The Redwood County Museum is based in a building that could be considered a relic itself — and is falling apart.
In 1908 a Spanish-style building was erected west of Redwood Falls. That building would serve some unique purposes in its 100-plus years of existence, including serving as the poor farm and county nursing home before housing county history. It was in 1978 that the building became the home of the Redwood County museum, which is operated by the Redwood County Historical Society. In recent decades that building has required, as all older buildings would, a number of repairs, but as more time goes by the number of needed repairs to maintain the site are beginning to mount – as is the cost for upkeep. With that in mind the historical society board began discussing the future of the museum. The discussion actually began in earnest recently after the society was awarded a $37,000 legacy grant to upgrade its HVAC system. What it discovered was the grant would only cover a small amount of the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to make the improvements. “We want to be fiscally responsible,” said Bill Schwandt, historical society president during a recent presentation to the Redwood County board. Putting hundreds of thousands of dollars into a new HVAC system is not responsible, he added. That doesn’t include other upgrades that need to be accomplished.
During its discussion about the future of the museum building an idea surfaced that has piqued the interest of members of the historical society as well as the county commissioners. Would it be feasible to erect a new building on the Gilfillan site and move the artifacts from the museum to that building? The historical society, working in conjunction with the Friends of Gilfillan, maintain the Gilfillan site which was given to the history group by the Gilfillan family. The commissioners traveled to the Gilfillan site this past Tuesday night to meet with the historical society board and members of the Friends of Gilfillan to talk about the idea. According to Lorraine Tauer, who has been active at the Gilfillan site for years, nearly every spring, summer and fall weekend is booked for reunions, weddings or similar events. Add to that the three-day Farmfest show, and one can see the potential for visitors for a museum increases dramatically, said Schwandt. The big question is where does money for a new museum building come from? The county currently allocated $11,000 annually to the historical society, and it receives $45,000 annually in rent from Farmfest, as it owns the land on which the show sits. Still, it would require hundreds of thousands of dollars to put up a new building that could house the museum artifacts. On top of that would be costs to demolish the current museum building. So, for now, the discussion continues.