Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Community Night Out highlights progress

Jodi Summit
Posted 9/16/16

EMBARRASS- Sisu Heritage showed off the impressive amount of restoration work completed this past year at this year’s Community Night Out at the Seitaniemi Housebarn on Sept. 12.

The project, …

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Community Night Out highlights progress

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EMBARRASS- Sisu Heritage showed off the impressive amount of restoration work completed this past year at this year’s Community Night Out at the Seitaniemi Housebarn on Sept. 12.

The project, which has received major funding from the Minnesota Historical Society, completed its “phase three” grant, which allowed the group to restore the building in as historically accurate a manner as feasible.

The work done this past year included the reconstruction of the entire roof using the materials shown in photos that date from 1925. The south half of the roof was redone in metal, and the north with wood shingles. The two wagon ramps to the upstairs hayloft were also completed. These ramps are one of the most distinctive features of the structure, and include earthen and timber ramps. The ramps were constructed to have the same profile as the 1925 target photo, and were built from existing timbers from the structure following the Department of Interior standards for historic preservation.

Other pieces of the building restored included the two-part door for the horse barn, matching the historical photo and also built from existing lumber. Doors for the house and dairy barn were also built from restored wood. Several windows were restored and reconstructed, saving as much of the original wood and glass as possible.

At Sunday’s event, as Ely musicians Eli Bissonett and Joey Kenig played folk tunes and visitors picnicked on chili and homemade pie, the public got the chance to tour the one-of-a-kind Finnish log structure and talk with those involved in the project, and those passionate about local history in Embarrass.

Sharon (Maki) Hilton, of Aurora, had a personal connection to the housebarn. Her uncle, Nilo Lamppa, married Lulu Seitaniemi, and they visited the homestead many times when she was a child.

She brought a family picture of the homestead, a hand-colored photograph from 1947 that showed the home, garage, and housebarn.

Hilton said the children were not allowed to go into the housebarn, but she thought her two brothers, who used to trap wolves and beavers on the property, had more knowledge of the historical log structure.

“This is my first time inside,” she said.

She said her brothers would be up visiting this fall, and promised to find out what they remembered from their childhood.

Jack LaMar, who is heading Sisu’s restoration project and planning, said the group’s next step is writing a grant to fund a feasibility study to determine the future use(s) of the property.

The study, which has been recommended as the next step by the Minnesota Historical Society, would then set priorities for the funding of future restoration projects, now that the building itself is stabilized and protected from the elements.

Another priority, said LaMar, is collecting more artifacts from the Seitaniemi homestead, since many of the items were sold at auction after Bill Seitaniemi died. They are also seeking old photographs and farm implements dating back to the period the housebarn was in use.

LaMar said they are also seeking to record oral histories to preserve the memories of the homestead before they are all gone.

The one-of-a-kind Finnish log combination house and barn has attracted attention from a much wider area than Embarrass.

Sisu Board Chair Marlin Bjornrud said the project has been very well received by MHS.

“This is their baby,” he said, noting the organization has been helpful not only with grant funding, but also with advice on how to proceed year to year.

“Our next big question is what we are going to do with the building when the restoration is done,” Bjornrud said. “Options include operating it as a living history site, renting it out for events like weddings and family reunions, and hosting tours.”

Bjornrud said they will also be looking for input from the community on how to best utilize the site.

This is the fifth year Sisu has hosted their Community Night Out at the housebarn.

Sisu is also taking ownership of another historic building in Embarrass, the Apostolic Lutheran Church, though the actual date of the ownership change is still to be determined.

“The building is in pretty good shape,” Bjornrud said, “though some work must be done to work on drainage around the basement.” Bjornrud said the church sanctuary is in very good shape, and the acoustics in the building are wonderful. He said Sisu is looking at ways to make the building financially self-supporting.

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