Town Talk: You Ask, We Answer: Why is the Interpretive Center at Hermann Monument is not open?

Hermann Monument was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. It is significant for its representation of German culture in the United States and the preservation of cultural heritage by immigrants to the Minnesota River Valley. It is for many, New Ulm’s most treasured asset. Repairs and maintenance to the monument have been ongoing since 1901. Over the past couple of years, there have been times the monument and/or the interpretive center was closed. That is because the city recently contracted with historic preservation specialists, to conduct a Historic Building Conditions Assessment of the entire monument structure below Hermann’s feet. The Hermann statue at the very top of the monument, has been restored and does not need significant repairs. Many parts of the monument structure are covered by finishes that obscure or hide the condition of the materials underneath. This assessment takes time and expertise to analyze and prepare a viable restoration plan, which will likely be implemented in phases over multiple years.

Phase 1, the analysis and restoration planning phase happening now, will likely include removal of selective finishes and various elements to gain a better understanding of the internal condition of the structure. Another phase will likely include repairs to the stone and masonry base, which houses the summer seasonal interpretive center. Additional phase(s) may encompass repairs to the steel columns, upper dome and other components of the monument. The entire scope of the work is subject to change, based upon findings in Phase 1.

Through preliminary analysis, the underground granite foundations appear to be in acceptable condition. The main level windows and their sidelights are in poor condition. The main level stairs, leading up to the base roof deck appear to be in fair condition. The monument has consistently dealt with moisture issues and continue to be an area of concern. Over many years, there have been multiple efforts to resolve the water intrusion issues, however, there are still water concerns with staining of the plaster and puddles on the floor in the interpretive center. The door frame is rusting, there is cracking of plaster throughout the interior of the interpretive center, water leaking down the face of the central limestone column inside and staining on the terrazzo floor.

Please be patient as we continue to assess him and develop a comprehensive restoration plan.

For a $3 admission fee, visitors can go inside the fence area, walk around the monument and climb stairs to the top of the monument from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day; also Saturday’s and Sunday’s in May, September and October through Octoberfest. More information can be found on the city website: newulmmn.gov or by calling the Park & Recreation Department at 359-8347.

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Editor’s Note: The City of New Ulm presents a weekly column highlighting activities in different departments in the city government. Once a month the city will answer questions from readers. Questions on New Ulm city issues can be sent to comments@ci.new-ulm.mn.us.

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