Reusing Mills…as Mills

When you hear about a neat project in an old mill or warehouse, it’s easy to assume that it’s being turned into creative office spaces or trendy lofts.  That’s what makes the renovation of the Faribault Woolen Mill so interesting. It’s being renovated into a woolen mill. The business, which started in Faribault in 1865,  closed in 2009 and was recently saved by the Mooty cousins (Chuck and Paul) from being split up when they purchased the business and the building. Thanks Mootys!

According to a Strib article over the summer, the City of Faribault is planning to help the Mooty cousins apply to get the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Such a listing would make certain renovations to the building eligible for tax credits, including Minnesota’s own 20% historic rehabilitation tax credit.

“This is an awesome historic preservation story,” you’re thinking. “They reused the building with its original use. They’re bringing back a local manufacturing business. They *want* it on the National Register? Fantastic.”  Then you realize that this is one of the Main Street blog posts and you wonder, “So, what’s the connection to Main Street, this is a mile away from downtown.”  I’m glad you asked.

You see, Main Street is about more than what happens in just the Main Street district, it’s about the entire community. The history of this business and building has had a tremendous impact on the town, with many saying how they remember using blankets while traveling cross-country that were made in Faribault.  The sense of pride, of community, that goes along with this business is unique and will be an asset to the revitalization of Faribault’s Main Street District, and the community’s overall health going forward.

Faribault Central Avenue view of buildings

Photo by Katherine Scott, Black Box Images

Faribault Main Street uses the unique assets of their community (which will once more include the Woolen Mill) as they work to create an attractive destination in which businesses prosper, the community benefits, and residents and visitors enjoy a quality downtown experience. Their Main Street Program uses the National Trust’s Main Street Four Point Approach for revitalizing traditional commercial districts, and is one of five Designated Main Street Programs in Minnesota.

The Grand Re-Opening was held yesterday, you can see a video of the ceremony on the Faribault Daily News.  To celebrate, they are holding a tent sale of blankets and other products September 16-17, 10-4 p.m.. Next week, the Preserve Minnesota historic preservation conference will be held in Faribault, including a tour of the mills.  If you’re not coming to the conference, you should still visit Faribault after work on Friday, September 23 for their Taste of Faribault, 5-8 p.m. at the American Legion, 112 5th Street Northeast.
MinnPost article on the mill renovation

Emily Northey

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