Knife River Heritage & Cultural Center

MAY, 2019
KRHCC Off To Fast Start!
By Paul von Goertz, KRHCC

This is the first of at least monthly newsletters for friends, volunteers and anyone interested in the Knife RiverHeritage & Cultural Center (KRHCC).I will try to keep these brief and just focus on the previous week’s developments. There’s lots on info here I hope you will find interesting.
I will try to keep these brief and just focus on the previous week’s developments. There’s lots on info here I hope you will find interesting.
Otherwise just hit “Close” and “Delete.” My thanks to Anne-Lu Hovis in
helping me format the newsletter. As I get smarter with Apple page
formats I will add more pictures. For you with limited knowledge of the KRHCC, here is a quick timeline summary:

Dec. 2016 – The KR community is surprised with the gift of the 35’ fish
tug CRUSADER II from the Lake County Historical Society. After owning
it for 34 years, the LCHS realizes the KR community would be better
stewards because of the tug’s long ties to KR and they recognize we have
the talent to restore it. The Knife River Rec Council (KRRC) agreed to
temporarily accept the tug under its 501(c3) non-profit status.

Jan. 1, 2017 – Oct. 2017 – search for a site and funding for a shelter to
restore and display CRUSADER II.

Nov. 2017 – Regional Rail Authority (RRA) decides not to renew lease
with Randy Ellestad for the land upon which the Knife River depot rests.
Randy owns the depot, but a disagreement exists between the RRA and
Randy as to what was understood for depot restoration when Randy first
leased the property. Depot is in jeopardy of being demolished. Although
the RRA values it, they do not want to own it. Randy and friends develop
concept of a non-profit KRHCC that would showcase both depot and
CRUSADER II as two remaining KR icons that need a good home.

Dec, 2017 – A history center steering committee begins negotiations with
the RRA to lease depot property under a five-year renewable lease at $1
a year. If lease is successful, Randy agrees to sell depot, to what will
become the KRHCC, for $1.
Feb. – April, 2018. KRHCC holds three community open meetings to
gauge KR community’s interest in preserving its history with a center at
site of depot. Surveys of about 35 attendees at each of two meetings show
solid support for a center and at depot location.

July – Nov. 2018 – KRHCC applies for and receives IRS 501(c3) non-profit
status. $1,000 cost to apply is covered by gift from KR resident. Lease
negotiations continue with RRA.

Jan. – 2019 – KRHCC successfully signs five-year renewable lease with
RRA for $1 a year. Fund raising begins.

Feb. 2019 – Anonymous KR resident offers $20,000 local challenge
match, which is met two weeks later by the KRRC. Suddenly the KRHCC

Mar. 2019 – KRHCC buys CRUSADER II from KRRC for $1.

April, 2019 – KRHCC receives grant of $2,000 from CPL and $1,000 from
TH Community Fund.

May 13, 2019 – KRHCC buys depot from Randy for $1. Restoration of
depot begins same day.

Now to the present!
The KRHCC is most fortunate to have Larry Ronning, long time generational resident of KR as both KRHCC board member and General Contractor for depot and CRUSADER II restoration. Larry is a builder, restorer and remodeler of both homes and boats – just the experience we need!

As of this now we have about 20 men and women who have signed up to help restore the depot from nail pulling to construction to clean up. Larry has established hours as Mon/Tues/Wed. 8 AM – 1 PM with additional hours as persons may wish to spend. Four to six persons on site at any one time works well. So, if you would like to help, please let Larry know your availability and tools you may bring by emailing him at

Since May 13 we have accomplished a lot: gutted interior, removed siding, removed floor, stabilized depot and jacked it up high enough so the two-foot gumbo hole under it can be filled with sand and a slab poured. Chimney has been inspected and is perfectly good and plumb!
Future newsletters will keep you informed of depot progress.

Photo caption:
Scene at depot on May 29, after seven half days into restoration. Depot has been jacked up and on blocks in preparation for covering gumbo hole underneath it with gravel, and then pouring a concrete slab over it. Tongue & Grove paneling in foreground is from inside walls and will be
reused on depot exterior.

Did you know?
An Upper Midwest newspaper once referred to Knife River as the“Gloucester, Massachusetts of Lake Superior” in reference to KRproducing huge quantities of herring as Gloucester did in cod.

From Larry Ronning on the KRHCC being earth-friendly– How many people look at things that have been around while and have said “tear it down; start over.” I like to emphasize the need to reclaim what exists and look to what it can be.

The depot existed in the age of coal, CRUSADER II in the age of oil. The environment in which they will exist in the future will be much different. The restoration of both will acknowledge that fact.

To this end, wherever possible, we will use materials that are recyclable, reusable, sustainable and environmentally friendly. We will use fixtures and other devices that can be wired for sustainable solar power, LED
lights and we will build permeable road surfaces to control run-off.

Currently we are partnering with the Two Harbors American Legion Post on a flagpole of at least 30 feet in height with a granite memorial to our KR veterans. If it is decided to fly the flag 24/7, it will be use solar lighting directed up and over the flag.

Look for more earth-friendly initiatives – and suggest others – as we make our Center a model for preserving history in an environmentally friendly manner.

Update on Plans for CRUSADER II

CRUSADER II will be moved from the KR Marina to the Center site once
depot concrete work is done. It will be placed prominent to Marina Road.

The KR Marina will move it at no cost to the KRHCC. We thank the Marina
for its help in bringing the boat from TH and storing it for 2 ½ years.
Phase II of the three phases of the KRHCC will take place in 2020 when a
shelter is built over CRUSDADER II and a separate approximate 40’ x 60’ community picnic shelter built.

FYI…PHASE III will take place in 2021 and determine use of indoor space
of both depot and freight building, and construction of outdoor historical displays.

Did you know
Knife River was a busy railroad town because it was the only town on the North Shore where two railroads intersected – the Alger Smith coming from inland, and the forerunner of the DM&IR running NE and SW.

Fund raising
We were most fortunate to have a KR resident offer a $20,000 local
challenge match in February. This was met two weeks later when the
KRRC matched it – $40,000!

Since then we have had private donations and grants of $2,000 from CPL “Round Up” funds, and $1,000 from the Two Harbors Community Fund. We are very grateful to all. As of date of this newsletter, we have approximately $43,000 in the bank. How far that goes will depend upon the talents of our volunteers.

Several people, who are not in a position to provide volunteer services, have indicated they would like to help financially. Please do! We need nine custom windows at $1,000 each.

Do we have nine people who would like to buy one???
Donations are all tax deductible and can be sent to the
KRHCC at PO Box 240, Knife River, MN 55609.
Any questions can be emailed to:

Know your board members

A condition of some of the grants for which we apply asks for names and
brief bios of board members. This we are happy to do because the
combined talents and interests of our board are up to the task of creating

Our By-Laws state that we can have from five to seven board members.
Terms are two years and board members can be re-elected for unlimited terms. Board members receive no compensation other than reasonable

Here are the bios of your board as they relate to the work of the KRHCC. We will spare you their photos:

Paul von Goertz – Board president

  • Knife River resident for 48 years.
  • Retired small business owner.
  • Past President of Lake Superior Marine Museum Association and Duluth
    Rotary Club.
  • Former board member Two Harbors Area Fund.
  • Current Board member Knife River Rec Council.
  • Classic and antique wood boat rebuilder.
  • U. S Coast Guard veteran.

    Robert Entzion, Secretary
  • Knife River native.
  • Owner (Island View Resort);
  • Board member Lake County Housing & Redevelopment
  • Authority; Chair, Knife River Larsmont Sanitary District;
  • Past part owner Duluth Pack;
  • former Director of Athletics North Dakota State University.

    Duane Madison – Board Member
  • Born and raised on the North Shore by Norwegian immigrants.
  • Owner of water well and water treatment small business for 30 years.
  • Actively databasing North Shore history.
  • Registered historian under auspices of Duluth Township.
  • Facilitator for Duluth Township Arts & Heritage Group.

    Larry Ronning – Board Member
  • Native of Knife River.
  • Residential custom building contractor 1985 to retirement in 2018.
  • Specialty in preserving and restoring buildings of historical significance, including four in Knife River.
  • A boatwright, Larry has rebuilt ISLE for Tofte Commercial Fishing Museum,LEIF ERIKSON Viking boat and replaced all the exterior woodwork on tug EDNA G.
  • Served on boards of TH Folk Festival, Lake Superior Kayak Trail and TH Chalk Festival.
  • US Navy veteran.

    Todd Lindahl – Board Member
  • Native of Two Harbors with statewide reputation for historical archaeology, preservation, and documentation through fieldwork with
    Lake County Highway Department and DNR Forestry.
  • Member of Iron Horse Railroad Museum for 46 years involved with historical and restoration of an 1895 railroad depot, various historical rail cars, and
    steam locomotives.
  • Lectured and trained students at UMD, UWS and LSC in the fields of archaeology and anthropology.

    Randy Ellestad – Board Member
  • Native of Knife River and town’s-recognized unofficial mayor and historian.
  • Retired from DM&IR to become owner/operator of Knife River Campground to present.
  • Co-chairman of the LEIF ERIKSON Restoration
  • Licensed USCG Captain. Chair of Knife River Larsmont
  • Sanitary District, member of the Norseman’s Federation and Sons of Norway.
  • Working historian and presenter to various groups.

    Exciting donation from the NSSR! –

  • In the 1914 photo of the KR depot that we reference in restoring the
    depot, there is a 25-30’ signal pole on the far right. It has long since been
    removed and lost, but the NSSR has one in restorable condition and will
    donate it to the KRHCC.
  • Your newsletter editor is a boat restorer, but is quickly learning railroad
    language. According to Todd Lindahl, KRHCC board member and
    walking railroad reference library, the signal pole is actually an “Order
    Board” used by the depot agent to communicate depot info with approaching trains like “mail pick up,” “passenger pick up”, or “freight pick up.” A semaphore was used to communicate rail traffic between depot and trains like “stop,” “proceed” or “caution.”
  • Volunteer David Grong has offered to store and help restore the 30’ Order
    Board to working condition under the guidance of Todd.

    Volunteer weekly work updates –
    All volunteers should be receiving weekly updates of work accomplished
    the pervious week and the work plan for the coming week. If you have
    indicated to Larry Ronning or me that you want to volunteer and are not
    on this special mailing list, please email me at:

    We have several husband/wife teams and many new(er) residents to KR volunteer. Great to see this and what a wonderful way to meet and make
    new friends!

    Did you know?
    The original KR depot had separate waiting areas for men and women not
    only because of the rude behavior of loggers and railroad men, but loggers
    we invested with fleas and ticks from months in the woods.

    Reincarnated KR depot agent Pascal (Pete) Rosso to greet NSSR
    picnic train riders –
    What is an apparent incarnation of KR depot agent, Pete Rosso, suddenly
    appeared at the depot last week and was so excited to see what is taking
    place that he offered to help! Given he was the depot agent for 36 years
    (1900 – 1936) we gave him the job of welcoming North Shore Scenic Railroad picnic-train riders beginning Saturday June 29 and following
    Saturdays through July 20. If you would like to help Pete greet and tell
    people about the KRHCC, and can find clothing from about 1914, let Paul
    von Goertz know (

    What could be….
    Wednesday the 28th your editor took a break from the depot and drove
    to TH to get lunch stuff for the eight volunteers we had that day. Driving
    back I noticed several classes of elementary school children reenacting a
    1920 school day at the Little Red Schoolhouse in Larsmont. What a fun
    way to learn!

    Then, driving by the Great Lakes Candy Kitchen, I noticed a school bus
    parked in front and a huge line of school children waiting to enter the
    store. How great it would be if we could include our Heritage Center in
    this North Shore field trip experience! Kids could see a functioning depot
    from 1914 and even operate an Order Board! Then learn about
    commercial fishing from a relative of a commercial fisherman, while
    gathered around CRUSADER II.

    June Newsletter feature stories –
    • Unburying KR’s railroad history – What and where are KR’s
    railroad remains, now covered by dirt and brush
    • Looking ahead to Phase II of the KRHCC
    • More on the Order Board pole signal
    • Initial plans for re-creating depot agent’s office and waiting
    • Your comments and suggestions on this newsletter If you know of others who might enjoy receiving this newsletter, and may not already be on the mailing list, please let me know and I will add them.

    If you would like to be unsubscribed from the list, please also email me:



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