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Deconstruction + Salvage at Great River Children’s Museum in St. Cloud

By Ann Marie Johnson, Rethos Central Minnesota Education Coordinator

Salvage Report Added March 2022

Hall of Great River Children's Museum after deconstruction

On a bright sunny afternoon in early January 2022, a small group of volunteers got together at the Great River Children’s Museum (GRCM) in downtown St. Cloud to help with deconstruction and salvage. The emerging nonprofit is working to get its site ready to serve children of all ages across the central Minnesota region and beyond. Donated to the organization in December 2018 by Liberty Bank Minnesota, the building is a compilation of structures dating back to the early 1930s. The location’s rich history shows the key role it has played and continues to play in the community, housing everything from a chicken hatchery and grocery store to a car dealership, print shop and, more recently, a bank.

Volunteers assess what is salvageable at Great River Children's Museum

The determined efforts of GRCM’s board and staff, both paid and unpaid, to disassemble and salvage as much of the building’s material assets as possible serves as a role model for other property owners and developers. Their success in keeping thousands of pounds of materials in use and out of landfills highlights the value of building reuse and the structural sustainability that is often unrecognized but is typically found in many older and existing buildings. The additional revenue garnered for the organization is an added benefit. Recycling pays!

Volunteers bundle wiring at Great River Children's Museum

Among the tasks for the volunteers were hauling diffusers and other metal pieces from the reworked HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system to an outside dumpster destined for metal recycling, disassembling fluorescent ceiling light fixtures, hauling and stacking fluorescent tube lights, bundling electrical wire for transport to recycling, and removing electrical panels and conduit boxes. Museum board members and volunteer staff were onsite helping organize the efforts and were eager to get things done and ready for the contractor scheduled to arrive early the next morning. The tasks ranged from simple to complex, making for an easy fit with all skill levels (mine being solidly in the unskilled labor department). The event showed how with a little effort and determination, a lot can get done and much can be saved.