Historic Building Renovation in Downtown Rural Minnesota Town

Renovations have begun on the building for my Grand Meadow law office.  The Meadow Area News recently published an article about the work that’s underway to renovate this historic building:

10/24/2009 8:47:00 PM
At first glance, it doesn’t look as though the former ‘Corner Café’ building, above, has changed much since the black-and-white photo was taken in the early 1900s, but the interior and exterior have definitely seen better days. The building, which recently sold, is undergoing renovations to help restore it to its original design, as much as possible.

Former ‘Corner Café’ sold, renovations underway for law office

Marceil Skifter

The building on the southeast corner of Grand Meadow’s main downtown intersection, which some still call the “Corner Café,” has changed owners, with the sale being finalized the end of September.

Most people suspected the rumor of the sale was true as they watched workers begin tearing apart the interior of the main level and discarding the debris in the adjacent dumpster.

The property was purchased by Patrick and Shawn (Vogt) Sween from Dean and Julie Hindt, owners of Hindt Hardware Hank. The apartment upstairs has had tenants over the past several years, but no business has occupied the main floor for some time.

The Sweens live in Rosamond, California (near the Mojave Desert), but the family plans to relocate to Grand Meadow next year, at which time Shawn plans to open a law office in the soon-to-be-refurbished, historical building.

The Sweens were both raised in the area and are Grand Meadow High School alumni. Patrick, who graduated from GMHS in 1995, is the son of Dan and Carolyn Sween of Grand Meadow. He attended Embry-Riddle in Florida, graduating in 1999. Shawn, whose parents are Gary and Vicky Vogt, rural Spring Valley, is a 1996 GMHS graduate. She went on to Hamline College, then Harvard Law School, graduating in 2004. They also spent a year in Washington, D.C., where Shawn worked in the U.S.D.A. office.

Shawn said the building, which was built in the early- to mid-1880s, has sustained “a lot of damage over the years,” and is currently being gutted, with hopes of restoring it, inside and out, to as close to its original design and layout as is possible, including replacing the front windows with larger ones, as were originally installed.

Some areas on the exterior that have been eyesores over the years; such as above the main door where an air conditioner protruded and the boarded-over window on the north side where the electric meters are affixed, will be returned to their original state.

They also plan to take some energy-saving measures, which will include adding insulation where needed and changing the furnace and air conditioning. A new front door will replace the current one.

According to the Grand Meadow history book, “Of Days That Used To Be”, the brick building was constructed some time after the 1882 fire that destroyed the entire east side of Main Street from that corner to the south end of the block (where the present brick hotel stands). Torgrimson’s store operated on the main floor of the building until 1902. It stood vacant a few months until, in 1903, First National Bank opened at the site, and was in business until it merged with Exchange State Bank, kitty corner across the street (now 1st F&M Bank).

In 1931 and 1932, two bakeries conducted business at the location; then, over the next 60-some years, a string of cafes operated on the corner-including one owned by the late Sedell Ofstedal, whose son married Patrick’s aunt (Doug and Cindy Sween Ofstedal). So, there is a distant family connection to the building.

When asked if they found any “surprises” in taking out the old interior, Shawn said they found-as have other owners of century-old buildings downtown–the space in the exterior wall at street level where coal was shoveled/delivered to the basement many years ago. Even better, though, they discovered the floor that was installed when the building became a bank. She said they could tell where the teller’s cage and counter had been, and behind that, where the tellers stood, it was a wooden floor. In front of the counter, in the main lobby, was a mosaic-style tile floor, with the name of the bank spelled in the tiles. They saved some of the wording, but the floor was too far gone to be salvaged.

The renovations should be completed this winter-possibly in February, if all goes well. The family plans to move to Minnesota next year sometime and Shawn will, hopefully, be able to open her law office the end of next summer, or first part of fall.

In the years since they left, the Sweens have been able to make several trips to Grand Meadow to visit their families and so their respective parents and grandparents could enjoy spending time with the Sweens’ children-a daughter, age six, and sons, ages two and four.

Click here to read the original article in the Grand Meadow newspaper.

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