Phelps Hall, the oldest building on the Winona State campus, was once home to a kindergarten and school that educated local children.
A grant from the Minnesota Historical Society will help prepare the nominations of two of the oldest and most unique buildings on the Winona State University campus for placement on the National Register of Historic Places. The grant will allow a historian to study Phelps Hall, the oldest building on campus, and Somsen Hall, the second oldest. The historian will then prepare nomination forms for the National Register.
“I think it’s always a good thing when we can recognize historic buildings here in Winona,” said Winona County Historical Society Director and Winona Mayor-elect Mark Peterson. “Winona State University has played an important role here in our community, and the two buildings certainly are important to the campus’ history, and the community. I think it would be a wonderful thing to have them included along with the other buildings we have on the National Register. Winona State University has been a good steward of those buildings and I’m glad to see it.”
Inclusion on the National Register brings attention to a building, and also provides grant opportunities to building owners for maintenance and preservation. For privately-owned property, inclusion on the National Register also brings tax advantages to encourage preservation and maintenance.
The $6,400 grant is part of the $10.5 million 2011 state legislative appropriation for historical and cultural heritage grants for the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years. The money comes from the 2008 voter-approved Legacy Amendment, which raised the state sales tax by three-eights of one percent from 2009 through 2034. The money is to be used for a variety of efforts, from protecting water resources and restoring wetlands and habitat, to preserving arts and cultural heritage.
Somsen and Phelps
After the state legislature voted to establish a normal school system, Winonans raised more than $7,000 in 1858 for land to build the first state normal school in Winona. Classes at Winona State Normal School began in 1860, and by 1869 the first building, Main Hall, was built.
Growth prompted the construction of the second building, Phelps Hall, in 1909, which housed a kindergarten used as a teaching lab, a gymnasium, and library.
In 1922, Main Hall was destroyed by fire, and construction of Somsen Hall began immediately to replace the lost structure.
Since that time, both Phelps and Somsen have been changed to accommodate growing enrollment and reflect modern advances. Somsen Hall has been remodeled and renovated several times and expanded twice. Phelps Hall has also undergone several renovations.