Crow Wing County Jail, Sheriff’s Residence Repurposed into Museum and Library – Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD – The Crow Wing County Historical Society Museum and Research Library in Brainerd has a criminal record.

The museum and library are housed in the former Crow Wing County Jail and Sheriff’s Residence just west of the historic Crow Wing County Courthouse on Laurel Street.

The county council passed a resolution at its meeting of February 1, 1916, to engage Alden & Harris, architects of Saint Paul, to prepare plans and specifications for, and to supervise, the construction of a new county jail and the sheriff’s residence with an expected cost of $28,000.

“It must have been one of the most modern in the state,” according to Ann M. Nelson, a local historian. “The structure, measuring 50 feet by 100, two stories high, was to contain a 21-foot jail and the sheriff’s residence. It was to be constructed of Twin City mat bricks and have a tiled roof.

Lettering on the exterior of the entrance to the Crow Wing County Historical Society Museum and Research Library building on Laurel Street in Brainerd indicates the facility’s former purpose as a county jail.

Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

HJ Frandsen of St. Paul was the general contractor, Slipp-Gruenhagen Co. of Brainerd did the plumbing, heating, and lighting, and Diebold Safe & Lock Co. of St. Paul did the cell work.

Alden & Harris were the architects of the Brainerd Town Hall and Fire Hall and the Crow Wing County Courthouse built in the early 1900s, according to Nelson’s research on the subject.

“On November 18, 1927, the Daughters of the American Revolution held a mass meeting for the purpose of organizing a Crow Wing County Historical Society,” Nelson wrote in an article for the society. “Samuel R. Adair was elected the first president of the newly organized society.”

The museum even includes the cart used in the First National Bank heist – now Design Consign on South Sixth Street – by Baby Face Nelson, the 1930s bank robber.
The county received a Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant for its “Preserving History: Crow Wing County Historical Museum and Research Library” project and received a $224,557 grant in 2017 from the Minnesota Historical Society for repairs.

The conditions of the grant included the salvage and reuse of historic bricks where possible or the use of mortar to “match color, texture, strength, composition, joint width and joint profile.” historic masonry” to ensure architectural and historic integrity.

Community members provided a matching donation of $4,035 for the Rehousing Collection Storage Project which focused on the attic and second floor closet used as storage space.

Exterior work included roof, concrete and mortar repairs; step and brick repairs; and fixing the drainage system. The windows were replaced with double sash windows to restore the building to its original appearance.

“Most of the work inside was upgrading the existing HVAC system to improve the environmental conditions inside the building,” Nelson wrote of the HVAC renovations. .

The renovation restored and updated the more than 100-year-old museum on Laurel Street in Brainerd; the museum and library were housed in the basement of the courthouse in 1933 before moving to its current site at 320 Laurel Street in 1983.

“The total cost of the project has been estimated at $419,856. The remaining cost was matched by a Crow Wing County Capital Improvement Fund, which was funded through a levy, county program assistance, lease payments, and forfeited tax settlement dollars,” according to Nelson.

The Laurel Street building is owned and maintained by the county and contains newspaper microfilms, books, maps, exhibits, and other items of historical value.

The museum and library are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The register is the nation’s official list of historic places “worthy of preservation.”

FRANK LEE can be reached at 218-855-5863 or

[email protected]

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