Some people look at an old building and see a broken-down structure that no longer has value. It was built using old technology, by people who are no longer here. Out with the old and in with the new. But there are also people who look at an old building and imagine themselves in another time; in a world, very different than our own.

These old buildings didn’t go up in a matter of months like buildings today do. Most of them took years to construct. There were no computer models, heavy construction vehicles or power tools. There was real horse power and sweat. And there was community. The more people you could get involved, the faster your structure went up — which was critical for surviving Minnesota’s brutal winters.

These old buildings weren’t perfect. They were drafty, with no central heat (or air), little natural light and no indoor plumbing. The people who lived in them weren’t always comfortable (by modern standards), but many of them must have felt they were living in the lap of luxury to have a roof over their heads (even when they had to use an outhouse when it was below zero).

Being in or near an old building gives us opportunities to imagine this world and how we might have felt being a part of it. Without an appreciation for what early immigrants experienced, there is no way to truly appreciate our current state. There is no way to appreciate what our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents struggled with every day of their lives. And the sacrifices they made to make sure their families and community could survive.

Old buildings have become gathering places in Eden Prairie. They are bringing back the sense of community and caring for others just as their creators had with each other. They are places to relax with a cup of coffee, places to learn or places to be entertained in.

So, the next time you see or visit an old building, don’t dismiss it as just being old. Think about the lives that it touched and the stories it has to tell. And think about the possibilities of how it could touch even more lives into the future.

Eden Prairie is fortunate to have the following historical buildings which are open to the public:

  • Cummins-Phipps-Grill House – National Register of Historic Places
  • Smith-Douglas-More House (Smith Coffee Shop)
  • Consolidated School
  • Dorenkemper House
  • Riley-Jacques Barn
  • Goodrich-Ramus Barn (Green Acres Event Center)

Jeanne DeSanctis is a board member for the Eden Prairie Historical Society. The society's website is edenprairiehistory.org.

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