After significant discussion, the city’s Housing & Redevelopment Authority allocated $27,500 to fund improvements at the Alexander Faribault House.
The Rice County Historical Society had requested $55,000 in funds to repair the Faribault House after a Fire and Property Maintenance Inspection conducted by the city found significant violations of city code. In addition to requesting money from the city, the Historical Society has submitted a grant request for $201,000 to the state Historical Society.
The Alexander Faribault House has two portions, the historic east wing and a more modern west wing. The east wing was built in 1852 by Alexander Faribault, a fur trader who founded the city that bears his name. The west wing was added in 1954 and contains a caretaker’s apartment on the first floor.
The HRA money will make improvements to the caretaker’s apartment. If the Rice County Historical Society receives the grant from the Minnesota Historical Society, that funding will go to address issues with other portions of the house and the house as a whole.
The HRA carefully considered the request and concluded that the project fit within the HRA’s scope, so long as funds were focused on the caretaker’s apartment. Some HRA members were deeply concerned by the project’s significant price tag, which would take a substantial bite out of the HRA’s budget.
While some HRA members were interested in putting off a decision on the matter until next month, Councilor Jonathan Wood, who owns a construction business, urged the group to make a decision. In addition to being courteous, Wood said that making a timely decision to approve some funding would give the Historical Society the opportunity to make important improvements now.
Ultimately, the authority approved half of the funding for the Historical Society to begin addressing some of the issues cited by fire inspector Jon Phelps. The HRA agreed that if the historical society succeeds in securing the $201,000 in funds from the Minnesota Historical Society, the HRA would approve the rest of the funds.
The Minnesota Historical Society is expected to make a decision regarding RCHS’s grant request by December. The HRA could approve another $27,500 to make improvements to the Faribault House at its January meeting.
Rice County Historical Society Director Sue Garwood said the Historical Society will make as many improvements as it can with the $27,500 in funding. She said the top priority is addressing windows in the caretaker apartment, as they have begun to leak and cause significant water damage.
Councilor Wood said that he’s glad the HRA can play a role in helping to fix up a unique historical landmark. He said that the Faribault House draws in visitors to the community and is a key symbol of the city’s commitment to preserving its past.
“I think a lot of people are going to be impressed for years to come that these two groups are working together to restore that piece of property,” he said.