Art of Music II showcases Grand Center

NEW ULM – Art of Music II fundraiser participants got a ground level and bird’s eye view of The Grand Center for Arts and Culture Sunday.

Six bands, which had earlier performed in the Grand Kabaret, took stage on a wooden deck as people enjoyed food and drinks and toured the $2.4 million renovation project that may be completed this fall.

Purviews or rear balconies offered overhead views of the large deck and Minnesota River Valley to those who chose to tour the building.

Funds raised at the event will be used for Grand Center programming that includes bluegrass, country, rock, jazz and Celtic music as well as gallery shows at the Kiesling House next door.

The second and third floors of the former hotel are being renovated to provide space for artists, actors and musicians to showcase their talents, according to project founder Anne Makepeace.

“We’ve got 3,000 square feet available for art on the third floor,” Makepeace said. “A local man plans to build a recording studio on the second floor. We feel this project and building is a catalyst for downtown redevelopment.”

The current Grand Hotel has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1990. It is the third building on the site in the 200 block of North Minnesota Street.

Fires destroyed the two previous hotels. The first was built in 1856 by Phillip H. Gross, who was Makepeace’s great-great-grandfather.

Originally called the Minnesota Haus, the original two-story, wood frame structure was first building in New Ulm to offer room and board. The hotel burned down in 1860, Gross rebuilt it as a larger building and renamed it the Union Hotel.

Fire destroyed the hotel again in 1875. Gross immediately rebuilt it as a two-story brick building, hiring architect Julius Berndt, who also designed Hermann Monument. A third floor was added in 1899.

The building was sandblasted in 1970, tuck-pointed and a new roof and fire sprinkler system were added in 1987. It has since been repainted to look as it did a century ago.

In 1970, the hotel became a boarding house. In the 1990s, it featured a coffee shop, framing gallery and KNUJ radio station studio.

In 2000, Makepeace, Gross’ great-great granddaughter, bought the building with her husband John and her family members. In February 2003, the Makepeaces started restoring the building to its original 19th century appearance.

It now includes a restaurant and the Grand Kabaret where musical and theatrical performances take place.

Project funding has come from the Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council from the Minnesota Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund, appropriated by the Minnesota Legislature in 2008. Makepeace said local businesses have been generous in their donations to the project.

The building is considered significant due to its role in the development of New Ulm’s business district more than a century ago. It is considered the best, largely unaltered example of mid-Victorian period commercial design in New Ulm and the area, according to the SHPO. There are other commercial buildings in New Ulm that are similar, but their street-level facades were greatly changed from their original design.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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