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Historic barn is capstone of Tower View restoration

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From the day it opened in 1995, the Anderson Center's board of directors knew that to fully realize the vision of Tower View as an artist community, "this wonderful, historic estate had to be restored and renovated," according to Director Robert Hedin.

Twelve years and $4 million after the first project was undertaken, Tower View is finished.

A grand opening party is planned from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday to celebrate completion of what Hedin considers "the last piece of the Anderson Center puzzle" -- the historic barn and silo.

Richard Moe, president emeritus of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, called it "one of the most heartening and imaginative restoration projects I have seen in years."

It was not a simple undertaking. The 1915 barn and silo, which are the last remnants of the original A.P. Anderson farm, were in deteriorating condition when the three-phase project began in March 2011.

First came renovation of the café and roof deck. Next, the old horse-watering room off the café was rehabilitated and converted to restrooms and a utility room for the barn.

The final and most extensive part of the project was renovating and restoring the barn and silo.

"The board wanted above all else to preserve the interior of the barn," Hedin said.

That was easier said than done. In the end, it was accomplished by building a new barn around the old.

The exterior has the appearance of a traditional barn. The interior is the original barn, encapsulated for future use as a gallery and performance space.

New trusses were built to hold the new roof, which stands 3 feet above the old hull-like ceiling. The old barn boards are now the interior walls of the loft.

"One hundred percent of the original boards -- walls, ceilings, floors" were reused, Hedin said. "These were first-growth red pine" when the barn was built nearly a century ago. Boards were removed, planed and stained then put back in place.

To enhance the building's usefulness, the project also included insulating the barn, fitting it with new shingles and adding some original-style windows for more light. The barn complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act through the addition of a handicap-accessible ramp to the loft.

"The silo is probably the most ambitious of the restoration projects that we have undertaken," Hedin said. "Several contractors said to tear it down."

Instead, board members chose to install engineered footings and angle iron supports, add insulation and windows, and construct a new cement block outer coating that encases the original wall and approximates the original. The cone-shaped window was fitted with new tiles, copper sheeting and insulation.

"The result is one of the most unique restoration efforts that you will find anywhere," he said.

"Although the barn and silo look new on the outside, when one walks inside, it's 1915 all over again."

The silo houses a circular staircase to the loft performance area, and will continue on to a studio in the upper half, Hedin said. Still a work in progress, the loft is expected to accommodate a writer.

"This is probably the closest Tower View will ever be to its original grace and beauty," he said.

When restoration began in 1991, officials estimated it would cost $1 million. "We were able to raise that money very quickly, and 99 percent of it came from the citizens of Red Wing," Hedin said.

"In total, we have replaced about 3,600 new bricks; about 1,000 flowers, shrubs and trees; about 600 gallons of paint; and more than 22 tons of new mortar to tuckpoint the buildings."

The 12-year project has involved 65 contractors. Nearly two-thirds, or 41 of those contractors, came from Red Wing.

When the barn and silo project is completed, the entire cost of restoring Tower View will be about $4 million. The final phase was roughly $1.4 million.

Hedin stressed that "93 percent of (the total) has come from the community of Red Wing -- a testament to the generosity of the community as well as a testament to the community's desire to preserve its past."

From a historical perspective, the restoration is very accurate, Hedin said.

"The board consulted family archives, photographs, letters and other documents to make sure that we were doing as accurate a restoration as we possibly could," Hedin said.

"The board of directors has always been extraordinarily respectful of Tower View's history, and has worked hard to maintain the integrity of that history as well as the growth of the Anderson Center as one of our country's most respected artist communities ... .

"In moving into the future, we have never lost sight of our past."

The Anderson Center is not alone in focusing on preservation, he said, citing the successful application of renovation, rehabilitation and restoration efforts to the Sheldon Theatre, the Depot, Central High School, the Indigo Building and Hobgoblin Music.

"One of the things I think Red Wing should be so proud of," Hedin said, "is how in the last quarter century the community has taken its grand historic structures, maintained the history and integrity, and at the same time revitalized them for the 21st century."

Public invited to check out restoration success

Music and dance, speeches, art, tours and treats all will be part of Saturday's 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. open house at the Anderson Center.

Entertainment in the barn, which has seating for 125 to 130, will run the gamut from the Okee Dokee Brothers and the James Sewell Dance Company to the Great River Musicians, the Red Wing Singers and pianist Neal Topliff.

A brief program at 2 p.m. will feature Sue Gens, executive director of the Minnesota State Arts Board, and Dr. Stephen Elliott, director and chief executive officer of the Minnesota Historical Society.

While in the barn, people will have an opportunity to check out the new gallery, which will feature an exhibit of photographs by Red Wing's Chap Achen.

The historic barn is a multi-use facility that will serve as a venue for concerts, lectures, meetings and educational programs. It can be rented for gatherings and events.

During the open house, refreshments will be served in the adjacent cafeteria and main gallery, where people can view a story board detailing Tower View's history. There'll be a cash bar in the barn.

While the newly restored barn and silo will take center stage, the public also will have an opportunity to explore much of the historic Tower View estate that today is home to the Anderson Center artist community.

As the initial restoration of Tower View was undertaken in the 1990s, Director Robert Hedin said, "We were able to begin building the Anderson Center." It opened in 1995.

At first, artists were selected by personal invitation.

"Now we receive about 230 applications from around the world every year," he said.

The Anderson Center residency program gained national prominence while restoration and renovation of various buildings continued.

"We were given the granary building, which was part of the original family farmstead," Hedin said. It now houses Red Dragonfly Press.

The center also completed one of the largest sculpture gardens in Minnesota, and constructed the North Artist Studios to fulfill a growing demand for studio space for local and regional artists.

It even renovated two buildings that were constructed by carpentry students when Tower View was a satellite campus of the former Red Wing Area Vocational Technical Institute, now Southeast Tech.

Most recently, Hedin said, "While the barn was being restored, we had the wonderful opportunity to purchase the property next door. It once was part of the estate, and is now again." The fence that separated them for decades was taken down.

That property includes three studios, a horse barn and a house that follows the same blueprint as the main residence. Built in 1925, the house has exterior boards that came from original Burnside School buildings.

The opening of the barn also makes it possible for the Anderson Center to expand its educational offerings. This winter, Hedin said, the Sheldon Theatre will begin offering school classes in the barn.

That will bring the total number of "schools" at Tower View to four -- Tower View Alternative High School, the Red Wing Environmental Learning Center, the Universal Music Center opening this fall, and the Sheldon School for the Performing Arts.

If you go...

What: Grand opening of Anderson Center barn

When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29

Where: Highway 61 at Highway 19

Parking: Public lot on west side; handicapped lot near the barn

Cost: Free

More info: 651-388-20009 or