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PR stone bathhouse seeking National Register status

The stone bathhouse was constructed as a Works Progress Administration project. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

The stone bathhouse at Red Bridge Park in Park Rapids is eligible for nomination to the National Register, according to a recently completed evaluation of the structure.

The evaluation, prepared by Stephanie K. Atwood and Charlene K. Roise, with Hess, Roise and Company, Minneapolis, was the next step in determining whether the structure could be eligible for the National Register. It was completed with a Minnesota Historical Society Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage grant for $3,500 and a $5,000 Blandin Foundation grant.

The initial evaluation gathered some history of the bathhouse. The National Register has strict criteria for placing a structure on its list of historical places.

According to the evaluation, the Park Rapids bathhouse and the adjacent land that was part of the park during the period of significance, 1936-1963, appear eligible for National Register listing under Criterion A.

The bathhouse was a Works Progress Administration project. In considering the bathhouse's contribution to the community, historic photographs reveal that the site that had been used for some time for recreation, and boathouses had been located there since the beginning of the century, according to the evaluation. It was used as a warming house in the winter and as a changing and shower room in the summer. For a time, relief workers taught activities to local children in this room, according to the evaluation.

It also cites that "the property is locally significant for its association with federal relief programs of the Depression in the areas of 'Community Planning and Development' and 'Recreation.' The bathhouse is also eligible under Criterion C for its noteworthy use of fieldstone, a local adaptation to WPA funding restrictions. It maintains integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association."

It will cost another $5,000 to $8,000 to complete a nomination to the National Register. The city of Park Rapids will need to determine if it will apply for another Minnesota Historical Society grant or find the money from another source.

Future plans call for possibly converting the bathhouse into a welcome center for those using the Heartland Trail. There are plans for the trail to cross the Red Bridge through the park and eventually go to Moorhead.

The Red Bridge will be replaced in 2013 or 2014 and the city is looking at improvements to Red Bridge Park.

"Red Bridge Landing" would become "a clear and attractive multi-purpose pathway" from the trail to downtown Park Rapids, according to the Heartland State Trail Master Plan completed by the Department of Natural Resources.

The city of Park Rapids will look into the next steps toward work on this project.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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