VELVA The fate of a historic building in Velva is in limbo.
The building, constructed in 1905-06 by Tobias Welo, once included an opera house on the top level and a variety store on the bottom. Last fall it was sold for $1 to Megan Cleary, who has purchased other property across the state at auction. The Minot Daily News attempted to contact Cleary via e-mail, but efforts to reach her were unsuccessful. Maria Effertz Hanson also tried to contact Cleary by mail in February and has not received an answer.
Effertz Hanson, of the McHenry County Jobs Development Authority, said she had attempted to raise interest in restoring the building but hasn't had luck in finding an investor.
Photo by Andrea Johnson/MDN
The Welo Building is pictured in Velva last week.
This is an old Welo family photo of the Welo building in its early years, which appeared in Velva’s centennial book.
"It is historically significant," said Effertz Hanson. Though the building isn't on the national historic register, it wouldn't take much to get it listed. It was built by the Welo family, which owned a lot of property around the area.
Iona Loken said the upper level had a stage and a 45 feet by 90 feet dance floor and locals boasted that it would be more elegant than Minot's opera house. It was the location for Chautauqua or visiting variety shows in the years before movie theaters. High school graduations were held there until the late 1920s. The lower level housed a combination grocery and variety store. Over the years the building also was home to different professional offices, including a dentist, a doctor and a lawyer. In the 1940s or 1950s the upper level was converted to apartments.
"A lot of people lived there," said Loken.
Effertz Hanson said the last estimate done indicated it would cost approximately $1 million to fully renovate the building.
People obtained a Brownfields Grant in 2003 to remove friable asbestos around the boiler and steam pipes. That was completed in 2004, but there is additional asbestos in the sheetrock taping compound that will have to be handled on a case by case basis.
The inside of the building would have to be gutted and redone and a new roof put on. Effertz Hanson said the outside of the building is in good shape.
Effertz Hanson said all it would take is one investor who had an interest to get the ball rolling. She could picture the renovated building as including higher end apartments or shops. People are lining up to find housing in the Velva area, she said.
However, times have changed in the region a great deal with additional oil, wind and subsidiary investors in North Dakota. Effertz Hanson said she hopes some of those businesses might be interested in investing the money.