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Back in 1900 when it was constructed, the little building was a public bandshell for summer weekend concerts in the park. But in 1929, for reasons lost to history, the city sold the structure to the people who lived across the street.

For nearly a century, it remained in private hands, serving other purposes for owners of that house — first a garage, later a gazebo — and looking increasingly timeworn.

Before the move, the bandshell was being used as a gazebo.
Before the move, the bandshell was being used as a gazebo.

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Finally this month, the structure was spiffed up and returned to its original location in Legion Park in Norwood Young America. It is once again being called a bandshell — except that it actually won't hold modern-day bands because it's not wired for electricity.

It took two years and $20,000 to put the bandshell back in its original place. That's more time and money than expected, said LaVonne Kroells. who led the effort.

But Kroells, principal officer of the Willkommen Heritage & Preservation Society of Norwood Young America, persisted, with the help of local civic organizations and other donors.

"It was an historic building and the city was not really good at keeping buildings that were old," she said. "I thought, hey, this possibly can be saved — and we did it! That's what's important to me, that we keep a structure that was from 1900."

About 75 residents turned out to celebrate the bandshell's return at a ceremony earlier this month.

"I think it's very important for the community of Norwood Young America and even Carver County to restore some of those old buildings, to remember the past and keep it alive," said County Commissioner John Fahey, who represents Norwood Young America. Fahey grew up there; he remembers playing in Legion Park and seeing the structure across the street.

LaVonne Kroells
LaVonne Kroells

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Carver County Commissioner John Fahey
Carver County Commissioner John Fahey

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"I think it speaks highly to the fact that our community values our history and that we're willing to go above and beyond to preserve that history and celebrate who we have been in the past," said Mayor Carol Lagergren who, like Kroells and Fahey, spoke at the ceremony.

This is the city's 25th anniversary — Norwood and neighboring Young America merged into a single city in 1997, after a vote by residents. The city of about 3,900, about 40 miles southwest of Minneapolis, has been growing steadily along with the rest of Carver County, the state's fastest growing county.

Kroells has no idea why the city of Norwood sold the bandshell in 1929 to the people across the street. They used it as a garage, she said, adding a lean-to and, for some reason, an outhouse.

The home and bandshell changed hands several times over the years. In 1988, its owners converted it from a garage to a screened gazebo.

"Every time I saw a 'for sale' sign, I'd go approach them," Kroells said. "Every time I got a 'no.' Until this last time."

Actually that owner initially said 'no,' too. But she called Kroells three months later, in August of 2020, and said she'd changed her mind and would donate the building to the Heritage Society.

"I went to the city and I said, 'OK, here's the scoop,'" Kroells said. "This little gazebo, which doesn't look very good, used to be a bandshell in the park."

Some retired construction workers offered to move and restore the structure for $10,000, and the Heritage Center planned to pay that bill. But it needed approval from the city, which put out bids to licensed contractors. By then, with lumber getting pricey in the pandemic, the cost of moving and restoring it had grown to $20,000.

Norwood Young America Mayor Carol Lagergren, left, and LaVonne Kroells.
Norwood Young America Mayor Carol Lagergren, left, and LaVonne Kroells.

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Kroells attended meetings of the VFW, American Legion and Lions Club to pitch the project, and the organizations were "very generous, with big donations." A few citizens contributed generously, too.

"It just came in — I was a little surprised," she said. "By May 31 [2021], I had the other $10,000, then we started construction."

There were a couple of minor glitches. The concrete slab in the park, which would serve as the bandshell's floor, had to be topped with stamped concrete so it would look like wood. New shingles took months to arrive. But by the end of the summer, the building was back in place and looking fresh.

By then, though, it was fall. "Now we're going to wait," Kroells said at the time. "We're not going to do the dedication until [next] spring when it's nice weather."

On the evening of the dedication, a plaque recognizing donors was not yet complete. "Sometimes things just don't go the way you want them to," Kroells said.

Nevertheless, the evening was a success, she said. After the speeches came live music by the Marv Nissel Band, a polka band from New Ulm, Minn., "which was really very appropriate because that's the type of music that was probably played" back in the bandshell's early days, Kroells said.

Lagergren agreed: "It really was a celebration of what a community can do when they have a shared passion and a willingness to work together."