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Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Lansing Minnesota Creamery Building is Sold to a Lansing Historian

The Lansing Creamery in 1906

More photos: Kim Tedrow's Flickr Photostream


When Mike Wollschlager and his father Glen went to the Lansing Creamery auction last October, they had no intention of buying the property. Mike, who grew up across the road from the creamery, had never even been inside the building until the week before the auction.

The building is sold at auction

The 102-year-old building and its contents were auctioned on October 18th, 2008. Jack Tedrow of Lake City, Minnesota had owned the building since 1963, using it to store classic cars, car parts, and odds and ends.

The 82-year-old Tedrow and his family spent the weeks preceding the auction clearing scrub from the property and sorting the contents of the building. In the several days leading up to the auction, forty-three years worth of collecting and storing emerged to the light of day.

Old engine parts, car jacks, root beer bottles, automotive literature, buggy wheels, a hanging meat scale, cement mixer, rolling library ladder, the front end of three classic trucks and an old parts washer were just some of the many items for sale. A few relics from the creamery were sold: collapsible crates, cheese boxes, cream testers, and a fifteen-gallon crock that sold for hundreds of dollars. The contents of the building filled four hay wagons in the lot across the street, and lined the perimeter of the building. There was even more stuff inside. After the building was sold, the auctioneers split into two rings so they could finish the auction by the end of the day.

In spite of a dense morning fog, the auction drew a healthy-sized crowd, with many folks attending just to get a look at the inside of the building. The younger Wollschlager left work to go to the auction to watch and see who was going to buy the property.

By the time the building and property were auctioned at 1 p.m., the fog had cleared. George Moline of Moline Real Estate and Auction Company opened the bidding at $25,000. Bidders stepped forward when the starting bid fell to $1000. Two women bid on the property with the idea of turning it into a flower shop. At that point, the Wollschlagers jumped in, winning the property with a bid of $7500.

"I looked at dad, and he looked at me and asked 'how high can we go?'" said Mike.

"Then we set a mark and started bidding."

Both the buyers and the seller were happy with the sale. At a selling price of $7500, Tedrow made a profit: in 1965 he paid $500 plus back taxes for the building and land.

The history of the building

In spite of the boarded windows and shaggy lot, the creamery maintains its historical beauty. Built in 1906 on a 27 x 72 foot foundation, the structure is made of white Chaska brick, a cream colored brick manufactured in Chaska, Minnesota from the clay of the Minnesota River valley. The building sits on a half-acre with a small creek running through the lot in back.

The business started in a frame building as the Lansing Cheese and Butter Manufacturing Company in 1888. The Lansing Cooperative Creamery was incorporated in 1895, and in 1896 had 94 patrons. The Creamery operated in that building until 1907, when it moved to the brick and concrete structure that stands today.

The small cooperative thrived: in 1894, the Lansing Cooperative Dairy Association Creamery paid $6,779.17 to patrons for butter; in 1910 it paid patrons $49,698.29.

After school, children would take pitchers to the creamery to fill with free buttermilk. Any buttermilk left over at the end of the day was either given away or poured into the creek, and the creek would run white.

The creamery, having been owned by several companies over the years, stopped functioning as a creamery in 1952. When Tedrow bought it in 1965, the property was bank-owned.

Mike remembers it as a building with boarded windows, behind which he played at the creek and caught crayfish and minnows. As a teenager, he scratched his initials into the building, and the initials are still there. His father Glen, 72, who moved to Lansing in 1948, recalls walking to school by the creamery when he was twelve and falling into the creek. Mike's grandfather, Sam Rudd, lived in Lansing from 1922 to 1994, and remembered buying goods at the creamery.

The future of the building

The younger Wollschlager is a Lansing historian, who grew up in Lansing, then returned with his family in 1994. He served as president of the Mower County Historical Society in 1998 and 1999, and served on the board for seven years. Wollschlager compiled and wrote a history of Lansing Township from 1854-1934, which he printed in 2000. Wollschlager credits his grandfather for piquing his interest in local history by telling him stories that had been told to him by the "old timers."

Since the auction, the Wollschlagers have removed two additional dumpsters of stuff. Mike has taken down the ramshackle cupola, and plans to build a new one with windows and room enough to sit down and look out. He's repaired much of the attic floor and first floor ceiling. They've re-installed windows that had been boarded to keep vandals out.

Daylight floods into the main room for the first time in years, revealing the peeling, cracked walls that are now a trendy "industrial chic." Black dirt falls from the thick door to what used to be the cooler. The Wollschlagers believe that the dirt was used for insulation.

Because he intends to preserve the building, Wollschlager gets encouragement from Lansing residents, who are relieved that he isn't going to tear it down. But they're not going to do much more work inside the building until the weather, and the economy, gets better. In the meantime, they've cleaned up the place and moved in their tools and lumber.

When asked what he's going to do with the building in the long term, Mike answers, "if you ask my wife, it's going to be our home."

Copyright 2009, Kim Tedrow