Supporter Profile: City of Chaska
A little over twenty years ago, a newly hired Assistant City Manager began his work for the City of Chaska. Matt Podhradsky stepped into the role and soon faced a challenge. He was tasked with the making the Klein mansion safer for Historical Society volunteers and visitors and improving the area around City Square. New to the job, he applied some out-of-the-box thinking and recommended moving the recently displaced Chamber of Commerce office and History Center to a new shared location. Visitors and residents of Chaska would connect in a new space together! But where would these two matched organizations go? Again, creative thinking came into play as the Livery Stable building was placed on the market for sale.
The City purchased the stable as an extension of the City Hall Plaza. The stable originally had been for the guests of the Minneapolis hotel located at 4th and Chestnut. Subsequently, it was a blacksmith garage, a bus garage and an auto parts store. To use it for another purpose required $400,000 to $500.000 of renovation. Tracy Swanson, the former President of The Historical Society, and the city of Chaska applied to Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office for grant funds. The grant was approved and together with $50,000 from the Klein family and John Klingelhutz, the new vision for the History Center moved into reality.
Quite a beginning for the Assistant City Manager to experience! When moving day came, students from Crown College helped transfer the artifacts from the Klein mansion to their new home. With generous funding from Wells Fargo Bank a specialty mover was hired to move the bank door that is proudly displayed on the first floor of the History Center.
When the Chamber of Commerce moved away from the shared building and merged with other local chambers, our former president Tracy was nervous that our home would be no more! In talking with Matt (now the City Manager for Chaska) he shared that “the History Center is a natural extension of the City of Chaska operations and being on the same campus as the City offices and Library brings added value to Chaska residents desiring assistance and help”.
The History Center’s payment for having a great home and downtown location is the value and technical assistance that it brings to the City. In establishing the walking tours of Chaska and with the reconstruction of the downtown streets, the History Center has played an active role in providing refences to the history of Chaska. In the near future, a walking loop will feature informational columns that will include photos and language depicting life of Chaska through its 150 years.
Matt Podhradsky spoke of the partnership that the City and the History Center have developed in providing The Maintenance and Repair Guide for Designated Historic Residences in Chaska. This recently published guidebook was prepared in conjunction with the Chaska Heritage Preservation Commission, the Chaska Planning Department and the History Center. This reference used the combined technical assistance of City Planning, interested citizens of the Heritage preservation Commission (HPC) and the Chaska Historical Society to provide guidelines for the owners of the Chaska’s historic homes. Copies of the guide have been mailed to the owners of the historic homes in Chaska, and will be made available to new homeowners, real estate agents and at the city offices.
Future projects for the History Center staff in conjunction with the City are focused on the continuing renovations of Highway 41 in downtown Chaska. The plan will remove parking on 41/Chestnut Street so businesses will need assistance to develop plans to incorporate rear entrances. It is hoped that the new sustainable businesses, the street reconstruction and the City’s investment in our downtown area will continue to add to the City’s valued heritage.
Matt believes that the relationship of the City and the History Center is symbiotic-a close and long-term mutual connection that benefits both the City and its residents. “The quality of the volunteer staff at the History Center is an extension of the City staff and brings incredible value to our community.”
Our long-term relationship with Matt and the City is greatly appreciated by the Historical Society. We are fortunate that to have such a positive working relationship with the City. Together we can preserve the heritage of Chaska and impact its future.
By Sarah Carlson