Fergus Falls, Minnesota Monday, January 22, 2007
Friends of the Kirkbride welcome 1000th visitor
By Susan M.A. Larson
Thousands of residents passed through the doors of the Regional Treatment Center during its heyday. Although no longer a treatment facility, the curious still walk the RTC’s halls during the Friday afternoon tours led by the Friends of the Kirkbride; last week, the group welcomed its 1,000th tour participant, Pat Miranowski of Breckenridge.
“I was just interested in the old hospital,” Miranowski said. “I’d heard a lot about it.”
For his achievement, Miranowski was presented with a certificate of appreciation and a photo of the campus.
“It means a lot to us,” Maxine Schmidt, Friends of the Kirkbride founder, said. “We’ve been trying to find a reuse for the facility” and raising public awareness is one avenue to achieve this.
Friends of the Kirkbride is a grassroots group of citizens whose mission is to protect the Kirkbride Campus in its entirety. After people started asking to see the buildings in 2005, Schmidt said, permission was granted by RTC administration to give free public tours. Leading them is Friends of the Kirkbride member Emery Johnson. A volunteer services coordinator and community relations coordinator at the RTC from 1965 to 1991, Johnson’s knowledge and personal stories of the campus bring its yesterdays back to life.
“I thought the pictures on the walls were interesting and how long it took to build it,” Miranowski said.
Overcrowding at the St. Peter and Rochester state hospitals prompted the state to begin construction of the Fergus Falls Regional Treatment Center in 1888. The design of the main building followed the architectural concept of Dr. Thomas S. Kirkbride, a 19th century Pennsylvania physician and mental health pioneer.
“The architecture of the buildings is really impressive,” Miranowski said.
Kirkbride designed the center section of his buildings to be higher than the wings. The center was to serve as the administrative area of the facility and included kitchens, offices, a reception area, visiting rooms, a lecture room, chapel and staff apartments. The main building, also known as the tower building, is the only structure on campus where the original color of the brick can be seen.
“All of the buildings have value,” Schmidt said. “They are just magnificent buildings. We plan to keep giving these tours as long as they allow us and as long as people approach us.”
Hawthorne Development, Fargo, is interested in the nurses cottage for multi-unit housing/condominiums. Jeff Schlossman Investments, Fargo, is interested in the buildings formerly occupied by the Department of Human Services, the Fergus Falls School District, Early Childhood Family Education and Catholic Charities for use as office buildings. The city recently took ownership of these buildings from the state for $1. The developers will purchase them from the city.
To arrange a tour, call Schmidt at 736-5328.