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Mantorville to get its welcome center

By Heather J. Carlson

The Post-Bulletin

MANTORVILLE — Plans for a regional welcome center are moving ahead thanks to a $25,000 loan from an anonymous resident.

Today is the expected closing date on the sale of the historic home on Main Street that will house the new welcome center. In four months, the Mantorville Chamber of Commerce managed to raise $37,000 toward the center, but fell short of a $62,000 goal. That is when an anonymous lender stepped forward to cover the gap, said Marjorie Rapp, the chamber’s president.

"It bought us some time to continue to raise the remainder of the funds," Rapp said.

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A celebration is planned today for backers of the regional welcome center. The center is intended to attract visitors as well as promote the area’s colorful history.

"The new Welcome Center will help visitors access all that there is to see in historic Mantorville and surrounding areas," said Paul Larsen, president of the Mantorville Restoration Association.

The association will own the building and rent the space to the chamber.

The center, at 407 N. Main St., will have information on area businesses, historic sites and recreation opportunities. It will feature a small historical museum with a porch where visitors can relax.

The welcome center plan has not been without controversy. A request by the chamber for the city of Mantorville to make a $25,000 donation drew criticism from some residents at a city council meeting last week. Concerns were also raised about the possibility of the city owning the building and having to cover maintenance costs.

But Rapp said the chamber never planned for the city to own the building. She said she recommended withdrawing the funding request to avoid any problems.

"The last thing I want is the welcome center or anything to do with it dividing this town," she said.

Once the sale is complete, she said committee members plan to travel to other regional centers to get an idea of how to design the interior. She said the building will also need a new roof and some landscaping. A grand opening is planned for May 15.

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Rapp has been the driving force behind the welcome center idea. When she first suggested the project at a chamber meeting last summer, she said there were plenty of skeptics. But she said today’s closing shows what a community can do when it bands together.

"Impossible things can be done if you get people working together and you focus on the solutions," she said.

Don Pappas, co-owner and operator of The Hubbell House, said the welcome center will be a valuable addition to the community. Often, he said, visitors to the 153-year-old restaurant are eager to learn more about the city’s history and sites.

He added, "(The Welcome Center) is a step in the direction of trying to get more people involved with coming to Mantorville and enjoying what’s here when they get here."

To help

Welcome center donations may be sent to the Mantorville Chamber of Commerce, c/o Welcome Center Committee, P.O. Box 44, Mantorville, MN 55955.

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