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Kimball City Hall
Presentation to the Annandale History Club
August 1, 2011
Mary Johnson


Tri-County News History articles

Kimball Timeline

Kimball Area Historical Society 

Mary Johnson has been president and Carol Newman has been vice president of the Kimball Area Historical Society since it was organized in 2000.  KAHS is an all-volunteer organization.  There have been many dedicated volunteers over the past twelve years.  Some of the activities and accomplishments of the Kimball Area Historical Society include the following.

Kimball Area Historical Society
P.O. Box 100
Kimball, MN  55353

Kimball City Hall

The following St. Cloud Times article was written in 2001 by Bill Morgan, St. Cloud State University American Studies Professor Emeritus, author, and St. Cloud Times newspaper columnist.

Tri County News, Kimball, MN, February 22, 2001

A classic on Main Street – Built in 1908, structure remains a hub in Kimball
By Bill Morgan, St Cloud Times columnist

Main Street is the heart of small-town America.  The 1908 Kimball City Hall, a proud landmark on the corner of Main Street and Hazel Avenue, is the heart of Kimball, population 691.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, the building is the only city hall in Stearns County to have earned that distinction.

Designed by St. Paul architect Louis Lockwood, who was born in London, the Renaissance Revival structure had been in continuous use for almost 100 years.  Erected at a cost of $7,000, the building still serves the purpose for which it was built – office space for village government, a meeting hall and a library.

At one time, it was also a theater, a fire station and a school gymnasium.  The now-vacant upstairs rooms housed a dentist’s office and the Kimball Telephone Co.

Unlike thousands of Main Street buildings across America, the Kimball City Hall still retains its original exterior appearance.  Three second-story arched windows, windowsills and keystones of local granite, a galvanized iron cornice and a simple bell tower grace its elegant brown-brick façade.

The Hazel Avenue wall, filled with tall arched windows, adds character to the town’s major intersection.  A 1911 postcard view shows a manicured front lawn, an amenity lost when Highway 15 was rerouted down Main Street in the 1950s.

In 1886, the Soo Line Railroad decided to bypass the older village of Maine Prairie and move its tracks five miles south to Kimball Prairie.  Kimball Prairie soon became a flourishing railroad center and farming community.  Kimball became the town’s official name in 1990.

City’s History Historian William Bell Mitchell noted in 1913 that the village contained a public library, a theater, two banks, a hotel, a creamery, a flour mill, two grain elevators, a weekly newspaper, four general stores, two farm implement stores, two blacksmiths, a lumber company, a hardware store, a livery, a restaurant, a furniture store and an assortment of smaller businesses.

In 1913, Kimball’s population was approximately one-half of what it is today.

Building on Kimball’s past, a group of local residents recently formed the Kimball Area Historical Society.  Members are researching Kimball and Maine Prairie’s history and are hoping to find a home for documents and artifacts that define that region.

On a recent blustery winter day, I toured the Kimball City Hall with Dianne Robinson, who for 20 years has served as Kimball’s clerk treasurer administrator.  Robinson’s office recently acquired a rare item, the architect’s original blueprints – a boon for anyone who plans to restore a building.

On the ground floor, the maple flooring and tall mopboards are still in place, and one room has retained its original metal ceiling.  If the panel wall dividers and a dropped ceiling were removed, more space would be provided for the community meeting hall.  The upstairs rooms are a restorationist’s dream.  Ample light from the arched windows floods the interior, a space that has an exceptional view of the comings and goings up and down Main Street.

Saving a gem – In 1999, the Minnesota Design Team visited Kimball.  The Design Team is a volunteer, not-for-profit organization made up of design professionals who assist Minnesota communities to envision and create more sustainable futures.

Its leader, Arthur Mehrhoff, St. Cloud State University professor of community studies, strongly supports the preservation and adaptive reuse of the historic Kimball Landmark.  “Of all of Kimball’s Main Street buildings, the City Hall is the one to preserve,” he said.  “The City Hall has a presence that makes it a classic Main Street building.”

In a phone interview, State Historical Architect, Charles Nelson, said that the building is an excellent candidate for preservation with “a high potential for sympathetic readaptive use.”  Installing energy-efficient windows, updating the heating system and repairing the brickwork would make the landmark more useable and cost effective, he said.

Still sound – Nelson, who examined the structure in 1999, found the building structurally sound and strongly recommended its preservation at that time.

America is losing its landmark Main Street buildings, in many cases victims of corporate giants who erect anonymous concrete block structures in area outside of the older town centers.  Corporate big-box stores are a poor aesthetic substitute for buildings erected between the 1880s and 1940.

Kimball’s Main Street has retained its economic vitality.  It is hoped that Kimball’s citizens will recognize the City Hall as a community asset and preserve this unique landmark building.

Kimball City Hall Restoration

The restoration project proceeded in the following stages, plus painting and miscellaneous work.

Phase 1:  Tuckpointed the brick on the north side of building and replaced the arched north side windows.

Phase 2:  Tuckpointed the brick on the south side of the building and replaced the arched windows on the south side.

Phase 3:  Tuckpointed the east and west sides of the building.  Repaired and replaced windows on the east and west sides.  Added rain gutters on the north side.  Replaced electrical wiring in the attic.  Added blown insulation in the attic.

Phase 4:  Replaced the heating and air-conditioning systems.  Replaced the lighting system and added ceiling fans.

Phase 5:  Replaced the roof with metal roofing.  Rewired the upstairs rooms.  Added heating and air conditioning to the upstairs.  Removed the old plastered walls upstairs and sheetrocked the rooms.  Replaced the ceiling upstairs and in the hallway downstairs.  Refinished the downstairs wood floor.  Replaced the old fire escape.

Annandale History Club Visit, August 1, 2011

It was fun that Mary Johnson greeted the visitors in a dress and hat appropriate for 1908, the year that the Kimball City Hall was built.  There are two doors on the front of the building.  The door on the north is the entrance to the Kimball Library.  The center door is the entrance to a hallway, which is what the public uses to do business with the city clerk or to enter the meeting area. The door to the Kimball City offices is on the left in the hallway. The stairway on the right leads to two upstairs office suites of two rooms each.  Two notable past tenants were Dr. Edward L. Baldus (1888-1965), longtime Kimball dentist, and the Kimball Telephone Company.  Dr. Baldus occupied the north rooms, and from 1917 to 1935 the rooms on the south were the offices of the Kimball Telephone Company owned by Mary Johnson’s father-in-law, J. W. Johnson (1873-1969).  These renovated offices will now be occupied by the Kimball Area Historical Society. There is a ticket booth under the stairs.  Across from the ticket booth are the rest rooms.

The impressive auditorium with high, arched windows is now divided by a wall into meeting space and the library (since the 1960s).  The false ceiling was removed to reveal a very high, ornately beautiful pressed metal ceiling, which has been repainted.  The maple floors have been refinished.  The stage has been covered by sheetrock, probably to conserve energy.  One can only imagine the meetings, dances, plays, and other entertainment once held in this auditorium.  It was also used for a gymnasium and Saturday night movies.  Current use of the auditorium includes Kimball City Council meetings and Kimball Area Historical Society meetings and work sessions.

The tour didn’t include the police department, which was located behind the stage and had a separate entrance on the north side of City Hall.  The former jail was in the lower level. The Kimball Police Department has recently moved to a nearby building.   The west side of City Hall has a lower level walk-out with a garage door.  The Maintenance Department’s utility trucks are located in the lower level of Kimball City Hall.  The Kimball Area Historical Society hopes to someday renovate the lower level.


1849:  Minnesota became a Territory March 3, 1849.

1855:  Stearns County was founded February 20, 1855, and named for Charles Thomas Stearns, local politician.

1856:  Pioneers from Maine settled in Maine Prairie Township, Stearns County, Minnesota.

1858:  Minnesota became the 32nd state May 11, 1858.

1861:  Civil War 1861-1865.

1862:  The Dakota Conflict or Sioux Uprising, August 17 to September 23, 1862.  A 40 ft. square fort was built in Maine Prairie about August 19 to defend against possible Indian attacks.

1867:  The Michael Patten farmhouse in the future town of Kimball Prairie served as stopping place for travelers and a post office from 1867 to1970.

1869:  Stearns County School District (No. 80) organized.  The schoolhouse was located one-half mile north of the future village of Kimball Prairie.

1886:  November - Railroad built five miles south of Maine Prairie Corners.  New settlement of Kimball Prairie started.  December 9, 1886:  First train to run on tracks through Kimball Prairie (Minneapolis to Glenwood).  Dr. Mumford moved his office from Maine Prairie Corners to Kimball Prairie.  Many other buildings moved from Main Prairie to Kimball Prairie.

1887:  April – Kimball Prairie town site platted by Michael Patten, Mack J. Kennedy, and W. D. Washburn.  Kimball Post Office was established.  The first postmaster was Eliel Peck.

1888:  Methodist Church built.  G.W. Beckman opened the first drugstore.

1889:  Two-story, four-room frame schoolhouse built.  Students had been attending a school one-half mile outside of town.

1892:  Kimball Prairie officially incorporated.

1894:  St. Anne’s Catholic Church rebuilt in Kimball Prairie (organized in 1865 at Old St. Anne’s Pass between Kimball and Watkins). 

1900:  Dr. Augustus Mumford died. Dr.  George E. Sherwood (1872-1957) replaced Dr. Mumford, who had served Maine Prairie and Kimball Prairie since the early 1880s. 

1901:  The 1856 Kingston Mill was dismantled and rebuilt in Kimball Prairie.  State Bank of Kimball was organized by Dr. Sherwood and others.  First Kimball Prairie railroad depot burned down and replacement depot built.

1902:  St. John’s Lutheran Church was established in Kimball.  In 2009 the St. John’s congregation built a new church, their third church home.                                                                 

1903:  Rural Free Delivery of mail brought an end to the stage coach between Kimball Prairie, Maine Prairie, Fair Haven and St. Cloud.  The last stage coach driver was James Knower who drove from 1900-1903.  Dr. Sherwood brought the first automobile to Kimball Prairie, a 1903 one-cylinder Oldsmobile two-passenger roadster.

1908:  Kimball City Hall constructed. 

1911:  The last store (D. B. Stanley’s store) closed in Maine Prairie.  Kimball Prairie’s 1889 two-story frame school building burned down.  The large brick schoolhouse built in 1911 to replace it was used until 1989.

1912:  Knaus Sausage House established by Ole Knaus.  Knaus Sausage House is still in business in 2012.

1915:  The Church of Christ congregation (established 1870) moved their church from Maine Prairie into Kimball Prairie.

1917:  Kimball Telephone Company established by J. W. Johnson (in business circa 1917 to 1935).                                                                                                                

1919:  Name of the railroad station changed from Kimball Prairie to Kimball.  Kimball American Legion organized.

1929:  The last building vanished from Maine Prairie Corners.

1931:  A marker was placed near Maine Prairie Corners on Highway 15 to commemorate the 1862 Maine Prairie fort.  This marker was replaced in 1949 with the current granite marker.   

1954:  Kimball Creamery, open 1897 to 1954, closed after an explosion and fire December 24, 1954.  Kimball Creamery employees transferred to the Paynesville Creamery.

1959:  Last passenger train to stop for passengers in Kimball.

1961:  New K-12 school was built on west side of town.  This school became high school only in 1971 when elementary students moved back to the 1911 building (replaced in 1989).

1971:  Depot closed.

1973:  Depot retired.

1974:  Depot torn down.

1976:  May 13 the Kimball Post Office was destroyed by a bomb.  Clerk Ivend G. Holen, 60, was killed.  This crime has yet to be solved.

1982:  Kimball City Hall was placed on National Register of Historic Places.

1989:  A new Kimball elementary school was built.

1990:  The city name was officially changed from Kimball Prairie to Kimball.

2000:  The Kimball Area Historical Society was established.

 -Notes by Annandale History Club Secretary