Phil Dybing is holding the large fundraising thermometer indicating what the total was last week. 
CHARLIE WARNER/NEWS LEADER
Phil Dybing is holding the large fundraising thermometer indicating what the total was last week. CHARLIE WARNER/NEWS LEADER

The Sons of Norway Hall is such a valuable asset to Lanesboro and the surrounding area. The historic white frame building, situated between Sylvan Park and the historic downtown district, is home to more than 50 events during the summer tourism season.

“If every day was a Saturday, we’d have more than 150 events scheduled each year,” said Phil Dybing, treasurer of the Friends of Norwegian Culture. The local organization is spearheading a fundraiser focused to raise $60,000 for the renovation of the kitchen in the Sons of Norway Hall.

The local Sons of Norway Lodge learned about 12 months ago that a grant application through the Minnesota Historical Society in the amount of $179,400 had been approved. With the news, years of planning, grant writing, working with architects, revising plans, resubmitting new plans and scores of phone calls and emails has come to fruition.

Not long after learning about the nearly $180,000 grant award, the State Historical Society determined the kitchen, which was not part of the original 1910 landmark, could not be included in the grant.

“The kitchen is a very important part of the hall,” Dybing said. “And it really did need to be renovated. So the Friends of Norwegian Culture decided to organize a fundraiser to generate enough capital to include the kitchen in the restoration project.”

After consulting with several experts, it was decided that an additional $60,000 would be needed to complete the project. The fundraiser was launched last spring. Through the first six month, more than $30,000 was raised. But like many fundraisers, enthusiasm is high at first and then slows down.

To create new interest in the drive, 12 area businesses have stepped to the plate and will each match $500 for a $6,000 total. So the “Make the Match” pledge will bring in an additional $12,000.

The 12 businesses are AcenTek, CJC Venture LLC,  F&M Community Bank, Kristiania Lodge 47 Rochester Sons of Norway,  Merchants Bank,  MiEnergy Cooperative,  Minnesota Energy Resources,  Pedal Pushers Cafe,  Preble Farmers’ Mutual Fire Insurance Company,  Riley Funeral Homes,  Rushford State Bank and The Black Crow Gallery.

“We feel the Make the Match pledge will encourage more folks to donate, because for every dollar they donate, it will be doubled,” Dybing said. “We are hoping to begin work on the hall right after Thanksgiving. We’ve got all the plans finalized and will be using local contractors.”

Members of the Sons of Norway Lodge have been diligently working on securing grants for the renovation of the hall for a number of years. Lodge member Roger Bothum has been very instrumental in this push, according to Dybing.

The one-story wood frame structure, located just north of Sylvan Park, was built by the Norwegian Lutheran Church (now Bethlehem Lutheran) 107 years ago. “I guess it was handier having a building located down near the downtown instead of up on the hill,” Roger Bothum speculated in an interview last year. “And when it was first built, they didn’t have a kitchen in the church. So this building was used quite a bit.”

The Sons of Norway Lodge bought the building from Bethlehem Lutheran in 1960 for $3,600. The local lodge has utilized the building for their meetings and other functions. And the structure, with its large, open assembly room, has been use for many decades for dances, parties, receptions, the Girl Scouts, Holt Township, local 4-H clubs and other events.

The restoration project first got started in 2012 when the Minnesota Historical Society approved a $7,000 grant to assess the building. A thorough report was produced by Todd Grove of MacDonald and Mack Historic Architects of the Twin Cities, according to Bothum.

Two years later, a second grant of $40,000 was awarded to hire a design team. That grant was made available through the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment from the Minnesota State Legislature. An architect hired by the Sons of Norway Lodge worked extensively with the local lodge’s building committee and also with the State Historical Society to come up with a plan to rehabilitate the interior of the building.

The lodge also received a $10,000 grant to repair the front support columns, which were rotting, and install a handicapped-accessible ramp on the front of the building.

Some of the structural issues identified by the design team included removing the 12-by-20-foot addition on the northeast corner of the building, that includes an entryway, storage area and women’s bathroom. Because the bathroom isn’t ADA accessible and not part of the original structure, it has to be removed.

An ADA accessible bathroom will be located in the north end of the existing kitchen. A new ceiling, lights and electric services and outlets will be added to the kitchen. Five windows on the east wall of the kitchen will be repaired.

The northwest corner of the main room is bowed out. That corner will be straightened by a series of strut rods that will run from corner to corner about 12 feet off the floor.

The assembly hall ceiling will be opened back up to its original lofty state. Many decades ago the high-arching ceiling was lowered with a flat, false ceiling. The height of the assembly hall ceiling will be increased from approximately 15 feet to more than 20 feet at the pinnacle.

For more information on how to donate, persons can contact Dybing at 507-421-6731 or pdybing@acegroup.cc.