Thursday, May 19, 2011

Save the City Hall Events

                                                  Donate to: Bigfork City Hall Fund
                                                                    First State Bank of Bigfork
                                                                    P.O. Box 257
                                                                    Bigfork, MN 56628

At our recent meeting, the Preservation Group heard a report from Judy Carlson, fundraiser volunteer, about upcoming events for the 'Save the City Hall' cause.

We'll have a booth in front of the Bigfork City Hall (where else?)
selling root beer floats, carmel apples and coffee mugs, handing out preservation info, giving tours of the hall and taking donations! Please stop by:)
Wilderness Day 2010

Other fundraiser plans include a 50's theme "Sock Hop" tentatively planned for Saturday, July 16th and a "Spaghetti Dinner and Music" hosted by the VFW with date to be announced. Please keep us on your social calendar to have some fun and help the cause.

Photo Project
Keep looking for those Bigfork City Hall Event pictures.You can drop them off at First State Bank of Bigfork or email to  I'll post any that you send so start digging through your old photos. 

Cub Scout Pinewood Derby Winners
Matt Kocian, Ross Taylor and Randy Gustafson

Here's a great website I found all about Bigfork with photo gallery and lots of information. It's not entirely up to date but mostly accurate. Enjoy!


Wednesday, May 11, 2011


     The Preservation Group attended the Bigfork City Council meeting last night. There was a large group of preservation supporters to hear what the council had to say about the building's future.
     Mike Kocian introduced the Preservation Group members and again made the argument for preserving the BF City Hall. That was, after all, the overwhelming sentiment at the public meeting in April.
     When Kocian asked for a motion from the council to pledge it's support to preserving the building and to accept the Preservation Group as the official city entity to accomplish this, he was asked instead if the Preservation Group would want to buy the building from the city. Since building ownership has never been our goal, the answer was no!
     A sometimes heated debate ensued and the council finally agreed to give the Group six months to see what they could do, what funding could be found and so on.  Mayor Logdahl did mention that maybe the city could see about furnace replacement--not really a firm commitment but at least some effort might be expended to repair something!
     It was pointed out to the council that our Preservation Group is willing to do all the work; research funding sources, apply for grants, get bids on work needed, volunteer to do some temporary fixes, whatever it takes. The council could get the credit for being foresighted enough to save this historic city. A win-win for everyone! Right?
     The Group is not satisfied with this outcome of course, but we now realize we have to work harder to prepare ourselves and the council members for next month's meeting to get the vote that we need to get on with this project.
     Why is this such a difficult decision for the council to make? Why do they think they need another building when we can fix the one we have and make it even better? Maybe you should call or e-mail to encourage them to join the preservation movement because we are all dedicated to seeing it through!

Contact Information:
Telephone Number:         218-743-3782
Address:                           PO Box 196, Bigfork, MN 56628

FYI--you remember the leaking foundation/water in the basement problem? Group member, and very resourceful guy, Gene Madsen, repaired the downspouts so they actually direct the water away from the building, which significantly improved the situation! Wow-great job Gene!

City Hall in Western Itasca Review

Bigfork Residents Urge Council to Save
 Their Historic City Hall 
by Barbara Cameron
     The small town of Bigfork spoke out to their city council on April 26 at the public forum called by the mayor to talk about the city hall. The question: do they want to replace it or renovate it? 
Over 80 people attended, and their message was a resounding “Save it!” 

read the full article at:

Bigfork City Hall Preservation Group
     The Group met Thursday, May 5th with these members present:
             Midge Carlson, community resident
Dave Evensen, VFW representative & Bigfork resident
Mike Kocian, Bigfork business owner & community resident
Dan Heinecke, BF City Council member & Bigfork resident
Gene Madsen, community resident & former city council member
Darla Kocian, community resident
               (new members added since meeting)
             Sue Dullard, community resident, grant writer
             Brian Rajala, former Bigfork resident, grant researcher

There was discussion about how we should proceed in the preservation effort. This is the plan that was agreed on:

Short range plan
             1. Hire nomination writer to start  National Register of Historic Places listing
             2. Replace furnaces-possibly funded by low interest loan to city
             3. Repair/patch roof for now to stop leaking
             4. Redirect downspouts away from building to improve water in basement problem.
             5. Install weatherproofing to doors and windows etc. to reduce heat loss next winter
     This short range plan will 'button up' the building for now while we work to secure grant funding for more permanent solutions.  

Long range planning: 
             1.Get repair bids from building contractors 
             2.Start writing grants-as many and to whatever source we can find. 
             3.Do permanent repair to the city hall as funds become available.

If anyone has ideas on funding sources, fundraisers etc. please e-mail us.

Keep Spreading the Word
        Please pass this blog link and e-mail address  
to everyone who might be interested in our preservation project. We need all the help we can get! 

Donate to the Preservation Project
     Checks payable to: Bigfork City Hall Fund
            Mail to: First State Bank
                   P.O. Box 257
                          Bigfork, MN 56628

Monday, May 9, 2011

Bigfork City Hall in Pictures

People keep asking 'Where and how do I donate?" I'm going to post this info at the top of each new post. Please copy it down and pass it around!

Donate to the Preservation Project:
     Checks payable to: Bigfork City Hall Fund
                        Mail to: First State Bank
                                    P.O. Box 257
                                    Bigfork, MN 56628

Bigfork City Hall Picture Project
        Midge Carlson is gathering pictures of events at the city hall to build a pictorial history of the hall. We want to show the important roll this building has played in the history of our local communities. Please start looking through albums, shoeboxes etc for any pictures you might have. They can be from way back or more recent; just anything happening at the hall. Please include event name and date and names of anyone in the picture. These will be on public display as we promote the preservation effort, some posted on this blog and eventually installed as a permanent display in the city hall. We will let you know where to send or drop them off. 
Here's a couple that I have found:

    Brownies to Girl Scout
Bridging Ceremony
Katie Kocian receiving pin
and walking across bridge
while other Brownies wait their turn!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bigfork City Hall Preservation Group

The newly formed BFCH Preservation Group met briefly on Thursday, April 28.
Group members are Mike Kocian, Darla Kocian, Gene Madsen, Midge Carlson, Dave Evensen, Dan Heinecke and Gwen Olsen, treasurer.
The main purpose of the meeting was to sign necessary papers to open a bank account to accept donations for the project. The presentation boards from the public meeting have been set up in the First State Bank lobby along with donation information. Donations are coming in both by mail and in person at the bank.
We have also set up e-mail, blog and links to Itasca County Historical Society website and others.

Donate to:

Bigfork City Hall Fund
First State Bank
P.O. Box 257
Bigfork, MN 56628

Next Preservation Group meeting-Thursday, May 5-3:00pm

Next City Council meeting-Tuesday, May 10, 6:00pm Bigfork City Hall


Public Meeting Handouts

bigfork city hall       A  Defining  Architectural  Element  of  our  Community
Date: 1936
Construction: Work progress Administration (WPA)
Symbol of American progress
Materials:  Locally Sourced Timber and Field Stone
Functions (Past and Present): Public Meeting Hall, First Bigfork Fire Station, Public Library, Boy & Girl Scout Meetings & Events, VFW, Movie Theater, Weddings/Receptions, Dances, Music Concerts, Political Campaign Speeches, Timber Producers/Loggers Meetings & Auctions, Church Services, Religious Revival Meetings, TOPS Weight Loss Meetings, 4H CLUB, Jingle Bell Christmas Bazaar, Local Artists Exhibition & Sales, School and Community Theater Plays, Memorial Day Services (Alternate Inclement Weather Location), First Hospital Auxiliary Arts & Crafts Shows, Prom and Pre-Prom Dinner, Emergency Shelter for Severe Weather/Tornado Warnings, ‘Strings N Things’ local musicians Sunday Afternoon Jam Sessions, and more...
"We will be hard pressed to build a new structure that is flexible  enough  to  accommodate  the  many  functions  and  activities  our  community has, and continues to demand of the City Hall"

The Bigfork City Hall is many things; a beautiful architectural form, a representation of the North Woods Environment, An institution for community activity, and an example of America’s struggle to lift itself up during the worst economic crisis in the history of our country. As we are reminded of those hardships today, it is important to protect symbols of our culture that represent our ability to endure as a people throughout history. To remove a building that has served such a vital purpose to the Bigfork community, both functionally and symbolically, would be a grave mistake. By revitalizing the building, the City Hall will continue to serve the people of Bigfork and ensure we maintain our northwoods aesthetic.

A Historical Landmark - Vital to Bigfork's past & future

The Bigfork City Hall is one of only 15 recognized historical buildings in Itasca County. It was constructed in 1936 by the parents and grandparents of families still living in our community today. The wages earned helped individuals and families through the difficult depression years. This building is one of the few remaining examples of the federal government’s effort to help support the Bigfork community during the Great Depression. It is a reflection of the Edge of The Wilderness area both in terms of materials and character, and to demolish the building would be a great loss to the character of Main Street.

Current Need for Revitalization

Due to deferred maintenance and neglect, the building is in need of repairs. But to demolish this historic building and replace it with a common-stock metal structure will have a negative impact on the visual characteristic of Bigfork and long-term costs. With proper maintenance, a fieldstone/mortar building like the Bigfork City Hall has a longer lifespan left in it than a newly constructed metal building has in its entire lifespan. Fieldstone/Mortar buildings have lasted for centuries across the globe because of the materials and construction practices used. In addition, the average new construction project exceeds its original cost estimates by 10-15%, because there are many unforeseen circumstances associated with constructing a new facility.                  The majority of visitors approach the community from the south and west. On average, Bigfork City Hall is one of the first buildings seen; defining the character of our community and Main Street. By removing this building, Main Street will have the same character as any other small town across America that has already made the mistake of demolishing their historic structures, diminishing the impression it leaves on our guests.

Possible Funding Sources Available

 State Capital Projects Grants-in-Aid Program                        MN Historical & Cultural Grants •
 Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB)        Certified Local Government Grants                  
 Private Foundations & Donations                                           Blandin Foundation

    BIGFORK CITY HALL          Redefining an Architectural Element of Our Community

Why Renovate the Building?
Bigfork City Hall (1936 WPA building) has previously received a ‘Certified Eligible Finding’ (11/11/1994) from the Minnesota Historical Society
• It is eligible for possible listing in the National Register of Historic Places. We just need to have the nomination written to begin the process - Application Deadline November 2011 for 2012 Grants
• Environmentally speaking, the most sustainable and efficient building is the one already standing • Renovations will create work for Local specialized Contractors • Deferred Maintenance is NOT an excuse for demolition • Renovation is more economically feasible than removal & replacement
• Current Capacity of City Hall 114 People - Proposed Metal Building only 45 People!
This is an irreplaceable piece of Bigfork's history and worthy of preservation!


Roof Renovation

Need: The existing roof is in a state of disrepair. Repair is vital to protect the interior and structure of the building from damage. The roof is structurally sound, but needs to be re-sealed.

Benefit: An updated roofing membrane will ensure the interior and building structure are protected from leaks and moisture damage while creating a more energy efficient building.

Foundation Repair

Need: Currently, the basement level of the City Hall is experiencing water issues due to foundation seepage. Foundation repair is needed to seal any leaks or fissures and ensure moisture does not access the lower level.

Benefit: Protecting the lower level will reduce risks of mold or other water related problems. Making the space available for utilization at any time.

Update Furnace Heater

Need: The current City Hall heating system is over 40 years old. The inefficient, out-dated system creates costly heating bills that are taxing on our city budget. To meet current standards and reduce the heating costs of the building, a new furnace system is essential.

Benefit: Grants, Funding, and Rebate programs exist for updating outdated appliances to modern, energy efficient systems. By replacing the existing system, the cost of winter heating will be greatly reduced, quickly paying for any cost incurred for purchase and installation. Estimates show the system could pay for itself in as little as 2-3 years!

Enhanced Front Entrance

Need: The current main entrance is in need of updating to match the improvements that have occurred within Bigfork and along the Scenic Byway.

Benefit: Allow easy access to building for all users and visitors. The revitalization of the front entrance will create a small communal gathering space for visitors, employees, and citizens to utilize during social events. A renovated entrance will create a visually welcoming access to the building and Main Street.

VFW Foster-Bjorge Post 1764 Donation

 Contribution: $30,000

The Lower-Level kitchen and seating area were in need of renovation. The Bigfork VFW contributed $30,000 for the labor and materials to remodel and update the facilities.

The potential for renovation is sometimes dismissed without full consideration of the facts and  long-term  implications.  With  patience,  understanding  and  creativity  we  can  work  together  to  preserve this historic building.        

                            SAVE OUR CITY HALL                                       

Monday, May 2, 2011

Friends of Bigfork City Hall

What a difference a few weeks can make! Just over a month ago I was sitting in on the first Bigfork City Council meeting I had attended in years. I was there because I had heard rumors that they were considering tearing down the hall. I was shocked to find how far their plans had gone! The city clerk was up front explaining the floor plans of the new city hall building! In other words 'the train had all but left the station'. I got up and said what I had to say, objecting to this plan, and Their response was, “You're the only one here against this plan.”

            Well, not anymore! I am very happy to report that this past Tuesday night I was not standing alone. I can't express the relief and gratitude I felt looking out over a crowd of over 70 friendly faces and a show of hands overwhelmingly in favor of preserving our historic Bigfork City Hall. I want to thank everyone for your attendance at the meeting and for all who have e-mailed & sent letters of support to the city clerk's office and letters to the editor of the Western Itasca Review. It all helped to get our message across and I think the city council has heard us.

           But, a word of caution! Our work is only beginning. We need to push ahead with the process of getting the building nominated to the National Registry of Historic Places. Only when this is accomplished can we stop demolition talk permanently. Also, with this designation we can apply for preservation grant money to start the repair work. We have contacted a qualified nomination writer who can start immediately. We need $5,625.00 to pay for this process. We started receiving donations Tuesday night and took in $300.00. If 53 more people could give $100.00-or more- we'd have it.

You can make your check out to:
Bigfork City Hall Fundand mail to:
       Bigfork City Hall Fund
First State Bank of Bigfork
       P.O. Box 257
       Bigfork MN 56628

          I've done a lot of thinking about how we, as a community, could let this historic building, 'The Heart of Bigfork' as someone has described it, fall into such disrepair? As Tom Moores said at the meeting, 'Most of us living here drive by it every day and don't really see it.' Well, thanks to the city council’s destruction plans, we all see it now! I appreciate the gift of this historic building even more now and will do everything I can to see that it is repaired and preserved. Recently I was inspecting the building with a contractor to assess repair needs and he pointed out that he couldn't find one crack in the entire exterior wall. That is incredible craftsmanship and with care this building will last another 75 years.

Mike Kocian
If you are interested in receiving updates from the newly formed Bigfork City Hall Preservation Group, please send your e-mail address to  We will send out monthly reports on meetings and progress.
Link to WDIO TV coverage of our meeting:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bigfork City Hall News

Bigfork City Hall News has been created to keep everyone informed on what's happening with our effort to repair and preserve our historic building. Anyone who has signed up by sending your e-mail address to will receive regular updates of our plans and progress. Please pass this on to anyone interested in our preservation project.
Bigfork City Hall Today
A public meeting was held at the Bigfork City Hall on April 26th. The mayor and city council members were present as well as over 70 concerned area residents. City clerk Wayne Kruse talked about the problems with the building and why the council was considering demolishing the city hall and building a smaller metal common stock structure. Mike Kocian then spoke about the need to preserving this historic building, getting it listed on the Registry of Historic Places and applying for funding to make needed repairs. If these efforts are successful, it would cost the city government very little. The crowd was overwhelmingly in favor of saving the city hall!
Bigfork City hall-late 1930s
Some of M Kocian's presentation:

I want to make my position very clear.  I want to repair and remodel this existing building we are in tonight. I am not in favor of destroying or abandoning this historic building for a much smaller common stock metal structure.
This building can be repaired and I have factual documentation from industry professionals to back up this statement.
      First I’d like to talk about the historical importance of this building. Much of what I want to stress is already included in your handouts As you know, it was built in 1936 using Federal Work Project Administration funds, local labor and building materials. It was built during the Great Depression, one of the worst economic crises in our nation’s history. I’m sure there are people here tonight whose parents or grandparents worked on this building and benefited from the jobs it provided.  I recently spoke to David Grabitske from the Minnesota Historical Society and he emphasized that this building was a gift from the federal government—(and we all know that doesn’t happen often)--and the community of Bigfork needs to treat this gift appropriately.  
      Mr. Grabitske also related that in his experience, communities that destroy their historical buildings always end up regretting it. Not just sometimes but 100% of the time. 
Our City Hall is one of only 15 historical buildings left in Itasca County; it is unique to our town; it is the character of our main street and it needs to be preserved.
      We also need to keep in mind that this building is still in use and functioning as the city government offices and community center for which it was originally built .  Over the past 75 years it has served as a community-gathering place for many different event. Over these past 75 years Bigfork has used, cared for and valued this building and that needs to continue.
      As a result of a survey performed by the Northwoods Scenic Byway Project in 1995, the Minnesota Historical Society has assured us that this building is eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.  This official designation would not only be prestigious for our community but would make us eligible to apply for grant money from the ‘Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund’.