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Should Mayo step in to preserve Mayowood?

Each week we select a news story, Letter to the Editor, column or editorial that's generated a lot of feedback at PostBulletin.com and reprint some of those comments on this page. This week's topic is Thursday's announcement of a tentative agreement that would transfer ownership of the Mayowood mansion from the History Center of Olmsted County to Mayo Clinic, which will perform up to $3 million in much-needed repairs. History Center members must approve the plan and will vote Oct. 26.

Below are some of the comments we received.

"This is great! The history center just doesn't have the resources to fully maintain Mayowood."

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"They (Mayo) have the monetary resources to refurbish and maintain it. I think it is a good idea. From what I have seen of the mansion over the last 25 years, it is obvious that the History Center couldn't do it."

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"One would hope that the major restoration work would be in keeping with established national standards. If the clinic is planning to do a rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the house, and does not follow guidelines established by the Secretary of the Interior, then this might be a strong negative. So far, the clinic has had a poor track record with historic preservation. It does adaptively reuse some of its historic buildings, but in the process much original historic fabric has been lost. And, for a historic property of Mayowood's stature, this would be unacceptable. I hope there are covenants within the transfer that would ensure the "restoration" is appropriate and responsible."

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"I appreciate your concerns regarding the historic preservation of the house but what is the alternative? The History center is clearly not in any position to take care of Mayowood. If Mayo doesn't acquire the house, then it most certainly will keep deteriorating. I must admit that I am disappointed that Mayo did not show any interest in helping maintain the house previously."

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"Do you honestly think that the Mayo Clinic would purposely remove the original historic fabric that Mayowood contains? As it states in the article, this would transfer ownership of the building to the Mayo Clinic. The History Center of Olmsted County would still retain all of the contents."

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"The Mayo Clinic provided the majority of the funding for roof repairs completed several years ago and Mayo Clinic has provided staff and funding for repairs done over the years. Even in the letter it states that as part of the arrangement, 'Maywood shall be preserved as a historic site.'"

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"The viable alternative would be for you to pony up the funds to cover the costs of rehabilitating and maintaining the mansion. That would keep it in the care of 'The People.'"

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"Isn't Mayo not-for-profit? How do not-for-profit dollars buy a mansion?"

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"The Mayo Clinic should have been responsible for Mayowood all along, not the History Center. The clinic has scads of money for upkeep and the like."

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"This may be a win-win for Mayo and the HCOC, but may not be for the people of Minnesota. I think the Minnesota Historical Society should have been considered as a partner in Mayowood's preservation. They know how to preserve and interpret our state historic resources. Mayo does not. My guess is that they are looking for more meeting and party space on the cheap — and they found it at Mayowood. $3 million for Mayowood is a bargain. The process has been cloaked in secrecy. It should have been an open and honest discussion with our community. Other options should have been explored. What was the process the HCOC board engaged in to come up with this plan? Why the rush to get the HCOC membership to vote on this in just few weeks? Has the HCOC board followed its own internal procedures and protocols for this proposed gift? Lots of questions should be asked before you rush to endorse."

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"Most people have strong feelings about Mayowood. However, in this day of runaway medical costs, should Mayo Clinic be spending and then increasing medical care charges in order to cover taking over Mayowood? Let's have a special campaign so those of us who truly care can contribute generously to the upkeep of Mayowood. Patients coming to Mayo Clinic should not be paying for this."

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"The State Historical Society isn't exactly flush with cash to help with the repairs Mayowood needs. And neither is the History Center of Olmsted County. Outside of Rochester and the surrounding area, I'd lay a big bet that most people in the state have never even heard of Mayowood. Let's face it — Mayo Clinic has the resources to handle the much-needed repairs. I'd lay a big bet that as it stands now the Mayo Clinic does use Mayowood to have parties and other occasions. So why not transfer ownership to Mayo Clinic?"

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"Tear it down."

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