The Fjelde House is saved, at least temporarily. On Tuesday, January 13, The Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission (MHPC) voted unanimously to deny the demolition application of the building’s current owner, James Schoffman.. The judgment by the commission follows the recommendation of MHPC staff, and calls for a further study of the building’s historical legacy.
The house once belonging to one of Minnesota’s most important female historical figures, Pauline Fjelde, is protected from the bulldozer until a comprehensive study on the historical significance of the building has been completed.
Pauline Fjelde lived in 3009 Park Avenue from 1908 to 1918. Fjelde was a noted artisan whose work was displayed around the United States and Europe and who is perhaps best known for the first Minnesota State flag which she sewed with her sister, Thomane.
During the MHPC hearing, members of the community were allowed to speak. Neighbors, business owners of the Lake Street area, as well as historical preservation experts spoke in a heated debate about the building’s historical value verses the vitality of businesses on Lake Street.
Many of the business owners lamented the lack of parking spaces on Lake Street, saying that the problem causes reduced patronage. Julie Ingebretsen, of the Norwegian store Ingebretesen’s, said that as a Norwegian immigrant, she is very interested in Pauline Fjelde, and offered that her store would be a fitting place to have some sort of memorial for her. “She’s very important,” Ingebretesen said of Fjelde, “I’m glad she’s getting attention. I don’t see how saving this building is going to do that.” Ingebretsen said that having a vacant building in the neighborhood is very bad, and it would be much better to have a pretty parking lot.
Ted Moeller, chair of the Bloomington Lake Cedar Commercial Association, said “We have fought the parking issue. The city has said the only way we can provide parking is for us to do it on our own. We can’t allow business people to suffer because of lack of parking. We need to support people like Jim when he comes up with a plan to build private parking.”
James Schoffman’s lawyer, Daniel Kennedy, spoke of the great cost of renovating the building to restore it into habitable conditions, much less bring it to its historical state. Kennedy said that the costs of renovating the building would be close to $600,000.
Connie Nompelis, Minneapolis Realtor and real estate developer, and former MHPC Commissioner Bob Roscoe both said the $600,000 was way more than what the renovation costs would actually be. “These numbers are wildly exaggerated,” Roscoe said.
“One way we honor important people is by preserving their houses,” Roscoe said.
Commissioner Christina Harrison said she believed the owner’s estimate of the renovation costs were exaggerated, “I would hate to see that used as an argument.”
Commissioner John Crippen said that it was best to “err on the side of caution” and that there was no compelling urgency to immediately raze the building.
Sheila Regan is a theater artist based in Minneapolis. When not performing or writing, she serves as educational coordinator for Teatro del Pueblo.