County Historical Society tour of Pelican offered fascinating look at buildings–and history behind them

By Louis Hoglund

For those interested in main street history, a simple two word  bit of advice: 

“Look upward.”

Pictured here, the brick front of the building that houses Rose Gallery, on main street Pelican Rapids. Note the ornate columns on the structure, built as a bank in 1912.

Across the decades, the pedestrian-level storefronts tend to change with the times, fashions and trends. 

But the upper reaches of the structures, typically, remain much as they were when they were constructed. 

That was the suggestion from Chris Schuelke, who led a tour of historic downtown Pelican Rapids July 19.

Also, in virtually all small towns, the most ornate buildings tended to be the early banks–because they had capital to invest in more distinctive design and architectural features, said Schuelke, Otter Tail County Historical Society Director, whose walking tours have been popular events throughout the county. 

Following are a few excerpts from Schuelke’s presentation. The Pelican Rapids Press will be publishing various items in the coming weeks from the Otter Tail Historical Society’s presentation. 

Krekelberg Law Office, built 1882

This building was constructed in 1882 as the State Bank of Pelican Rapids with R.L. Frazee the first president. The bank occupied the first floor while the second floor was a public hall.  

Randolph L. Frazee was an influential figure in the development of Pelican Rapids. 

Born in Ohio, he came to Minnesota in 1866, living for a time near St. Cloud before venturing to Otter Tail County in 1869. Pushing ahead of the railroad, he built a saw and flour mill in the then county seat of Ottertail City.

A large group enjoyed the tour of historic downtown Pelican Rapids, hosted by Chris Schuelke, Otter Tail County Historical Society, speaking at right.

When the railroad decided to bypass Ottertail City, Frazee foresaw the consequences and quickly left. He invested in timber land north of Ottertail City, selling his interests to the New York Mills Company (which eventually became the village of New York Mills). In 1873, he established the village of Frazee where he started a saw and flour mill. 

Following the course of the Pelican River, he next came to Pelican Rapids to build more flour mills. He eventually owned considerable amounts of land and was involved in numerous other business ventures.

Some longtime Pelican residents  may remember the Krekelberg building  as the J.P. Wallace State Bank which operated from 1920-1972.   

Riverside, Lilly and Rose retail building

According to the 1909 insurance map of Pelican Rapids this building was a harness shop. There was also a cigar factory on the lower level. 

This was also the home of the Riverside Dress Shop, which is well-remembered by Pelican and lakes area shoppers.  The clothing retail tradition continues on, with the Lilly and Rose Boutique in the same building. 

Rose Gallery/Brown Pressed Brick

This attractive building was constructed in 1912 as the Pelican Rapids State Bank. Former Mayor Wayne Runnigen has a photo of the bank from 1915 showing that C.R. Frazee was president. 

Some may recall a Dr. Simonson having his dental office here.

The Coldwell Banker Preferred Partners Real Estate building operated as a clinic for more than a half century.

Coldwell Banker Building

Dr. Willard Burnap came to Pelican Rapids in 1905 and remodeled the building for his clinic and hospital. Some  remember the building as the Dr. Theodore Satersmoen clinic. Dr. Satersmoen came to Pelican Rapids in 1912 to assist Dr. Burnap.

 He took over the practice two years later in 1914, and for nearly 50 years served Pelican Rapids. 

The building was divided into three distinct areas: 

1) Hospital and nurses quarters on the second floor  

2) Doctor’s office and waiting room to the front on the street level

3) Living space for the family toward the back of the first floor and in the lower level which opened out to the river.

In 1929, businesses on both sides of Broadway had to be moved to the second story when the street was raised six feet. Evidence of this move can be seen in the low grassy spot on the west side of Broadway and in the doors and windows that still exist in the basement level of buildings like Riverview Place.