State Bank of Taunton President Duane Peterson, right, and Vice President Doug DeSmet, left, present a check for $5,000 to SPMH member Karen Golden on Friday as a donation toward the repair of the former Big Store Building that now houses the library. Cheri Reynolds, a former Minneota resident now living in Arizona, added a little flair to the envelope she mailed her donation in. Reynolds is the daughter of former Minneota Veterinarian William "Doc" Merritt.


SPMH has raised over $30,000 to date to repair 'Big Store' building

History is just not important to some people; many of whom believe spending money to maintain an old building is just not worth it. They would much rather see a building razed and replaced by a new one.
For others, history is vital. They value the past and how it shaped who we are today.
The Society for the Preservation of Minneota's Heritage is hoping more people fall into the latter category as they attempt to maintain the historic Big Store building built in 1901 that was the largest store of its kind between Mankato and Watertown, SD. The SPMH has had many positive responses to recent letters they sent out in an attempt to raise money to make necessary repairs to the structure, which now houses the public library.
On Friday, State Bank of Taunton President Duane Peterson and Vice President Doug DeSmet presented Karen Golden of the SPMH with a check for $5,000 toward the project.
"As a local bank we want to support anything non-profit that we feel is important," said Peterson. "A library is important to have for any town. And this building has a lot of history."
"My wife and kids come here often," DeSmet noted. "There is just something about holding a book that important to us, as opposed to reading online.”
“I remember as a kid always looking at all the names etched in the bricks (on the south side). There is a lot of history right here and it's important to preserver that."
The city-owned building, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 15, 1982, to have improvements made in order for it to remain structurally sound for years to come. One of those necessary repairs is repointing areas of the building, which the SPMH is hoping to have completed in 2022."I was so surprised when I looked at the check," Golden said, smiling. "This is great. I can't wait to tell the others."
To date, the SPMH has raised over $30,000 toward the repair and improvement project.
"Our goal was $47,000 and any additional funds will be earmarked for building preservation," said SPMH President Wendy Sarazyn. "I've been told that the building is still in good condition, but we need to have the repointing work done to keep it in good condition. All building structures need work done on them at one point or another."
The Minneota City Council recently passed a resolution backing a 50 percent matching fund library construction grant. That application is due in April so the SPMH is attempting to raise as much as possible toward its goal in order to receive the grant money if their application is approved.
The SPMH group sent out 485 letters across the country to current and former residents of Minneota to see if anyone would be willing to donate toward the repair/renovation project to help in preserving the building. They have already had 75 responses with varying amounts of donations.
"We've heard from a lot of locals, as well as people from Arizona, Wisconsin and Illinois, to name a few," said Sandy Josephson, the SPMH secretary and treasurer. "We respect any and all donations that are given to us, and the fundraiser has no end date, so to speak."
One of those recent donations came from Cheri (Merritt) Reynolds, who lives in Green Valley, AZ. She is the daughter of the late Dr. William Merritt, a longtime veterinarian in Minneota who was well known as "Doc" Merritt.
Reynolds returned a creative art design on her envelope.
"It certainly was noticed in our stack of letters," noted Josephson.
The group has been receiving daily responses.
"It is great to pick up the mail and see the number of letters in our box each day," said Josephson. "There hasn't been a day of zero letters yet."
The Big Store building was constructed in 1901 with an upper-floor event space. The store closed in 1972.
The SPMH has already made lot to the upstairs Opera Hall, including having a new elevator installed for visitors to have easier access to the upper floor. And now with the help of generous donors, the SPMH members want to preserve the building so it can continue to be used for many years.
"We are so appreciative of everyone who has contributed," said Sarazyn. "It’s a good feeling to know that so many people care about the building and want to help preserve it and its place in Minneota’s history."

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