By Brian Ojanpa
Free Press Staff Writer
NEW ULM — A $7,000 state grant awarded to the historic Kiesling House in New Ulm is a prelude to big-ticket renovation plans for the 1861 structure.
The Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage grant will be used to pay for a structural assessment of the house in preparation for an overall exterior makeover.
New Ulm Parks and Recreation Director Tom Schmitz said no substantial improvements have made to the house in years.
“We’ve just been painting it every couple years and patching holes — just basic maintenance.”
Schmitz said the cost of the renovation won’t be known until an architectural review is done to ensure historically correct upgrades to the roof, siding, doors and windows.
“The question is going to be: What did it look like in its original time?”
The Kiesling House is one of three downtown New Ulm buildings — and the only wood frame structure — to survive the Dakota attacks on the city in 1862.
It was built by blacksmith Frederick Kiesling for $125 and would have been torched by townspeople if the Indians had broken through downtown barriers. Even though defenses held, the city lost about 75 percent of its buildings to fire.
The house became listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
It formerly housed the New Ulm Area Chamber of Commerce and now houses the Grand Center for Arts and Culture, a group that will eventually move into the historic Grand Hotel it is renovating.
When that happens, the city will look for another nonprofit organization to occupy the house, Schmitz said.
The state grant is part of $311,520 such awards to 53 Minnesota entities.
The grants are made possible by the Legacy Amendment Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. The amendment, approved by Minnesota voters in 2008, supports efforts to preserve state land, water and legacy.