Preservation group launches rally March 1

From Friends of the Kirkbride

In the last week, an international community, led by Friends of the Kirkbride in Fergus Falls, has voiced their concern and disapproval at the City of Fergus Falls’ plan to demolish the majority of the historic Kirkbride Building, also known as the former Regional Treatment Center (RTC).

Since publicly launching a petition to save the Kirkbride Building Feb. 8, the Friends of the Kirkbride have collected over 5,300 signatures in opposition to the Fergus Falls City Council decision to request $8.9 million in bonding funds from the Minnesota State Legislature for demolition of the property, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1986.

The Friends of the Kirkbride are also organizing a “Rally for the Kirkbride” March 1 from 7 – 9 p.m. in the Commissioner’s Room at the Otter Tail County Government Services Building (located next to the Kirkbride) at 520 West Fir Avenue, Fergus Falls, MN.

The doors will open at 6:30 p.m., and attendees are encouraged to arrive early since space is limited.

The purpose of the Rally is to provide up-to-date information from the Friends of the Kirkbride on efforts to save the Kirkbride building from demolition, provide information as to what the public can do to help save the historic building, and form task forces that will carry out specific work to help preserve the Kirkbride.

Signers of the petition include Fergus Falls city residents, Minnesota supporters, and fellow advocates from all 50 states and 18 countries.

Concerns brought up by the petition include:
1. Wasteful spending of State funds. Minnesota State Legislature has already provided more than $7.1 million to the City for the building, including $4.5 million that was used on improvements like street lighting, water and sewer replacement, demolition of the incinerator, and improving the building for potential developers and public use. To use state funds to demolish the building would be taking a giant step backwards from the strides the City and other community leaders have made to find a creative, viable development plan for the building.

2. The City has provided no development plan for the grounds and remaining administrative tower should their demolition proposal be completed. State representatives must ask for a clear plan of what happens after the money is spent and the community is left with an empty lot and an empty tower.

3. Demolition will affect the historic tax credit status for current redevelopment efforts by Campus Development Group, who are currently rehabilitating the out buildings of the campus.

4. The loss of historic and cultural identity, and associated tourism potential should demolition occur. Existing non-profits rely on the public interest of the historic cam- pus to bring in tourists and resident artists. The programs non-profits have created around the campus have been recognized by national organizations and news outlets, including the National Endowment for the Arts, ArtPlace America, and the Wall Street Journal.

About the Kirkbride Building
The Kirkbride Building

Also known as the Fergus Falls State Hospital and the Regional Treatment Center, the Kirkbride Building is a former hospital located in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. It was built in the Kirkbride Plan style and first opened to patients in 1890.

Over the next century it operated as one of the state’s main hospitals for the mentally ill and also worked with people with developmental disabilities and chemical dependency issues.