Harmony Area Historical Society Board Members: Ralph Beastrom, Project Leader; Richard Kiehne, vice-president; and Cliff Johannessen, president.
Photo of Charlene Corson Selbee

A piece of Harmony history is being restored, and you have a chance to be a part of it. On July 3 and 4, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., residents and visitors are invited to the McMichael Grain Elevator located at the intersection of US Highway 44 and Minnesota State Highway 139 in downtown Harmony. Members of the Harmony Area Historical Society (HAHS) will be on hand to answer your questions and provide visitors with a guided tour of the property.

Jeff and Barb (Wolsted) Soma donated the elevator to the town of Harmony two years ago. According to an article in Fillmore County Newspaper, a development agreement between the Historical Society and the City was approved as well as a rapid deed of claim and a declaration of entry easement to allow work to progress. Since that time, members of the Historical Society have worked extremely hard to raise funds, write grant applications, speak to civic groups, hold meetings, reflect, conduct historical research, and clean and repair the building. Unfortunately, meetings were disrupted during the pandemic. HAHS ‘first meeting since March 2020 was held in February this year, with the group resuming work on the property in April.

On a visit to the elevator last June and then a year later it was amazing to see all the work that was done. Ralph Beastrom, HAHS Board Member and Restoration Project Leader, explained the history and architectural features of the elevator. Beastrom pointed to the writing on the wall. It is easy to see two dates, 1935 and 1950, as well as a handful of signatures. Berstrom pointed out the 2 “x 4” or 2 “x6” overlays. Richard Kiehne, vice president and sole farmer on the board explained, “Every section is intertwined, so if one section goes down, they all go down. “

Work completed this year includes the interior of the building was blown with soda. Amish men temporarily sealed the roof to keep pesky pigeons out until the roof could be redone, the garbage cans were cleaned and the door hinges replaced to close. The council plans to install a sign in front of the building before the open house.

The Arlin Falck Foundation awarded HAHS $ 7,200 to soda the interior of the building, which was completed in May. When contractors blew soda on the walls, they had to make sure that the writing on the walls was not removed. Kiehne explained that they collect a large plastic bag of “stuff”, which Kiehne took and disposed of on his farm. In addition, two straw trailers were removed from the bins.

Beastrom shared photos showing the difference in wood after being blown with soda. A picture is indeed worth a thousand words.

Kiehne pointed out that the elevator “contained grain and was not a mill.”

To be considered eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) determines if the property is eligible. The following questions are asked regarding age and integrity, and significance when the state determines whether it is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Is the property old enough to be considered historic? Does it still look a lot like it was in the past? Is the property associated with any events, activities or developments that were significant in the past? With the lives of people who were important in the past? With an architectural history, a history of the landscape or important technical achievements? Does it have the potential to provide information through archaeological research into our past?

According to the paper prepared by Robert C. Vogel, Pathfinder CRM for SHPO, “The subject property is a wood-frame, metal-lined country grain silo that was built in 1879-80 for A. & T. McMichael Grain Company, which operated it as a line elevator until 1914. It has an expected storage capacity of 10,000 bushels. The names of the architect and the contractor are not known. Based on the results of the intensive investigation, the McMichael Elevator appears to be locally important and qualifies for inclusion in the National Register under criteria A and C. The building is in a good state of conservation and possesses integrity. historical physical characteristics necessary to convey its historical significance. Although it has been somewhat altered from its historical appearance, all of its most significant character-defining elements (including the study room, main house, practice shed, and interior frame grain binders) are remained intact. Therefore, pathfinder CRM recommends that the State Historic Preservation Office publish a finding of eligibility to the National Registry.

The hard work of HAHS has paid off. SHPO approved the application to make the McMichael Grain Elevator eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The request was paid in part with an SHPO grant of $ 3,000.

The next step, according to Beastrom “The application for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places will be filed in the coming year. It will be paid for with a $ 5,000 grant from SHPO.

The council launched a fundraising campaign to repair the foundations, replace the roof and windows and redo the exterior cladding of the building. The estimated cost is $ 200,000. The Society will accept donations during the open house on July 3 and 4. Contact Beastrom at [email protected], Kiehne to [email protected], or Vicky Tribon at [email protected] if you would like to donate or otherwise help preserve the McMichael Grain Elevator.

The committee is asking for your help. If you have a story or photos of the elevator, especially from the late 1800s to early 1920s, you might like to share them. Please contact the Harmony Historical Society at PO Box 291, Harmony, Minn. 55939 or [email protected].

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