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Restoration completed on Wells Depot

By Staff | Dec 21, 2009

Work on the exterior

“It’s looking awesome,” says Ila Teskey, the president of the Wells Historical Society.

She was referring to the restoration project of the Wells Depot.

On Wednesday last week, Teskey and other members of the society did a walk through of the depot. They were creating a ‘punch list’ of items which still need to be done.

It was a short list.

“The depot is pretty much completed,” Teskey says. “There are only a few items left to do.”

The completed interior

Larson Construction of Albert Lea and Lake Mills was the main contractor on the project.

“We have been very pleased with them,” Teskey says. “They were very good to work with. We have been meeting with them every two weeks to get an update on the work.”

The historical society’s vice president, Mike Beckman, has been the construction manager for the project.

Although the work has all been done this past summer and fall, the project actually started in June of 2005. That is when the historical society made an agreement with the IC & E Railroad to take ownership of the old depot, instead of having the railroad tear it down.

A year later the society took possession.The Wells group has secured $400,000 in grants and donations to fund the project.

Staining some of the wood work in the depot

“The major portion, about $300,000, came as a grant from the Minnesota Department of Transportation,” Teskey says.

That grant was administrated by the Faribault County Highway Department and County Engineer John McDonald.

“We acted as the fiscal agent for the grant,” McDonald says. As such, the county got the bids for the work, and has been in charge of paying for the finished restoration, using the grant funds.

“I think the project has gone very well,” McDonald says. “The building is looking very good.”

It wasn’t looking good earlier this year. When the society took it over, the roof was in terrible condition, the brick walls needed tuck pointing, and the inside was a mess.

Interior work in progress last month

The contractor has totally restored both the outside walls and roof, as well as the inside.

“We had enough funds to replace the shingles with original cedar shake shingles, and install some redwood rain gutters,” Teskey says. They also added central air conditioning, a fence along the railroad tracks, a modern uni-sex restroom and a security system.

The goal, Teskey says, was to modernize the building, yet keep it looking as it did when it was used as a depot.

“I think we have accomplished that,” she says. “People are going to be impressed when they see it completed.”

That public viewing could come a bit off into the future. Now that the building has been restored, phase two is next. That, Teskey explains, is turning the depot into the new Wells Museum.

“I think that is going to take us through the winter to accomplish,” she says. “I expect we will be able to hold a grand opening either in late spring or early summer.”

The historical society has a lot of items stored in the basement of the City Hall, as well as other locations.

“It will take a while to move in display cases, decide what to put in them, and then get it all arranged,” the society president says.

As with all museums, Teskey expects the museum to never actually be ‘done.’

“It will be an ongoing process, with changes being made as we go along,” she explains. “We will want to keep the exhibits fresh and new, and give people a reason to come and visit it more than once.”

For now, though, the group is taking a moment to enjoy what has been accomplished so far, before they start the process of creating a museum.

“We are very, very pleased with the way it turned out,” Teskey says. “I think everyone will agree. It is awesome.”