A Frozen Requiem

January 2010 was as all Januarys are in Minnesota, icy, dark and bitter.

Smothered in blankets of blazing white.

After the emotions of the Christmas Eve demolition of the Pauline Fjelde house and the drama of the hearings, everything seemed unraveled and broken.

I went to the site and saw a mountain of snow covered debris. There were layers of familiar yet unidentifiable remains from the brutal destruction of the Veit backhoe.

They’d had orders to smash everything into fodder for the landfill. They did. Although some of the Fjelde advocates demanded that an attempt to salvage any items that might remain intact from the remains, it was clear that nothing could or would be saved.

It was too late.

The conflict between the Fjelde advocates, the Schoffman’s, their attorney and City employees, some of who had worked cooperatively with them, and others who had a duty to follow “the process” to its end…had lost its purpose and was more out of habit and mutual enmity.

On January 11, 2010 there was a meeting at Sabathani Community Center which provided an opportunity for the Fjelde advocates and City councilpersons and City employees to continue the discussion about the Fjelde house’s demolition begun at the December 29, 2009 Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission hearings.

John Smoley in one of his reports, summarized the discussion:

On January 11, 2010 Ward 8 Councilmember Elizabeth Glidden; Preservation and Design
staff; and Regulatory Services staff met with members of the public to answer questions
regarding the decision to demolish 3009 Park Avenue and to seek input on salvage and
mitigation. Approximately 11 members of the public in attendance recommended
consideration of the following options:

1. Install a garden to prevent construction of a parking lot onsite;
2. Install a monument onsite;
3. Install a flagpole onsite;
4. Be mindful of monument details to ensure it does not look like a tombstone;
5. Ensure any mitigation does not convey the impression that mitigation is a suitable
substitute for the preservation of a building;
6. Salvage corbels or other architectural details, the trunk, original decorative wood
elements, and entryway tiles;
7. Commission a record of Pauline Fjelde’s life and the residence at 3009 Park Avenue;
and
8. Explore ways to prevent this from happening in the future, by perhaps creating a special
exception for condemning properties under interim protection.

I recall that a surprising selection of the City’s players in the event were present.
Tom Deegan, Rocco Forte, Patrick Higgins, Henry Reimer, Jack Byers, John Smoley, and
Councilwoman Elizabeth Glidden.

Most of the Fjelde advocates and some concerned citizens from the Central neighborhood were there.
The Schoffman’s and their attorney were not.

The September fire and the engineering report was discussed and comparisons were made to the Gustavus Adolphus II building that had also been demolished in December.

Angry words were exchanged, emotions were still volatile…all resolved to explore reforms that would  prevent any other buildings from suffering the same fate as the Fjelde house. Whether the resolve to reform made progress or vanished in the cold grey dawn of political reality and the forward momentum of “new business” is unknown.

The idea of the salvage and mitigation effort continued to be lobbied for by the Fjelde advocates as well as the idea that the Pauline Fjelde house could become a historic landmark post-mortem still  provided some ephemeral hope that lingered in the air then vanished the moment the meeting ended.

As I left I noticed two of the “senior preservation lions” Bob Glancy and Diane Montgomery looking at an intimidating pile of documents and emails…(some redacted) on the Fjelde house which they had requested through the City of Minneapolis’ Data Practices process.

As the grief and sense of loss remained intense, the advocates began to move on and focus on other issues.

Some even left town for awhile.

During February a “Courtesy Notice” email was sent out announcing a salvage operation.
There was also a changing of the guard in the City staff assigned to the case.

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