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Local couple honored by Preservation Alliance for restoration of Weaver schoolhouse (10/08/2008)
By Frances Edstrom

Photo by Kathy Greden
     A Weaver schoolhouse finds new life with a weaver and a historian.

In tiny Weaver, Minnesota, which is situated north of Winona along Hwy. 61, there are still remnants of a time when it was not simply a sleepy haven for those who want to live near the Mississippi River and Whitewater State Park, their outdoor opportunities and gorgeous vistas.

Along with a handful of homes, there is a blacksmith shop, long vacant, of course, a small Methodist Church, still in use, the old Noble art studio with its landmark mural, and an old schoolhouse with a bell tower in which the bell still rings.

The schoolhouse has long been used as a seasonal residence. But recently, it was purchased and lovingly restored by the director of the Winona County Historical Society, Mark Peterson, and his wife, Kathie.

Its exterior — stripped of that old-fashioned manufactured siding, grey with raised black speckles, that was so endemic in the first part of the last century — is painted a cheery yellow with white trim. It sits in a large, open lot with gardens that are being brought back, and trees for shade.

The front door opens into a small foyer and a new bathroom replaces the old boys’ and girls’ rooms. The coatroom still exists, and the doorway into it has a strong metal rod that fits into slots in the door frame where kids used to do chin-ups. An old map rack hangs on the wall. Blackboards line the walls.

The Petersons have returned the classroom area to one large room, into which is fitted a galley kitchen, living, dining and bedroom areas.

But the visitor is taken mostly with the windows, which were built in the days when there was no electric light, and sunlight was a necessity. The wood floors are glossy and inviting. The walls and ceiling, which had been lowered, have been restored and painted soothing colors. A small wood stove is reminscent of an earlier era, but modern heat and air-conditioning make it a year-round getaway cottage.

The Petersons have retained the feel of an old one-room school, while creating an almost loft-like modern home.

The light from the windows shifts as the sun travels across the sky, and the breeze freshens the room, recalling the days when about 30 children of all ages learned their ABCs there along the banks of the Mississippi.

What follows is the information released by the Preservation Alliance concerning its recent awards. Peterson’s renovation garnered one of those awards.

From a luxe hotel to a one-room schoolhouse, an opera house to a warden’s house, the 2008 Minnesota Preservation Awards honor a diversity of preservation successes from across the state. As Minnesota marks its 150th anniversary, the Minnesota Preservation Awards celebrate those individuals, corporations, and groups that have chosen preservation as a sustainable reinvestment in their community and our state’s heritage.

Held at Carleton College’s Concert Hall in Northfield, Minnesota, in conjunction with the State Preservation Conference, the ceremony marked the 24th year the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota has honored local preservation achievements.

A total of 33 nominations were received this year representing everything from small, community-led projects to large-scale, high-profile rehabilitation efforts. Awards are presented not on the basis of size or investment, but rather on the merit they provide to their community.

Stewardship Award

Weaver School, Weaver

The preservation of the historic Weaver School is a classic preservation story; one in which two people simply felt compelled to save a place after first sight. This one-room schoolhouse in Weaver, an unincorporated town in Wabasha County, was built in 1910 and had been converted into a single-family home some years before. Winona County Historical Society Executive Director Mark Peterson heard about the then vacant school and went to take a look.

His wife Kathie was equally as excited about the schoolhouse when they went back to look the next day. After purchasing the schoolhouse, they immediately went about repairing the remaining original details and reconstructing those missing.

They removed the suspended ceiling, interior partitions, and Celotex siding that had been added. The original classroom coat cabinets were repaired and refinished along with the original flooring. The cedar siding was scraped and painted and the bell tower support structure and railings rebuilt.

The Petersons currently use the school as a getaway “cottage” and weaving studio (appropriately located in Weaver). They hope to list the property in the National Register of Historic Places when they complete the project. When asked why they undertook the project, Mark remarked, “What can I say, it’s what happens when a history guy has a midlife crisis.”

The 2008 Minnesota Preservation Award honorees, in order of award category, are:

Adaptive Reuse Award

Ben Pomeroy Student / Alumni Learning Center, St. Paul

W Minneapolis – The Foshay, Minneapolis (Charles Nelson Award for Excellence)

Marzario Warehouse / Monte’s Steakhouse, Faribault

St. Anthony Falls Office Building, Minneapolis (Award for Excellence in Sustainable Design)

Addition/Expansion Award

Grace University Lutheran Church, Minneapolis

Advocacy Award

Depot Preservation Alliance, Baudette

Greater Litchfield Opera House Association, Litchfield

Community Effort Award

Downtown Streetscaping Redevelopment Project, Waseca

Friends of St. John’s, Isanti

Restoration/Rehabilitation Award

1890 Fire Engine House, Arlington

Paradise Center for the Arts, Faribault

Warden’s House, Stillwater

Stewardship Award

Dan Borgert, St. Cloud

Weaver School, Weaver

Career Achievement Award

John Meyer, MBJ Consulting Structural Engineers, Minneapolis 


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