When Thorson Memorial Library, in Elbow Lake, was undergoing a remodeling in 2005, part of the job was changing an old office/storage room into what is now the balcony. In cleaning up the room, John Kreft found some old wooden chairs and chair parts. The folding double chairs featured molded plywood seats and what was left of the nearly 400 seats from what was once the auditorium in the Schofield Community Building. That auditorium became the library in 1968, and most of the seats disappeared.
Kreft thought it would be interesting to try and restore as many of these unique chairs as he could. His project got a major lift when then city maintenance man Bill LaValley gave him some chairs he had rescued when the city burned a pile of what they considered scrap from the remodel.
Still, Kreft needed more parts to finish the seven sets of chairs he had so, around five years ago, he turned to Craigslist and found some folding wooden double chairs for sale in Mankato.
“I am originally from around there, so I contacted the guy for some more information,” said Kreft.
It turned out these chairs were very much like the wooden chairs Kreft was restoring, except they had slotted wooden seats.
“I asked him where he got them from and he told me he found them in some small town in western Minnesota I had never heard of.”
Kreft said, “Try me.”
The man said he had gotten the chairs from the Community Hall in Norcross, Minnesota.
Now Kreft was even more interested. He drove to Mankato and purchased six of the best sets of chairs available.
Off and on for the past five years, Mr. Kreft’s West Central Area Community Projects Class has worked on restoring the chairs. This meant cleaning, matching up parts, repairing parts that needed repairing, and refinishing.
Last Thursday morning, the class brought the results of their work to their new homes. The Norcross chairs have become visitor chairs in the Grant County Board of Commissioners room in the Grant County Courthouse. The old auditorium chairs are visitor chairs in the council chambers of the Elbow Lake City Council.
All except one pair, which was brought back to Thorson Library, its original home many, many years ago.