Minnesota Falls Township no longer has a use for its town hall, but is selling the historic icon in hopes of finding someone who might.
"I am sorry to see it go," said recently retired, over three decade-long town board clerk, Gary Velde. "To a lot of us, it's a landmark. It's got a good roof, aluminum siding and is handicap accessible––but I guess it has to go the way of the horse and buggy."
Located three miles south of Granite Falls along Highway 23, the Minnesota Falls Township Hall is a well known way-point and the last remaining vestige of the unincorporated settlement of Lorne.
According to the "A History of Yellow Medicine County," the seeds of Lorne were laid in 1888 upon the arrival of the Great Northern Railroad, which traveled through Minnesota Falls on its way from Hanley Falls to Granite Falls.
In those days it was typical for stations to be placed roughly six to seven miles apart. Noting the length of their grain hauls from Hanley and Granite, in 1885 the farmers of Minnesota Falls Township successfully petitioned for just such a facility, built three years after the request by Great Northern in 1898.
By purchasing seven acres of land and installing the railroad siding, Great Northern would in effect establish Lorne, known also as Tweed and Fraseville during its early goings. From this foundation would rise forth a post office, two elevators, a lumber yard, stockyard, blacksmith shop, two stores and a schoolhouse.
The settlement maintained a relatively short shelf life. Transportation developments made it easier to travel to and from nearby cities, resulting in the closure of the post office and school in the mid-30s. The last grain elevator was razed in 1958.
The closure of the school, re-built in 1911 after the first was destroyed by fire, would allow the structure to be re-purposed as the Minnesota Falls Township Hall. Here, the township held monthly meetings and voted in elections.
At times, 4-H and the farmers union were also said to use the building to host meetings. The area surrounding the township hall continued to be a place for softball games and other community activities until Highway 23 made the area part of its thoroughfare.
In recent years the Township Board has come to use the former Lorne schoolhouse less and less. According to Velde, the building lacks a good heating plant, air conditioning and running water making it hard to justify meetings at the 101 year old building. Instead, the township board usually hosts meetings at one another's homes on a monthly basis and at Granite Falls Airport arrival/departure building for annual meeting.
Really, the only use for the building had become for township voting. And last year that ended, too.
Page 2 of 2 - "Of course we had always used the town hall for voting, but since we're now required to use electronic voting machines as of this last year we had to combine with the city of Granite so that now our polls are held at the Kilowatt Community Center," Velde explained.
At the annual meeting in March, the issue was discussed and the board voted unanimously to do the only thing it felt it could justify to taxpayers: remove it.
According to Velde, he is not aware of any outcry over the decision, however, the general sentiment is that township would prefer the structure to remain, just without yearly cost of upkeep.
Area locals have kept the 32 x 24 ft. in relatively pristine condition, and inside the old schoolhouse still features rich hardwoods, a piano, an old kitchen and the original blackboard. "My own sentiment is that I would like to see it stay where it is because of historical value," said Velde.
Said to be offered to both Yellow Medicine and Hanley Falls museums, neither took the township up on the offer in large part due to budgetary constraints.
Bids for the building are being accepted until August 1. It is required the building be moved off site. Bids can be sent to Ryan Fromm, Minn. Falls Township Clerk, 2404 540th Street, Granite Falls, MN 56241. Cell: 701-219-4206.