Rice County Historical Society and its members have been committed to preserving, discovering and spreading awareness of local history since 1926. And in so doing has created a history of its own.
On Thursday, the 95-year-old historical society will receive recognition as a Legacy Award winner at the Faribault Chamber of Commerce Business Award Luncheon.
“The work we do is creating a legacy for the community by saving Rice County treasures,” said Sue Garwood, executive director of RCHS. “It’s really neat to be considered one of the treasures we’ve been preserving as well.”
Over 100 volunteers donate their time to RCHS on an annual basis, and even through the pandemic the facility committed to making the place safe for those in the at-risk age group.
RCHS offers tours to schools based on social studies standards, supporting curriculum students learn in the classroom. Garwood adapted these tours to distance-learning and hybrid-learning models used during the pandemic, allowing students to view the museum virtually.
Learning opportunities aren’t only offered to school-age children at RCHS. Patrons can access the research library or go online to rchistory.org to access digital history resources.
Garwood said RCHS receives between 250 and 350 donations for museum collections every year, and the museum currently holds over 90,000 objects in various collections.
Eight different structures make up RCHS, acting as historical artifacts on their own. These include a barn, the Vold log cabin, Holy Innocents Episcopal Church, Pleasant Valley School, the Rice County Museum of History, Harvest and Heritage Halls, the Alexander Faribault House and a storage building.
Currently, RCHS volunteers are in the process of revamping the Bishop Henry Whipple exhibit in the museum to include the history of his wife, Cornelia, who was a strong advocate for Whipple starting St. Mary’s School.
Another project in the works is the addition of a year-round agriculture exhibit to be located in the main gallery of the Museum of History. Many artifacts used for this display will come from Harvest Hall, which is open seasonally.
Chamber President and CEO Nort Johnson noted the role RCHS plays in helping visitors who are seeking information about their families or old businesses. From the Chamber’s perspective, Johnson said RCHS has helped tell the story of Faribault tourism and filled in the backstory of different aspects of Rice County history.
“There’s a wonderful preservation of artifacts many Faribault kids remember from our youths,” Johnson said. “You consider the term ‘legacy,’ they are the caretakers of the Faribault legacy, and I can’t say enough about Sue Garwood, their director, along with their volunteers; they do fantastic work for Faribault and Rice County.”
Whether clients want to find an engagement ring or get a watch repaired, Chappuis Jewelers has been Faribault’s go-to business for diamonds and fine jewelry since 1933.
The business has been passed down from father to son to grandson over the course of nearly 90 years, and at the Faribault Business Awards Luncheon Thursday, the Chamber of Commerce will recognize Chappuis Jewelers as a Legacy Award winner.
“We’re very humbled and honored for receiving this award,” said Nate Chappuis, who has owned the business with his wife, Amy, since 2011. “We’re very grateful for the opportunity to carry on this tradition my grandfather started 88 years ago. My grandfather, I know, would be proud of all the generations that succeeded him.”
Nate and his wife Amy Chappuis are third generation owners. They bought the store 10 years ago from Nate’s parents, Patrick and Teresa Chappuis. Teresa retired in 2011 and Patrick, in retirement, continues to be at the store one day a week to work on watches.
Ernie Chappuis opened Chappuis Jewelers in 1933, and he and his wife, Ruth, made watches. Four months after Ernie died in December 1972, his son Patrick took over the business along with Ruth. Patrick had done an international watch making program in Switzerland before returning to Faribault, and his wife, Teresa, joined the business in 1974.
Nate never worked at his family’s business in high school and instead went into underground utility work until his dad, Patrick, called and asked if he would be interested in working at the shop. Twenty-two years later, he’s still at the store and hoping his and Amy’s son might become the fourth generation owner one day.
“I want it to be up to him,” Nate said. “He just turned 14, so we have some time.”
While Nate’s grandfather and parents were watchmakers, Nate instead filled a void by learning to repair and customize jewelry. He and Amy make a great team, he said, as she previously owned a landscaping business and offers her expertise in accounting and bookkeeping.
Nort Johnson, Faribault Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, applauded Chappuis Jewelers for being committed to the Faribault community and for its strong customer service for three generations, a place where pups greet the patrons.
Said Johnson: “For as long as anyone who has lived in Faribault can remember, Chappuis Jewelers has been that type of business.”
Downtown Faribault building owner John Sheesley is making changes to the former Eastman Music Store building to help in the site’s possible re-development even as he faces a lawsuit in connection with a separate building address.
The Faribault Heritage Preservation Commission on Monday approved the modifications at 303 and 305 Central Ave. and 14 Third St. NE, including removing tin panels on the dividing walls at the three addresses with horizontal wood and metal panels. Plywood and tin along the storefronts will be replaced. Clear insulated glass panels along with ultraviolet filtering are expected to be installed.
Sheesley noted the aesthetic changes will correct the previous disrepair of the buildings, adding that he has been undertaking interior renovations on the site. For the buildings at 303 and 305 Central Ave., Sheesley already stripped paint outside to ensure the spaces could be “more functional and beautiful.”
The planned renovations come as Sheesley and his wife, Kara, are charged with three counts of violating the city’s building ordinances. All are misdemeanors and related to an adjacent building address. The lawsuit against the Sheesleys was filed in February 2020, just weeks before the pandemic ground the state’s judicial system to a halt, leaving all but the very most urgent cases on the back burner. As a result, the case was put on hold for about seven months.
The Sheesleys, who live in Minneapolis, own roughly more than a dozen storefronts downtown. The complaint specifically focused on the property at 301 Central Ave. N. which they bought in 2016 from the late Bob Eastman, a local music store owner.
That year, Sheesley spoke with the Faribault Daily News about his vision of building downtown Faribault as “a community of craftsmen and artisans, who have storefronts facing Central Avenue and small-scale manufacturing in the back.” The issues at 301 Central Ave. were flagged in 2019 through the city’s Downtown Property Maintenance and Fire Inspection Program, the latest of numerous city efforts to improve the condition of downtown buildings.
In 2016, Sheesley projected that the artisan community could take about three to five years to develop, but progress has been slow as he has worked to fix up the buildings and recruit businesses with a proven track record and business model in line with his vision.
In March, Sheesley said he was eager to comply with the city. He stood by his record on building maintenance, saying that he had corrected several code violations immediately after purchasing the building. Sheesley said this week that he is confident the case will be resolved.