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Case Study - Minnesota

Resolution of the Effects of Highway Reconstruction on the John Cummins Farmhouse and the Goodrich-Ramus Dairy Barn

Description of Undertaking

Hennepin County is the lead agency & project sponsor for reconstruction of County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 1 from west of Shetland Road to east of Trunk Highway 212, which passes through the City of Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Proposed improvements to CSAH 1 include traffic signal upgrades, double left turn lanes at two locations, and a separate multiple use pedestrian/bicycle trail located within the roadway easement along each side of the highway. 

Affected Historic Properties

Two historic properties will be affected by the undertaking.

The John R. Cummins Farmhouse is listed in the National Register of Historic Places for its architectural significance. It is a two-story Greek Revival brick farmhouse with Italianate features; originally built in 1879, with a two-story addition dating to 1910. The farmhouse and surrounding land were purchased by the City of Eden Prairie with Land & Water Conservation Fund (LAWCON) grant money and incorporated into the City’s Staring Lake Park in 1980s. The proposed undertaking will result in acquisition of a portion of the front yard of the John R. Cummins Farmhouse for roadway and trail construction and for roadway right-of-way. The CSAH 1 road in front of the farmhouse will be widened from a two-lane rural roadway to a divided four-lane urban roadway with an 8 foot wide pedestrian/bike trail. The roadway expansion will also require acquisition from the adjoining Staring Lake recreational fields, requiring relocation of parking for the ball field to an area close to the house. Although the house will not be directly impacted, the surrounding historic landscape will be altered to accommodate these changes.

The National Register-eligible Goodrich-Ramus Dairy Barn is sited on the Goodrich-Ramus farmstead. The 36 X 76 foot barn is a Wisconsin Dairy Barn form with a gable end cattle entrance and a gothic arch roof. Built between 1941 and 1047, the dairy barn is eligible under Criterion C: a well developed and well-preserved example of a gothic roof barn built with glued laminated rafters. The County proposes to remove the dairy barn along with the remaining and non-eligible farmstead buildings, to construct a storm water runoff treatment basin needed for the highway improvements. As a result of consultation, the County has designed the treatment basin to avoid directly impacting the Dairy Barn, although it will surround the structure on three sides. Removal of the structure from the site would be an adverse effect, even if the barn is preserved at another location.   

Analysis of Consultation and Agreement

The Minnesota Division, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), notified the ACHP of its finding of adverse effect on July 8, 2008, and at the urging of the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), the ACHP elected to participate in consultation on July 16, 2008. SHPO staff was frustrated with the lack of progress in Section 106 consultation and the greater protection being provided to the City’s ball fields than historic properties that would be affected by the project. Hennepin County purchased the Goodrich-Ramus dairy barn and silo in 2007 from a family farm with the intention of taking them down to make room for a storm water pond associated with reconstruction of CSAH 1. Although historically significant, and in good condition, neither the County nor the City of Eden Prairie was interested in taking ownership over the long term and preserving the barn as a historic property.

At the request of SHPO, the City of Eden Prairie agreed to develop a landscape evaluation and management plan for the John R. Cummins Farmhouse, and an adaptive reuse study of the Goodrich-Ramus Dairy Barn in order to identify alternatives for project design that would avoid or minimize adverse effects to the two structures. While initially opposed to retaining the historic dairy barn at its current location, the County eventually agreed to seek to transfer ownership of the barn to a public entity for adaptive reuse in its current location, maintaining its historic integrity.

The final Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was executed on October 28, 2008. The Agreement stipulates that Hennepin County will transfer the dairy barn to a public entity for preservation in place if an interested buyer can be located. If no interested public entity is identified, the County will market the barn to a wider audience for preservation in place or relocation to another site. The MOA also commits the County to documenting the barn in accordance with Minnesota Historic Property Record standards prior to removal of any buildings from the property, and placement of a conservation easement on the barn prior to the transfer of ownership. Under the MOA the City will develop and implement a cultural landscape report and management plan for the John R. Cummins Farmhouse, and will consult further with the MOA parties to seek agreement on appropriate mitigation for the farmhouse.  

MOA Signatories

  • Federal Highway Administration, Minnesota Division
  • Minnesota State Historic Preservation Officer
  • Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
  • Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT)
  • Hennepin County Transportation Department
  • City of Eden Prairie

Parties that Concurred in the PA

  • Eden Prairie Heritage Preservation Commission
  • Preservation Alliance of Minnesota

Lessons Learned

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (16 USC 470f) and the ACHP’s regulations, at 36 CFR 800.5, require Federal agency officials to seek alternatives to avoid, minimize or mitigate the effects of their undertakings on historic properties. In this case, the Minnesota SHPO felt the adverse effects to the John R. Cummins Farmhouse were unfortunate, but could be adequately addressed through the agreed upon mitigation measures. However, the plans to demolish the historic Goodrich-Ramus Dairy Barn were troubling and reflected a greater interest in preserving recreational ball fields than the preservation of a historic structure with potential for adaptive reuse. Although the ACHP joined in consultation to assist the SHPO in seeking a better outcome for the dairy barn, it is difficult, if not impossible to save a historic structure, such as a barn, unless it serves a useful function to the community. Toward finding an appropriate use, the MOA required the City to prepare an adaptive reuse study and the County to actively market the barn to find a public entity to take ownership. As is often the case, the cost of rehabilitating a historic property of this type, and relocating the structure, if needed, makes it difficult to find a willing owner. As of mid-March 2009, the County was scheduled to begin work on CSAH 1, and had re-designed the storm-water retention pond to allow the barn and silo to remain in place, for now. The MOA does, however, allow the County to demolish the historic barn if marketing is unsuccessful.   

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Updated June 1, 2009

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