Wings of the Kirkbride Could Become Senior Apartment Homes

The Fergus Falls building is one of the last few left in the United States

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — The Fergus Falls State Hospital was built in 1890 and was once one of more than 70 Kirkbrides across the United States.

“It was a more humane like setting, instead of a prison–like setting which was common in the nineteenth century,” said Carl Schuelke, executive director at the Otter Tail County Historical Society.

But it’s now one of the last few still standing. It served as a mental hospital until 2007 and remained closed for more than a decade.

The East and West parts of the building could be redeveloped into 80 senior apartment homes.

The city of Fergus Falls has accepted the American Covenant Senior Housing Foundation’s letter of intent to redevelop the space, but not everyone says they’re convinced it will save the Kirkbride once and for all.

“We’ve had developers sign letters of intent and then for some reason or another, it doesn’t go through so I’m not waving victory just yet,” Schuelke said.

The city is trying to amend its request to the Minnesota State Legislature.

If they only remodel part of the building instead of it all, the Kirkbride will be taken off the National Register of Historic Places, meaning Fergus Falls will lose the historical tax credits as redevelopment funding.

“I think that they can get this project done but it’s going to take all people coming together and compromising so we can create a clear path forward on those historic tax credits, which that proposal is contingent upon,” said Fergus Falls Mayor Ben Schierer.

The center of the building doesn’t have plans to be remodeled, but members of the Friends of the Kirkbride say they don’t want it to be demolished.

“My gosh, look at this. This is our unique asset. This is what’s going to bring people to Fergus,” said Laurie Mullen, chair and founder of Friends of the Kirkbride.

Some say preserving the Kirkbride isn’t just about attracting people to Fergus Falls. It’s also about the connection that so many have to the building.

“Everybody had a connection with this. This is what defined Fergus Falls,” Mullen said.

St. Peter, Minnesota also has a Kirkbride building but the wings of the building have been demolished.

Categories: Community, Local News, Minnesota News