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Sinking money into Brandon: History center raising money for building repairs

Chris Korkowski of Brandon (red shirt), and members of the Brandon History Center look at the damaged walls of the Brandon Auditorium. The History Center will be hosting a fundraising event to help pay for the repairs as well as upgrade the auditorium's kitchen. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)1 / 3
The Brandon Auditorium, built between 1935-36 as a Works Progress Administration project, houses the Brandon History Center and the Brandon City Hall. The two-story building is faced entirely in fieldstone and concrete and was designed by Minneapolis architect, F.B. Pfeifer. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press) 2 / 3
The kitchen in the Brandon Auditorium is being remodeled and an open house fundraiser is being planned to raise money to help pay for the project. The event will take place Wednesday, Nov. 15 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the auditorium. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press) 3 / 3

A piece of Brandon's history — an iconic building situated in the heart of the city — needs the community's help.

The Brandon Auditorium, which houses not only the Brandon History Center, but serves as the hub for numerous community events, needs work. The kitchen, with its original sink, needs a major update and the cracked and bubbled walls of the gymnasium need to be fixed.

To help with the estimated $40,000 cost of the project, the Brandon History Center will host a fundraiser next week.

"We want to keep a good thing going," said Chris Korkowski, project manager and former board member of the Brandon History Center.

The fundraising event, which will take place at the auditorium at 105 Holmes Avenue, is set for Wednesday, Nov. 15, from 5 to 7 p.m. BBQs, hot dogs, chips and bars will be served during the event for a freewill offering. The evening includes a silent auction with many great items, said Korkowski, and entertainment will be provided by musician Bob Piotrowski and the Johari Tribe, who are tribal belly dancers.

The estimated cost of the kitchen remodel is $33,000 and the repairs to the gym walls is estimated to cost about $7,000, said Korkowski.

Several years ago, Brandon resident Joan Fjoslien donated $50,000 to the history center, with matching funds from the Minnesota Historical Society and community fundraisers, said Korkowski and board member Janet Nelson. That money paid for a new roof, furnace work and updating bathrooms to become handicapped accessible, among other projects on the aging building. Eventually, that money was all used up and the history center kept holding fundraisers to help with the upkeep of the building, knowing that the kitchen remodel and the gym walls needed work.

Korkowski said the history center gets space for free from the city, but then helps out when it comes to fundraisers and repairs.

In November 1985, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Whenever repairs or remodels need to be done, the city of Brandon has to get permission first. There is a lot of paperwork and the process can be quite lengthy, said Korkowski.

The city was finally granted permission to do the necessary work on the kitchen and walls of the gymnasium. Some of the work has already begun in the kitchen; the new floor has already been installed.

The Brandon Auditorium was built between 1935-36 and was a Depression-era project of the Works Progress Administration, which provided useful employment and innovative new buildings for public use.

The kitchen was in desperate need of an upgrade, said Korkowski, as the sink was original to the building. The sink, she added, will be included in the silent auction. The kitchen, according to Korkowski and Nelson, gets used frequently — for wedding receptions, annual fire department banquets, family reunions, waffle breakfasts and holiday parties, among others.

Because it is used so often, they said the building is worth repairing and updating.

"This is something, some place that Brandon has," she said. "It's unique and we want to make sure it keeps going."

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. She enjoys running and has participated in nearly 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon distances.

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