Grassroots Effort Saves 1918 Kasson School Building

Created: 05/27/2014 10:44 PM
By: Jenna Lohse

(ABC 6 News) -- It’s a done deal, the city of Kasson is set to sell the historic school building to a group trying to save it.

It's been a city-wide debate for nearly a decade. The city wanted to demolish the old school building after it was deemed unsafe, yet members of the public raised enough money to buy and renovate it.

We talked with the residents behind the effort, who never thought they'd be at this point.

For Kasson residents like Virginia Giese who spent her elementary days at the historic Kasson Public School and Phyllis Sands who once taught kindergarten inside these walls.

"I just dreaded the day when I would here the machines up here knowing the walls down,” said Phyllis Sands of Kasson.

The idea of tearing down history wasn't an option.

"I think it could be used for generations to come and I think it's such an asset,” said Virginia Giese of Kasson.

Over the course of nearly a decade, the fate of the old school building has prompted three court cases, and some settlement agreements. Which now led the city of Kasson to sell the building to an organization known as 1918 Kasson Public School Limited Liability Partnership.

"We always had high hopes, but you know you have your days when you wonder if you'll get here,” said Giese.

The grassroots effort took some work. They raised enough money by selling shares at $500 a piece. "We made phone calls and a lot of contacts and people stepped up to the plate, they want to see some of Kasson preserved,” said Kasson Resident, Jerry Giese.

By the end of the week, the group will present a check to the city for $240,000 and finally buy the building.

"Oh yeah, I’m excited,” said Giese.

But the purchase only opens up a new chapter, with lots of work to still be done.

"The city is still going to have a building that has been condemned and has been declared unsafe by the state fire marshal's office, so they have a lot of work to do yet to save the building,” said Randy Lenth, Kasson City Administrator.

The partnership group hopes to eventually sell the building to a development firm that will rehabilitate the school into apartments.

"I’m just excited about it being used,” said Sands. To preserve a big part of Kasson’s history. "It'll be a proud building that people will be glad that it was saved,” said Giese.

The group buying the building plans to fix the roof and clean up the inside as soon as possible. They say their best bet is to sell the building to Cohen-Esrey, the same development group that recently bought the Freeborn Bank building in Albert Lea.