Donations are needed for WWI memorial restoration project at county fairgrounds


Memorial then.

Memorial now.
By : 
CHARLIE WARNER
Bluff Country Newspaper Group

A donation drive to revive a piece of history, which dates back nearly a century, is currently underway here in Fillmore County. The Fillmore County Ag Society (also known as the Fair Board) wishes to restore the World War I memorial that was built to serve as the main gate to the Fillmore County Fairgrounds in Preston.

The majestic white block building, with a middle archway, has admitted hundreds of thousands of fairgoers for many decades. It is now in a state of disrepair.

This past summer, the Fair Board began discussing a restoration project. Area contractors were called in to make suggestions on how the project should be done and provided cost estimates.

“There are a number of things that need to be done to bring this piece of history back to its original shape,” said Sheila Craig, who is one of those championing this project. “The roof is sagging and we are not sure just how much attention that will take. Until we peel the shingles off and the roof boards, we won’t know if some of the roof trusses will need to be repaired or replaced.”

Craig explained the two large concrete cupolas that serve as flagpoles, are also in need of repair. Much of the concrete mortar will need to be ground out and replaced and the wood-sash windows require some TLC as well.

Last summer the Fair Board applied for and received a $1,500 grant from the Clean Water Legacy Heritage Fund. Additional grants from the Harmony, Preston and Lanesboro Area Community Foundations, the Preston Historical Society and the Spring Valley American Legion have brought the total collected so far to about $3,000. This is about half of the $6,000 “guestimate” the contractors came up with.

Fair Board members have been contacting area VFW and Legion posts and their auxiliaries in an effort to obtain more donations. They had also been contacting various civic and service groups.

Besides the fundraising effort, Craig said the Fair Board is trying to obtain more history on the memorial itself. They are not sure exactly when the structure was built, as they have not been able to locate any newspaper articles reporting when it was built or dedicated. Speculation is that it may have been built more than 100 years ago and dedicated to the U.S. troops shortly after World War I.

“If anyone would have anything in a history book or old newspaper clippings with information on this, we would love to get a copy of it,” Craig added. “The memorial’s history is very sketchy.”

Anyone wishing to contribute to this project can make their contribution to the Fillmore County Ag Society, in care of Doug Lind, treasurer, at P.O. Box 364, Preston, MN 55965.