Jacobson Building restoration completed, 100-year-old building to begin redevelopment soon

The Jacobson Building in downtown Albert Lea celebrated its 100-year birthday with restoration of its terra-cotta façade.

The original building was constructed in 1883; after damaged by a fire in 1922, the owner of the building renovated the two story building into the four-story building known today, according to city record.

The original building would house the owner Henry Harm’s jewelry store on the first floor and apartments in the three stories above, according to the city of Albert Lea.

However, almost a century later, some of the terra-cotta began to crumble. In 2022, the city of Albert Lea and the current owner of the building accepted a bid of $300,000 from a St. Paul based company to handle the restoration project.

According to the city, the terra-cotta façade on the outside features ornate flowers, faces and other motifs, but only two companies in the nation still manufacture such detailed terra-cotta pieces.

These blocks are terra cotta, essentially pottery,” said Wayne Sorensen, building official and zoning administrator for the City of Albert Lea. “They are each hand-made, fired and glazed. This process can take up to six months for proper manufacture and drying.”

As of Oct. 10, 2023, the city expects the exterior project to finish later this week after cleaning of the façade.

“The façade will be in a true ‘like-new’ condition,” Sorensen said.

The interior will also receive a facelift once local investment group Century Partners LLC begins renovations. The Albert Lea City Council sold the Jacobson Building and neighboring Freeborn Bank Building to the investment group on Oct. 9 for $1.

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