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Baptist Camp hall demolished

By Staff | Nov 20, 2016

Zoey Peterson, 1, who has family ties to the Minnesota Regular Baptist Camp, smiles as the camp’s Old Main building is torn down Nov. 14.

Sometimes destruction paves the way for building anew.

That is the hope maintained by the Minnesota Regular Baptist Camp near Winnebago, where the decades-old camp saw its Old Main building demolished after nearly a century of existence.

Originally constructed in 1917 with timber from near the area’s signature Bass Lake, the Old Main building had been a staple of the camp as a multipurpose facility, serving as a chapel, dining area and office space.

There were structural concerns with Old Main, however, according to Regular Baptist Camp director Darrell Friar, so safety precautions dictated a razing of the building.

“It slowly deteriorated to the point of being unsafe,” Friar said. “We knew it should come down for the safety of future campers.”

An excavator goes about the work of tearing down the Old Main Hall at the Baptist Camp on Bass Lake. The original roof is visible in this photo, from when it was a dance hall and once even a roller skating rink.

Demolition crews began tearing down the site before 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 14, with more than 50 guests observing the historic collapse early in the day.

The destruction itself, though, also paves the path for even more prominent work on the Baptist Camp grounds, including the potential construction of new residence facilities.

“Lord willing, on the footprint of this,” Friar said, “we could put a new building in the mold of a two-story hotel unit.”

Minnesota Regular Baptist Camp, which Friar said is geared to “challenge youth with Bible messages and worldwide missionary speakers,” hosts anywhere between 65 and 80 guests for each of its annual five-day summer camps, of which there are four. So using the demolition of Old Main as a platform to benefit those guests, he added, is an obvious goal.

“Over the years, we’ve moved some things and created a new dining hall,” he said, “but with a completely new building here, we could attract the 21st-century camper as well.”

Regardless of whether or not anything eventually takes Old Main’s place in the area, also known as Bass Lake Camp, the 99-year-old building still warrants tribute from campers of today and yesteryear.

“We (area Baptists) bought it in ’59 and had the first camp here in 1960,” Friar said, “but its usage goes back to the ’30s.”

At that time, Friar said, local owners managed a rollerskating rink and nearby beach area from the building, charging 25 cents for two hours of swimming.

It was around that era when Old Main, formerly referred to as the Bass Lake Dance Hall, also hosted famed North Dakota-bred musician Lawrence Welk, making its mark as a local attraction in Southern Minnesota.

“It goes way back,” Friar said.

And now, with Old Main demolished, the hope is that the building “goes way forward” for the next generation of Regular Baptist Camp guests, whether it be the elementary-age kids who visit Junior Camp or the moms and dads who help make up family camps.