To preserve or build new?

The 1893 farm house located at 509 Birch Street (near Rice Lake Elementary) might be repurposed into a future wellhouse. 

LINO LAKES — Whether the City Council should try to preserve one of its oldest structures or build new was a main topic of discussion at the council’s Dec. 2 work session.

The topic first came up in September 2018, when Mayor Jeff Reinert asked if there was anything the city could do to save the farmhouse, built in 1893, at 509 Birch St. near Rice Lake Elementary School.

In December 2018, the council authorized the preparation of a feasibility report by WSB and Oertel Architects for future Wellhouse No. 7, which included reviewing site and geologic data, developing a design concept, preparing basic wellhouse plans, constructing a test well, analyzing test pumping results and preparing a preliminary cost estimate. During the drilling of the test well in March, the well collapsed and was not able to be completed. In June, the council awarded the bid for a second (screened) test well.

Jeff Oertel of Oertel Architects and Greg Johnson of WSB attended the Dec. 2 work session to present the feasibility study.  “The second test well was successful. It is going to be a high producing well and would have minimum interference with adjacent wells. The water quality would be similar to other (city) wells,” Johnson explained.

Now the council has to decide if it should try to repurpose the existing home as a wellhouse or build a new wellhouse. According to the feasibility study, the concept would be to retain the front portion of the house and demolish the rear section. The back section would be removed and the brick reused, if possible. The remaining front of the house would be secured and relocated to a different spot at the same address.

Before the move, a new foundation would be constructed at the structure’s new location. The farmhouse would then be set in place and new well equipment would be installed. The original portion of the house would be renovated for storage and the upper floor abandoned. Existing window openings, however, would be used for ventilation.

Oertel explained some advantages to repurposing the home into a wellhouse: it would include more space (roughly 30%) than a new building and would 

preserve a historic property. However, repairs and improvements would need to be made to two stories versus one (in a new building), the farmhouse would require relocation, items would need to be restored and a new foundation would be required.

Councilman Dale Stoesz wanted to know if the study looked at the option of recreating the same shape of the existing house (with some of its materials) but building new and if that would result in cost savings. Oertel said, “A new building made to look like that would cost more for sure. That structure is fairly sound, it is in pretty good shape. To move it in the general location isn’t that big of a cost. My gut tells me if you had to build that (replica) ... I think that would be fairly expensive.”

It would cost the city in between $850,000 to $900,000 to build a new wellhouse, versus more than $1 million to refurbish and relocate the existing structure, Johnson said.

“It would be nice to save it because it is from 1893, the oldest standing structure in Lino Lakes,” Reinert said. “There is this attitude of knocking down and building new, but then you can’t ever bring it back. What is the cost of history preservation is the bottom line.”

For now, city staff will continue to weigh its options. “Certainly, several options are still being considered, including using the site for a new well with a new wellhouse. However, there is still a strong interest in preserving the existing building,” said Community Development Director Michael Grochala. “We are going to do a little further review on the structure itself to eliminate some of the unknowns.”

The topic will likely be in front of the council again in February, Grochala said.


Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or

(1) comment

John Doe

It will be interesting to see what the cost of history preservation is. However, given how much my property taxes have increased the last couple of years I can tell the city council how much the history preservation is worth......nothing. I don't want to pay more to save an old building when a new, better looking building would be less expensive. If the city finds that putting in a well with a hand pump manned by inmates from the local prison is an even cheaper option, they have my full support to do that too.....

Stop raising my taxes and wasting it on things like this.

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