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New town hall for Whalan


By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Jan 25th, 2013
Posted in Whalan Features

Whalan, Minnesota has just 63 people within its borders. Sixty-three people with a lot of heart and a desire to protect and revitalize a part of the town’s heritage.

The town hall, a modest, two-story building, was constructed in the late 1800s. It is the oldest building in town and has been used sparingly due to its deteriorating condition. Seated on a bad foundation, it had begun to show its age. Like other century-old architecture the question over its fate loomed with the community and it began to take massive amounts of time and energy to maintain.

“We weighed the options,” says Whalan resident Larry Johnson. “There are not a lot of resources for a town this size. We knew it was going to take a lot of money.” Johnson notes that there was some conversation about demolishing the building and putting up something new, but that those involved pretty quickly came to the decision to preserve the piece of town history and make it useable. Their biggest concern though was whether or not they’d find the funding.

A renovation group was organized, comprised of 12-15 concerned citizens and outsiders. “It was people from the community, people who once lived there, and people from the area,” adds Johnson stressing the phenomenal amount of help that poured in. Funds also poured in. With only one Picture It Painted grant, the group was able to secure $20,000 in funds from the city and over $30,000 in private donations. Another big donation is still anticipated.

The process began in 2011 with an Amish crew pulling the building off of its foundation. A new slab foundation was then poured and the building set back in place. Volunteer offered countless hours of time to gut the interior, as well as scrape paint and repaint the exterior. To date, the new plumbing and electrical is completed and walls are currently being put up in the lower half of the building.

Johnson credits the entirety of involved people, but notes that Donna Novotny and Jim Gustavson were very instrumental in the process. Novotny, a current Chatfield resident that originally hails from Whalan, led the renovation group while Gustavson took charge of setting up contractors for the work.

“That’s the cool part of this story,” enthuses Johnson. “It’s local people digging in with hard work and generosity. It was an avenue for people to step up and do something nice for the community.” While he admits the outpouring and interest was overall surprising, at the same time, he says it’s not. That’s just the heart of communities like Whalan.

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