County undertakes cleanup of building sites in Georgeville

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 10/4/00.

Demolition of building A building with a long history met a short end last week in Georgeville.

Three building sites in Georgeville were declared public health hazards by Stearns County Environmental Services because of their unsafe conditions. Each building contained garbage and was infested with rats.

One of the buildings torn down last week was a 40 by 80-foot brick building.

According to a book by Erwin and Jean Kalevik, the big brick building was built in 1920 as a store. The building housed, at various times, a bank, post office, barber shop, Sunday school classes, and a hippie commune.

In the 1930s, it housed a beer tavern. The Kaleviks described Georgeville as a gambling town in the 1930s. With Kandiyohi County dry due to the prohibition, the two taverns just across the Stearns County line were popular places in town. Each had a half dozen slot machines.

Rumors say that the big brick building was also a bordello years ago. Clients would arrive by train and spend the day, and then return to the cities by train in the evening.

Old Store Georgeville received a lot of publicity in 1969 when hippies moved in and took over the big brick building plus a couple of other houses in town. News reporters from the metro area came in with TV cameras, and spectators from all over drove to Georgeville to see the hippies. The hippies came from all over the United States. They lived in Georgeville for four years.

Since the hippies left town, the building has stood empty. Its roof has fallen in, and the walls were falling down prior to its demolition.

Demolition started at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 26. After receiving threats concerning the demolition project, George Minerich, project manager for Stearns County Environmental Services, had a Stearns County deputy on hand when the equipment arrived. No problems occurred, and the deputy left after a short time.

By noon on Tuesday, the two-story brick structure was a pile of rubble. The only thing left standing was an empty concrete vault. The demolition crew worked until 8 p.m., removing broken bricks, steel beams, and splintered boards.

On Wednesday morning, workers started removing the concrete foundation and vault with a large backhoe. The two-story vault had concrete walls about a foot thick. Once the concrete was removed and an old well sealed, workers started filling in the hole with sand. Minerich expected it to take about 180 truckloads.

Other cleanup sites last week were a burnt-out service station and an old store foundation. The service station, formerly known as Hoiseth's garage, was one of the last business places left in the 1960s, according to the Kaleviks.

Cost of the demolition is being assessed back to the property owners.

Colleen Johnson, owner of the lot where the old brick store stood, is being assessed about $25,000. The entire project is expected to cost about $35,000.

Johnson was glad to see the lot cleaned up, even if she is billed for the work. Johnson would like to see other lots cleaned up in town as well.

Stearns County Environmental Services has considered other cleanup measures. They will be working with the Crow River Township Board of Supervisors to bring in large garbage bins in which the home owners can dump trash from their yards.

"We will take the cleanup one step at a time," Minerich said.

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