While at Derby Days in Shakopee this year, my wife and I got the chance to have a personal tour of Bill’s Toggery from Bill Wermerskirchen. He is committing a lot of thought, energy, and money in the restoration of the old People’s Bank Building at 2nd and Lewis Street. Originally a bank and hotel in 1893, it was purchased by Bill Wermerskirchen, Sr., in 1931, and became Bill’s Toggery. Bill’s exuberance was evident as he took time from his busy day to show my wife and me around and describe and point out the work that was just commencing. He also described some of the other original facets that would be reworked during the process. On display in the window of Bill’s Toggery was the original stained glass window that had been removed from above the entrance and sold about 35 years ago and luckily, recently re-discovered. I am a bit passionate about saving and maintaining some of the old Shakopee sites and am also aware of the expense of doing it right. Bill must be given credit for not only doing it right but going the extra measure of getting a very well qualified restoration company into the process at the start. Like all such projects there probably will be some setbacks and a few modifications necessary but from what I heard and saw this will be a pretty accurate replication dated to its turn of the century appearance. More history and details were noted on a handwritten sign that Bill had on display that day as well as photographs from a couple of different periods noting the changes to the facade.
I do not go downtown now without going past and viewing the progress. It is a promising start and one I hope is repeated more often in the downtown area as well as around older Shakopee and the First Avenue corridor. This is a direction that, if built on, will make Shakopee a more desirable area to stop and shop, tour, and spend time in, rather than having to suffer the “Lets take the bypass, if you have seen one rubber stamp river town you have seen them all” syndrome. I am afraid that is what is coming for all the old riverfront towns that are jumping on the bandwagon to tear down their heritage and build all new areas. Rubber stamping them is the craze now. Shakopee will be what we make it and that is being decided a piece at a time in Shakopee right now. Kudos to Bill!
The Shakopee Heritage Society is working with some local volunteers by direction of the city council to look into the pros and cons of a local ordinance that would give Shakopee a certified local government (CLG) status. The State of Minnesota (Minnesota Historical Society) and the Federal Government support and hopefully provide some aid and regulations that would allow other buildings, businesses, and older homes in Shakopee to more easily follow this example. This ordinance would be based on Shakopee’s local requirements and needs, but must fit in the federal guidelines to qualify. We hope to supply more information on this and that process later.
President, Shakopee Heritage Society
Photos donation Don Wagner.