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1B Farmstead is a historic treasure unrealized

By Matt Russell

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Julie Potter of Rochester sees possibilities when she looks at the George Stoppel Farmstead, one of southeastern Minnesota’s lesser-known historic treasures.

The barn, limestone farm house and other structures that belonged to one of the first European families to settle in Rochester attract a small number of visitors each year, mostly school tours. That’s something Potter wants to change.

"There’s so much that could be done out here," the volunteer tour guide said while walking through the farmstead on north side of the History Center of Olmsted County.

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The buildings are so deteriorated and cluttered that Potter and her two children can lead tour groups past them, but they can’t bring people inside. Year-round tours through the buildings, barn dances, and other special events are possible if living areas are restored, a workshop reassembled, and the barn returned to working order, Potter said.

The idea of restoring the 152-year-old farmstead, which the History Center of Olmsted County purchased in 1976, is hardly new. Repairs have been made to the property over the years, but projects have proceeded incrementally as grant money has become available, according to history center educator Cheryl Finnegan.

This summer, however, Potter and her daughter Laura, 14, and son Aaron, 11, are hoping to speed up the restoration.

The history center volunteers started by clearing spaces in the barn, cleaning up the kitchen in the limestone house, and adding curtains and rocking chairs to give the farmstead a more lived-in feeling. Others have helped, but Potter is looking for more volunteers to pitch in as the work continues.

Then there’s the money.

Roughly $1.5 million is needed to fix up the farm buildings, which is cash the history center doesn’t have in its budget. Potter is hoping donors step forward but said there isn’t an organized fundraising campaign in place.

"Right now we’re in the infancy of this," she said.

Even if the money comes, restoring the Stoppel Farmstead is a major project that would take around two years to complete, said history center curator Karl Wolff.

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In the meantime, the Potters’ efforts could show results by the end of the summer, when two rooms at the limestone house could be at least partially restored, and parts of the barn might be opened, Finnegan said.

For more information on the History Center of Olmsted County, go to Postbulletin.com/weblinks.

History Center of Olmsted County

http://www.olmstedhistory.com

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