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[graphic] Downtown Revitalization

[photo] Pipestone's Fourth of July in 1901, illustrating the north side of the 100 block of West Main St.
Courtesy of Pipestone County Museum

At the turn of the last century, Pipestone had four railroads coming through the town, making it an important regional tourism center. Traveling salesmen were, in fact, given better seats at the local theater (Ferris Grand Opera House) than the mayor and city council members.

At the turn of this century, though the railroads are gone, tourism is still an important part of the area's economy. Visitors now come by car and bus, from around the country and around the world, to see the Pipestone National Monument and the large number of Sioux quartzite buildings in the Pipestone Commercial Historic District.

Current view of the 100 block of West Main St.
Courtesy of Lorraine Draper

Hoping to verify its assumption that the town's historic buildings are a large part of the current tourism trade, the Pipestone Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC), responsible for overseeing changes made to the building facades of the downtown historic district, conducted a year-long survey. The questionnaire, distributed at local tourism centers (including all local lodging establishments as well as local attractions), asked visitors two main questions: why they came to Pipestone, and what they enjoyed while here. The Commission found that consistently the top three attractions for visitors were the Pipestone National Monument, the historic buildings and the Pipestone City Hall (County Museum).

The Commission was especially pleased with these results, because Pipestone, like so many historic cities, went through a phase of urban renewal in the 1970s. Many buildings were razed, and several others were nearly destroyed. However, the lasting effect of urban renewal was the creation of the local historic preservation movement.

[photo] Historic image of the south side of the 100 block of East Main St., and Pipestone City Hall, c.1900
Courtesy of Pipestone County Museum

The historic Calumet Hotel was one of the first buildings in Pipestone to undergo a restoration project, between 1978 and 1981. The restoration work on that building continues to this day, and so far major projects have included the replacement of a bay window, tuckpointing, and the renovation of the main entry and interior. The Mackay Block and the Syndicate Block also underwent early restoration and preservation projects. The City of Pipestone adapted the Pipestone Public (Carnegie) Library for use as the local Senior Citizen Center, and conducted preservation work on the exterior.

[photo] Current view of the south side of the 100 block of East Main St.
Courtesy of Lorraine Draper

More recently, the County of Pipestone has renovated the interior of the Courthouse, so that it closely resembles its original appearance. The county also completed preservation work on the building's exterior and conservation work on a 1901 statue on the front lawn. A local preservation group, Historic Pipestone Incorporated (HPI), has undertaken two large projects in recent years. They first restored the exterior of the last remaining train depot in Pipestone, basing their work on historic photographs of the building. After selling it to new owners (who have begun the interior renovations), HPI purchased the 1912 Brown Hospital, and are currently restoring it. The 1896 Moore Block, next to the Museum has also undergone recent restoration (the replacement of bay windows) and conservation work. Not only the buildings, but Main Street itself has undergone a beautification project. Historic-looking streetlights have replaced the modern lights. Trees which blocked the view of the buildings were removed, and planters and benches were installed on the sidewalks for the convenience of pedestrians.

As the saying goes though, beauty is more than skin deep. It is not only the fašade and the streetscape, but what is inside the buildings, which makes Pipestone appealing to visitors. In the past 10 years, a performing arts center (in the old Ferris Grand Block) and an art gallery have joined the decades-old Museum to become the cultural core of the downtown district. Each of these is located within half a block of the Historic Calumet Inn, while other attractions such as a movie theater, a recreation center, and retail stores and services are located with in a two block radius.


[graphic] Link to essay on Pipestone County History [graphic] Link to essay on Downtown Revitalization[graphic] Link to essay on Pipestone: The Rock

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