Major grant for Seitaniemi housebarn
Jodi Summit
file photo
The historic Seitaniemi housebarn in Embarrass is currently under restoration.

EMBARRASS- The end of the year has brought some great news for one of our area’s most historic buildings. The Seitaniemi housebarn restoration just received a $142,000 grant from the Minnesota Historical Society’s Legacy Grant program. The funding will be used for the completion of the new roof, plus other important renovations to the 100-plus-year-old log building.

“This grant will allow us to finish the most important parts of the restoration project,” said Sisu Heritage volunteer Paul Knuti, who has been leading the effort to preserve the one-of-a-kind Finnish log structure. “We are at the point of moving forward to finish the job,” he said.

Work on the building will begin in the spring. Project manager Leone Graf will continue as the onsite project manager. Sisu Heritage will be calling for bids on the work, which in addition to repairing/replacing the roof, will include installing new windows, repairing doorways and restoring the old door, log repair, and work on the two ramps which lead up and down from the hayloft area. The project will also include some interior work in the barn, replacing stalls and flooring. Favet Designs of Ely has been working on the building the past two years.

“This will bring the building back to its appearance in the 1930s,” Knuti said.

This is the third time this project has received funding from the MHS.

“They have given us high marks for the work already done,” Knuti said, “and their staff have been a good resource of knowledge.” He noted that competition for funding this year was fiercer than usual. The grant proposal was written by Nancy Larson, with help from Graf and Knuti.

The housebarn was built in phases between 1907 and 1913. It is 90-feet long and two stories high. It combines a house, barn and hayloft in one structure. Ramps on both sides of the barn allowed a haywagon to be driven up to the second-floor hayloft. The housebarn, as far as anyone can tell, is the only still-standing example of this type of Finnish architecture in the country. The building has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1990. When Sisu Heritage began doing tours of historical log buildings in Embarrass, the housebarn quickly became the favorite stop.

After the death of Bill Seitaniemi, who had lived on his family’s homestead his entire life, the housebarn and neighboring land were sold to Carol and Larry Schaeffer, of Ely. The Schaeffers gave Sisu Heritage permission to continue using the housebarn as part of their historic tours. They also granted Sisu a 99-year lease on the housebarn and surrounding land, allowing for the building’s restoration.

The building has become a popular location for Community Night Out concerts the past two summers, and more concerts are being planned. The concerts always bring some new visitors to the site, Knuti said, increasing awareness of the area’s unique architectural heritage.

While this grant will bring Sisu much closer to completing the project, more funding will be needed, Knuti said. The group is currently working on some additional grant applications. Sisu is also hoping to get more school groups out to tour the site. You can keep updated on the project by following the Friends of the Seitaniemi Housebarn on Facebook.

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1 comment on this item

Wonderful news. Actually, Bill Seitaniemi was estranged from his brother Knute and lived in a log building about a mile away by road from the home. After the Seitaniemi parents passed away, Knute stayed in the big white house alone, until he died and Bill moved in until he went to the Kangas Rest Home in Palo.

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