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Downtown Elks building bags national historic status

DICKINSON - The Elks building in downtown Dickinson on Friday was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, said historian Linda McClelland.

"It's very clearly an important building in this community," McClelland said.

The 95-year-old building that housed the local Elks lodge, the Dickinson Normal School and several businesses during its heyday was recognized for its impact on the area's social, educational and commercial history, said McClelland who works for the National Register in Washington, D.C.

The building's owner, Granville "Beaver" Brinkman, was enthused by the announcement.

"I'm very excited. I'm pleased," he said.

For Brinkman, the listing is a step in resuscitating the structure to become the heart of downtown. Neglected for decades, the three-story building at 103 First Ave. W. is currently undergoing a full-scale renovation. The project suffered a set back on Oct. 15, 2007, when a blaze, ignited accidentally by a cutting torch, began in the basement and spread up the northwest corner to the roof. The heat from the fire distorted some of the I-beams in the ceiling of the third floor and destroyed the roof.

With the help of a consultant, Brinkman had the building recognized by the North Dakota Historical Preservation Review Board in January. After it was approved at the state level, the building's application went on to Washington.

Granville asked the National Register to consider the building for its historic and architectural significance. But after a review, the National Register only acknowledged the structure as being influential in the region's history, not as an example of notable architecture.

McClelland said the removal of the original windows, the dilapidated interior and the damage incurred during the fire disqualified the building, designed by the architecture firm Claude and Starck of Madison, Wis., for such a designation.

"In its current condition, it's hard to say it's a good example of a particular architectural style," McClelland said.

Granville accepted the National Register's decision, saying the submitted photographs showing the building post-fire likely swayed the outcome.

"From their point of view, just looking at pictures, I understand the designation," Brinkman said.

Granville pointed out that the building's exterior by itself has strong architectural characteristics.

"I wish they would've been able to look at just that part of it," Brinkman said.

McClelland said the building could be reconsidered by the National Register in the future.

"That's a possibility," McClelland said. "A lot would depend on the nature of the repairs and any replacement materials."

As part of the current renovation, Brinkman said plans include restoring the ground floor storefront and installing recessed windows similar to the originals.

McClelland stressed that the loss of the windows was a major blow to the building's architectural character.

"Windows, I mean, were a large part of that building," she said. "Windows can very strongly affect the appearance of a building."

Brinkman said getting the renovation project on track after the fire required substantial labor.

"Since the fire, there's been countless hours of cleaning and removing materials," he said.

Beams and columns have been added to provide more structural support. A temporary roof was to be completed Friday so masons can repair the building's brick parapet that was damaged by the fire. The entire brick exterior of the building is to be cleaned and patched. The masonry work should begin next month, Brinkman said.

"Once the masons are done, we can hopefully get the roof on," he said.

Brinkman said he expects to have the four condos on the third floor and the office space on the second floor completed by late fall. He has buyers lined up for all the condos. A couple parties have shown interest in the office space but none have committed, he said.

Brinkman expects the first floor to be ready for a tenant by around the end of the year. He said he's in negotiations with a group looking to open a restaurant in the space.

With historic status, the building's owner and future tenants are eligible to receive tax breaks, Brinkman said.

Properties listed on the register are taken into consideration before federal or federally-assisted projects are carried out and can qualify for assistance in historic preservation, according to the National Register's Web site.