How Some History Should Stay in the Past - the Excelsior Waterfront Problem

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Kirby Fine Homes
When you are a lover of historic homes, you can't help but cringe anytime an old home sits and rots, or when a new owner decides to take a house down, or add on to it some horrible addition. Many communities still are behind the times and do not have a historical association to protect our historic treasures from ruin. But thankfully Minneapolis and Saint Paul have plenty of organizations that care about this buildings.

But when does this history become a burden? While there are many different examples of how homes can be burdens on a community, one burden some might not think of are historic buildings that no longer exist.

Hmmmm...but how is that possible?

The city of Excelsior is in such a dilemma. Sitting on Lake Minnetonka, Excelsior has a great downtown district, mostly because anyone can enjoy the lake view and stand at the water's edge, without a building obstruction in the way. One of the best features is an open park, an area I have enjoyed during the summer months with my kids. But during 1904-1922, the pavilion pictured above stood near the same spot.

A developer is currently petitioning the city to allow him to reconstruct the pavilion, in the same spot it used to stand on the shoreline of Excelsior. There are many residents who do not want to lose the lake view that draws tourists to the area. For 80 years, the site has been open, and many want to keep it that way. But there are also residents of Excelsior that like the idea and think the new pavilion would add to the historic nature of the town.

But who should win? A pavilion that predates the open view park, but hasn't been around since 1922, or the open space, which has been enjoyed by residents and visitors for 80 years? When does a historic building need to bow out gracefully and, for a better phrase, stay dead?

I guess the stand I would take on this issue would be on the side to keep the site as is. I don't believe that it is in the publics best interest to build a new pavilion, that in this case would be used as a town hall, with some public access. No matter how great the developer can make the site, it still will be taking away an open space which can be currently be enjoyed by all. To me, the pavilion is a great part of Excelsior history, but it does not have a place in the town's future, especially since it hasn't been around for so long.

Could the developer be pushing the historic button of residents to get his plan approved? Maybe, but he does have a history of restoring old buildings in Excelsior. I have no doubt he has good intentions, but sometimes it is best to just leave well enough alone. His plan is putting an unfair burden on local residents, making them decide between a view they have enjoyed for a long time, or restoring a building that helped create the town itself.

The photo above is of the current view from Excelsior, looking out to Lake Minnetonka. I think I like this view much better. What do you think?


Visit my historic home blog to learn more about architecture in Minnesota.

Comments (5)

Heather the Realtor Orlando, Lake Mary
LemonTree Realty - Orlando, FL
First Time Home Buyers, Bank Owned Homes
Great blog, keep them coming. This is why I love AR!
Feb 09, 2008 02:05 PM
Jennifer Kirby
Kirby Fine Homes - Minneapolis, MN
The Luxury Agent
Heather - thanks for reading!
Feb 11, 2008 12:23 PM
Sharon Simms
Coastal Properties Group International - Christie's International - Saint Petersburg, FL
If it were still there, of course I'd vote to keep the pavillion - but rebuilding it is another whole question.
Feb 19, 2008 01:23 PM
Michael Greenslade
Better Homes & Gardens | Mason-McDuffie Real Estate - San Leandro, CA

What was the function of the original pavillion?  Did the Pavillion building house a restaurant or dance hall? 

It looks like one of those buildings that would have been located in one of those turn of the century trolley parks.  Were there any amusements surrounding the pavillion and bathing beaches?

What are the current developers planning on doing with the reconstructed pavillion?  I could imagine that a reconstructed pavillion building could spur some redevelopment growth nearby too.

In my opinion, towns can never have enough Caramel Apples, Cotton Candy and Popcorn!

Feb 22, 2008 08:15 AM
Jennifer Kirby
Kirby Fine Homes - Minneapolis, MN
The Luxury Agent


I understand where you are coming from. The new hall would house city hall, and doubt it would have any of the treats you mention. Excelsior is a very small town, so I just don't think the building is needed. I love open space so I prefer the park stay.

Feb 26, 2008 02:44 AM