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Meeting Minutes
Sept. 23, 2008
7:00 p.m.
City Hall Council Chambers

Present: Marsha Gunderson, Chair, Caprice Benoit, Sharon Bures, Chuck Flemmer, Gordon Iseminger, Ted Jelliff, Melinda Leach, Cory Lien, Gerad Paul, Dale Sickels, Sandy Slater
Others: Earl Haugen, Metropolitan Planning Organization; Steve Martens; Kevin Severson, Red River Valley Community Action; Peg O’Leary

Gunderson called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.; a quorum was present.

Motion: to approve the minutes of the Sept. 9, 2008, meeting as presented.
(Iseminger, Flemmer)
Motion carries.

Members of the HPC introduced themselves and Monica Evavold introduced herself and others from the County Fair Board: Mark Landa, Dennis Pazderic, Tom Hagness, Terry Stromsodt.

Grand Forks County Fairgrounds WPA Structures Nomination
Gunderson introduced Steve C. Martens, architect and faculty member at North Dakota State University, who has written the nomination for the Fairgrounds WPA Structures. Martens thanked the Fair Board for their supportive actions during the research of the nomination and HPC members for their assistance and editorial review. He noted that WPA structures are a particular interest of his and he appreciated the opportunity to get to know the Grand Forks structures better.

Martens stated that the County Fairgrounds structures are significant under Criterion A and Criterion C of the evaluation criteria for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP):

Criterion A) They are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history.
Criterion C) They embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values,
or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction.

With regard to events, the Fairgrounds embody the importance of the county and state fairs as a site of recreation and cultural exchange, and also because of the political circumstances of the period of the Great Depression.

The structures (stone entrance gate, stone ticket kiosk, stone administration building, stone cairns, and the grandstand) all bear a high degree of material integrity. The methods of construction reflect the dominant design themes of the WPA in the stone structures and are of particular interest for the Art Deco design and engineering style of architect Theodore B. Wells of Grand Forks as exhibited in the grandstand. Wells’ drawings are archived at the UND Chester Fritz Library Department of Special Collections.

Martens outlined the history of the Fairgrounds and the points of significance:
Fairgrounds are located just north of Gateway Drive and east of Columbia Road. Specifically the buildings/structures listed above are the subject of the nomination, due to much altering of the rest of the grounds.
Wells designed the original master plan for the fairgrounds at this site and the north/south and east/west axial roads are retained today. Most of the original pavilion buildings that lined these roads are gone.
Wells was born in Grand Forks, Dakota Territory in 1889, received his civil engineering degree from UND in 1912 and served in the military during WWI probably largely in engineering activities. His later architectural work is represented throughout ND and into eastern MN, at least from Crosby, ND to Bagley, MN. His work embodies some 260 architectural projects, exhibiting an unusual mix of creative style and engineering competency. He partnered with Myron Denbrook in 1949; their combined work in Grand Forks spanned nearly 100 years.
Excellent documentation exists regarding changes to the fairgrounds during the historic period: aerial photographs, Sanborn maps, and the Wells-Denbrook archives.
The Grand Forks streetcar line served the Fairgrounds site, facilitating local attendance.
Much of the significance of the Fairgrounds can be attributed to the social aspects of the fairs and their importance to community life in Grand Forks city, county and the state. Fairs were also educational in their efforts to share knowledge of new developments in agriculture and other fields.
The fieldstone structures were built late in the WPA period, in 1938-1939; the grandstand was built first, in 1937.
The grandstand is a remarkable work of engineering in the way the cantilevered truss extends so far out over the bleacher seating and the extent to which it still stands perfectly straight and true. Construction on the grandstand was undertaken in December and finished in June; five or six months construction time through the dead of a North Dakota winter during the Great Depression. The construction schedule reflects the ingenuity of the building’s designer. Construction provided jobs for as many as 300 workers.
ND politics, including the Non-Partisan League, the Republicans, the Democrats, and individuals such as Harry Hopkins and President Roosevelt at the national level, Tom Moodie, the ND administrator for the WPA (and also Governor for a short period), and Bill Langer (governor and senator), created turmoil during the WPA process in North Dakota.
There are two architectural styles represented in the nomination: 1) WPA Rustic is the stylistic characterization for the work that was done by the WPA that emphasized pictographic construction; and 2) Art Deco which is well represented in Wells’ work.
The grandstand was dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during his visit to Grand Forks on Oct. 4, 1937.
Fieldstone construction technology was used to teach job site safety, skills, and to restore worker confidence.

Martens recommended that the WPA Structures at the Grand Forks Fairgrounds are individually eligible for the National Register of Historic Places under Criteria A and C. He noted that the success of the return of the fair to the Fairgrounds would indicate that the Fairgrounds remain an important civic and cultural institution.
PUBLIC HEARING

Gunderson: At this time I declare the Public Hearing on the National Register Nomination of the Grand Forks County Fairgrounds WPA Structures open. Anyone wishing to comment, please step forward, state your name and address, and present your comments or questions.
Terry Stromsodt, 1721 NE 21st Ave, Grand Forks, ND: Asked Steve Martens if a picture of the original gates had been discovered; Martens said he had looked specifically for one and had not found one. Stromsodt said the Fair Board is interested in replacing the gates and would like the new gates to be historically accurate, if possible. Stromsodt also thanked Martens for the comprehensive report and asked the Commission, on behalf of the Fair Board, to forward the nomination to the next level.
Steve Martens: Said he is planning to pursue some leads that he didn’t have time to go into last summer, and he will certainly forward any images he might find.
Tom Hagness, 1423 11th Ave. S., Grand Forks, ND: Said he grew up in the north end of Grand Forks, has lived here all his life and has been on the Fair Board about 20 years. He noted that the report is very important in letting people know the significant history of the fair in Grand Forks, especially as they work to grow the existing Fair. He recalled teenage summer jobs whitewashing the buildings at the Fairgrounds “as far up as we could reach” because his employer didn’t want the youngsters climbing ladders.
Gunderson: Are there any further comments from the public? … Hearing none, the Public Hearing is closed. Thank you all for your comments and questions.
CLOSED

Flemmer asked if this the largest WPA project in the state, and Martens said it was. Flemmer noted that it was an excellent nomination; both easy and interesting to read. Flemmer said he agreed that the Fairgrounds structures were important to the city and state history and said he was really pleased that the site is being nominated. Jelliff agreed that Martens had done a great report, and he noted that the Minnesota State Fairgrounds are continually referred to as “the historic Minnesota Fairgrounds;” he suggested that that could be a marketing tool for our Fairgrounds, too. Iseminger noted a few editorial changes for consideration, and suggested that the CCC construction at Turtle River State Park is a similar style and might be included in the list of similar projects included in the nomination; Martens agreed. Iseminger and Jelliff agreed that the man called Bill Higgins in the nomination is actually Bill Huggins, who was superintendent of the Grand Forks Cemetery for years. Iseminger felt it remarkable that this man was so closely associated with both the cemetery and the fairgrounds, especially given the similarity of the stonework at the fairgrounds and the cemetery. Iseminger noted that the historic records of the Cemetery Association are held by Robin Purcell.
Gunderson asked for further comments or questions from the Commission; hearing none she requested a motion to forward the nomination of the Fairgrounds WPA Structures to the State Review Board.
Motion: to recommend the nomination of the Grand Forks County Fairgrounds WPA Structures to the National Register of Historic Places and to forward the nomination to the North Dakota State Review Board for its consideration. (Jelliff, Sickels)
Motion carries unanimously.
Gunderson thanked Martens for his time and the fine work on the nomination. She also commended the Fair Board for keeping and maintaining the beautiful stone structures. Iseminger questioned whether truck traffic could be routed around the stone arches; Stromsodt said that one reason they are looking at putting gates back in place would be to reroute the traffic, and he noted that they currently route trucks to the east or west entrance during fair week and on race nights. Evavold said they hope to pursue grant funding, once the structures are listed, to help rebuild the gates.
Five minute break.

Red River Valley Community Action Agency – Kevin Severson
220 Chestnut Street, built 1905 – Listed on the NRHP as a contributing element of the Near Southside Historic District. The owner proposes to use a federally subsidized loan to install stucco on exterior walls, add 7 wood combination storms to the porch windows, and replace 15 windows with vinyl double-hung windows. The current windows and wood shake siding appear to be original. The owner wishes to better insulate the house and says lower portions of the wood are deteriorated. It was determined that the proposed work is ineligible for federal funding. The owner will research the origins of the existing siding and discuss with RRVCA other possible work on the house, returning to HPC when they have new determinations.
514 Cottonwood Street, built 1898 – Gunderson read from the minutes of the May 13, 2008, HPC meeting at which the Commission approved painting the steps and the interior of the porch, adding wooden handrails at the front entry and completing the interior electrical work. In a separate motion the Commission approved, “…repairing and painting the original wood siding and trim; replacing fifteen windows (as necessary) on the main stories with wood, double-hung, 1/1 replacements fitting into the original openings and maintaining the original trim molding; replacing ten windows (as necessary) on the porch with wood, double-hung, 1/1 replacements fitting into the original openings and maintaining the original trim molding; replacing six basement windows with wood awning-style windows to match existing style and openings; and replacement of existing rear side door with a steel door to match existing rear door.” In the intervening time, the owners have spent 50+ hours scraping the historic siding and have discovered extensive wood rot over approximately half the house. The owners request a reconsideration of their original request to replace the existing siding with vinyl. General discussion ensued about materials that might be used to replace the rotted portions: fir siding, cedar siding. Discussion also revolved around potential costs of various options. Slater questioned whether there is a time when historic materials simply cannot be saved. Paul suggested that a composition element that more closely replicates wood might be a compromise between wood and vinyl for both cost and appearance. The owner guaranteed that the fish scale and other detailing would remain intact regardless of other changes to the house. It was also noted that the house is not in the historic district and is in an area which is unlikely to ever be included in an historic district and, though it has been deemed individually eligible, it is highly unlikely that it would be nominated to the NRHP on its own. The Commission requested that RRVCA return to HPC at the next meeting with pricing options, in the meantime the Commission will consult with the State regarding substitute materials.

MPO 4th Avenue South/Minnesota Avenue Study Report – Earl Haugen
Haugen said they have reached a point in the process where they need to settle on the recommendations that will go in the final document. He noted that another public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 30, and he hoped for a better turnout than they have experienced in the past.

There are key questions to be resolved:
a) road surface; analysis of Granitoid pavement shows that some is no longer serviceable
b) mitigation; if some Granitoid is removed, what will replace it
1) stamped concrete with the stamping running parallel to the curbing
2) preferably not washed or colored because of difficulty in patching to match at a later date
c) looking for context sensitive solutions that will appropriately reflect the historic district through which the corridor runs
d) determination of potential enhancements (lighting, signage)
e) solution to the perceived difficulties at the intersection of 4th Avenue and MN Avenue
1) four 90o angled intersections, or
2) a roundabout

Haugen said the cost will range from approximately $1.8 million for a basic project to $2.75 million with all the options. If agreement can be reached, the project could be scheduled for 2013. Benoit, who is the HPC representative on the Study steering committee, asked what the City has committed to regarding maintenance of remaining Granitoid. Haugen said the City Council agreed, in concept in 2000-01, to maintaining a portion of the Granitoid at a high level in exchange for delisting other stretches. Benoit said Traffic Engineer Jane Williams has told her that the City is not willing to make a commitment to preserving any section. Benoit said there is another side of the argument that finds the Granitoid still serviceable, that statistics have not shown that the intersection is dangerous, all the Granitoid is listed on the NRHP and Commissioners have obligation to see that preserved. She said that the general assumption from MPO and the consultants seems to be that the Granitoid will come out and will be replaced with something pretty and easy to plow. She said, as the committee rep, she is looking for direction from the HPC regarding the direction they want to take in this matter. Haugen pointed out that neither Williams nor he could speak for the City Council and both would implement any decisions the Council arrived at. He said his interaction with council members indicates that several of them would like to get off dead center on this issue. Benoit questioned how well the City has maintained the Granitoid since 2000 and O’Leary replied that no actual agreement was attained in 2000 and the Granitoid has continued to deteriorate. Flemmer suggested that there are two issues: 1) the 4th Ave./MN corridor, and 2) the status of other Granitoid on the NRHP. Benoit asked what would happen if HPC agreed to a plan and the funding was ultimately insufficient to fund the agreement; Haugen said a mitigation agreement would be binding and for other aspects of the plan, any changes would require public hearings giving ample time and opportunity to comment on new proposals. Gunderson questioned how patched, stamped concrete would look; Haugen said if it is not colored or washed the patching should meld well though not completely. Haugen discussed traffic calming methods and traffic projections. Bures asked if a 32nd Avenue bridge is still in the plans; Haugen said it is in the 20 year plan and has been approved by Council. Gunderson asked how far the project would reach into the side streets; Haugen said not beyond the right-of-way because of funding sources in play. Flemmer said it is likely that HPC agreement would be contingent upon a completed mitigation agreement. Benoit said she entered into the process thinking that the Granitoid needed replacement for safety reasons but that has not been proven so she questioned why the Granitoid has to come out. She said she recognized that the quality of ride would be improved but at the expense of the historic pavement that did not seem sufficient reason to proceed with removal of the Granitoid. O’Leary noted that, if preservation is the goal, Granitoid is not currently being preserved and will probably be totally destroyed within 15 years if there is no agreement for pro-active preservation of part of it. Gunderson said the original mitigation agreement with the City was poorly constructed and does not promote preservation of the Granitoid. Haugen suggested the HPC develop an action plan based on the SHPO letter of Oct. 10, 1999. Several members requested time to review the materials, discuss the options and bring the matter back to the next meeting. Haugen said HPC comments will be accepted regardless of timing with respect to the Public Hearing and until an agreement is reached.

Preserve America Award – Caprice Benoit
Benoit listed the winners from last year, all of which were multi-million dollar projects involving multiple partners and heavy tourism emphasis. She said she and O’Leary agreed that this might not be the award for us to go after, given that we have only two buildings, no tourism tie-in, and no national significance. Flemmer suggested that we move on. The Commission agreed to watch for awards more closely aligned with our projects.

Chair Report – Marsha Gunderson
CLG Annual Meeting – Gunderson reported that only three members (Flemmer, Slater, Gunderson) and O’Leary attended. She reminded members that attendance affects our match value rates and has been referenced when grants are allocated. She encouraged more people to attend next year. Slater said it was an interesting conference with good information and lively interaction with other CLGs. Gunderson also read the highlights of the report she presented on our accomplishments of the last year. (See attached.)
Fargo Historic Preservation Commission – Fargo is setting up their own Landmark designation.

Coordinator Report – Peg O’Leary
UND Nomination Update – O’Leary requested authorization for the final payment ($1,350) to Michelle Dennis.
Motion: to authorize the final contractual payment of $1,350.00 to Michelle Dennis for completion of the UND Historic District Nomination. (Flemmer, Leach)
Motion carries.
County Fairgrounds Nomination – O’Leary requested authorization for the third payment ($1,289) to Steve Martens based upon completion of the final draft and presentation at the Public Hearing.
Motion: to approve the contractual payment of $1,289.00 for the final draft of the Grand Forks Fairgrounds WPA Structures nomination. (Flemmer, Jelliff)
Motion carries.
City Budget FY09 – HPC’s budget remains intact.

Other Business
Smiley Water Tower – Iseminger noted that “Smiley” predates the WPA, since it was built in 1931. He wondered whether Beautification Funds would be available to refurbish the tower. O’Leary will check into it.
Oxford House – Iseminger said he continues to hear rumors of moving Oxford House. He questioned why the Business School could not expand to the west instead of north, thereby leaving Oxford House where it is.

Motion: to adjourn. (Bures, Slater)
Motion carries. Meeting adjourned. 10:00 p.m.

The next regular meeting will be at 7:00 p.m., Tuesday, October 14, 2008, room A101, City Hall.

Respectfully submitted,

Signed

Peg O’Leary
Coordinator

ATTACHMENT

Since last year…

Section 106 reviews:
RRVCA = 27
Other = 12
Covenant reviews: 3

Projects:
Web site up and running http://gfpreservation.com/
Riverside Historic District Listed
UND Historic District Nomination ready for Feds
County Fairgrounds WPA Structures nomination ready for local review
Lustron move completed
St. Michael’s Hospital and Nurses’ Residence mitigation completed
NPRR Bridge mitigation completed
Photo documentation of Riverside Bathhouse interior completed
List of local carpenters willing and able to do restoration work

Bricks and Mortar grants:
Dinnie Apartments
Hook and Ladder No. 1

Ongoing efforts:
MPO Studies
4th Ave. S. & MN Ave.
Downtown
Infill Developments
Belmont Road
Walnut/Chestnut
Affordable (8)
DDRB
Educational Presentations

Other:
Trip to Iowa sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation
City flood plaques