Mille Lacs County Times

Posted: 2/15/07

Community landmark created

By karen schlenker
Milaca Area Historical Society

"The keys to the new municipal hall were turned over to Mayor Albin Allen Friday evening," Feb. 12, 1937, according to the Mille Lacs County Times, published the following week.

The building's dedication was held Feb. 12, 1937.

It was a big day for Milaca—the completion of the remodeling of the old brick fire hall and its large fieldstone addition, providing space for the village fire department, government offices, and community activities.

The building's dedication included musical selections, and speeches by everyone from state administrators to architect Louis Pinault to village movers and shakers, among them A. T. Tufty, who had been on the village council when Milaca was established in 1897, and who still served as justice of the peace.

The Great Depression had been crippling the nation for years, with no end in sight, and as the government sought to alleviate some of the hardships the people faced, a new program had been developed in 1935.

Instead of direct "relief," giving people outright what they needed to survive, the government would pay people to do work that would benefit the community. Billions of federal dollars went into Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects that employed millions of people, and created facilities that still serve today.

Milaca made a proposal for a municipal building to the WPA in September of 1935.

The village was looking at adding space for fire equipment, as well as a council room and community meeting space, so the project involved renovating the current fire hall (today's Milaca Museum), and adding a somewhat larger new space on the west side of the fire hall. WPA projects paid for labor, but required that the local entity provide materials, so the building was to be made of local fieldstone and wood.

The project proposal called for 155 laborers and six superintendents.

The WPA had St. Cloud architect Louis Pinault design the building. Pinault did much WPA work, including the Onamia city hall, which was built the same year as Milaca's. The Milaca building also included a Federal Arts Project, another new deal program, which brought in artist André Boratko to create murals for the auditorium.

The cornerstone for the project was laid on May 21, 1936.

The completed building provided space for the fire department and village council in the east portion of the building, for the Civic Club library in the room to the right of the main entrance (currently the Community Library's children's room), and a community kitchen to the left of the entry, adjacent to the auditorium.

The auditorium itself could seat 200 people. The American Legion had space in the basement. Church and service organizations were welcome to use the facility.

Over the years, the city's need for space grew.

In 1967 the fire department moved to larger quarters a block to the east, and city government, including the police department, filled the space it vacated.

By the mid 1980s, the city decided to move its offices to the north end of town, and turned the old municipal hall over to the Milaca Community Library and the Civic Club in 1986.

In 2007, the 70th anniversary of the WPA project, the building will see further changes, as the library moves to new quarters, and the Milaca Area Historical Society expands to the auditorium. The building, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, remains one of Milaca's most distinctive landmarks.

Works Progress


The WPA and other relief programs had a great impact throughout the nation and in Milaca. In addition to the municipal hall, the village explored projects to build a hospital, improve parks, and clear land for an airport.

The band shell in Recreation Park was built in 1937, and a pond for swimming was dug nearby, adjacent to the river (though the pond was not funded by WPA). There were more mundane projects as well. In 1938, the WPA funded curbs, gutters and sidewalks, some of which survive to this day.

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Mille Lacs County Times
225 2nd Street SW
Milaca, MN 56353
Telephone: 320-983-6111 Fax: 320-983-6112