.
“If there’s any way to preserve it safely, I would love to see it happen,” said Erickson. “Because once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
But board members and Gerald Amiot, current president of the Polk County Historical Society, said they haven’t seen the home open to the public for at least two years. Board member Michael Moore said it has deteriorated to the point where it’s barely standing.
“It’s almost to the point where it wouldn’t be safe to go in,” he said.
Amiot said the historical society is neutral on the subject but couldn’t provide any funding for it or volunteers. He also said he was unaware of the decision to destroy the home and his board still planned to talk about it on Thursday.
Historic items inside the cabin will be preserved after the home is demolished, though no date has been set yet, Moore said. The building has been under the fair board’s authority since it was donated in the 1960s, members said.
Larson and Erickson expressed remorse over losing the building.
“There’s nothing like this here,” Larson said.