May is National Preservation Month to celebrate America’s TreasuresPublished 11:23am Monday, May 23, 2011
For The Journal
Geneva Tweten knew that Phelps Mill was a treasurer worth saving.
In 1965, when the county commissioners decided to purchase the Phelps Mill site, she shed happy tears. The purchase price was $3,500 and included 18 acres of land, most of it along the Otter Tail River.
Since 1958 Geneva Tweten waged a one-woman effort to preserve the historic old mill. Miss Tweten had a long interest in the mill and in history in general.
She got encouragement from many sources including Russell W. Fridley, director of the Minnesota Historical Society; George Selke, state commissioner of conservation; Hubert Humphrey, then senator; and the national parks official who surveyed the site and suggested it be a local project.
She eventually got the land owner to put a value on the property and agreed to sell it to the county.
The county commissioners were concerned about their responsibilities and the liability of the old mill and dam.
Miss Tweten implored them not to think negatively and review the public sentiment for the mill and the attractive setting. Before the commissioners supporters gave reasons why the county should preserve the mill.
Tweten assured the board she would raise funds to preserve the mill and formed a fund raising committee.
Phelps Mill was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
In 1993, The Friends of Phelps Mill was formed to preserve the historical, cultural, and physical fabric of the mill by encouraging its continued preservation.
In 1995 The Friends of Phelps Mill joined the Otter Tail County Historical Society in order to further expand their preservation and educational efforts.
For more information visit the historical society website www.otchs.org with a link to The Friends of Phelps Mill.
General admission to the historical society is $4/adults, $1/ages 5-11. Members and children 4 and under are free.
Large group tours are welcome. Guided tours can be arranged in advance. Meeting space is available. Museum hours through May: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.