One year after the Historical Society fire

Kathleen J. McCully, Executive Director
Isanti County Historical Society

Week 52 is this week. One year ago we lost 46 years of history in less than 46 minutes, due to the act of one or more individuals setting fire to the recycling trash barrel. Intentionally, this barrel was moved from the parking lot to the side of the building, started on fire which allowed the flames to burn under the steel siding onto the sheathing, and up into the ceiling space throughout our building. In no time at all, the roof fell and history was changed in Isanti County forever. After one year, no arrest has been made and this arson case remains open and active.

Usually, anniversaries are a cause for celebration. This one is different, however, because of the type of incident and the resulting losses and work it caused. Overnight, all of our job descriptions changed. Every day that we have worked for the past year has been cleaning, trimming, refiling and making decisions on the items that were removed from the fire. From day one, anyone who has worked directly with the fire and its salvaged contents has experienced a wide range of emotions. We are mourning the loss of most of our archives, yet on the flip side there has been joy in finding among the saved items very precious and interesting local history. On this first anniversary we have a better handle on how much was saved and it was not very much in comparison to all that was lost. Recently we were reminded about all of the oral histories and transcripts that were lost when a local resident passed away who had been interviewed in the 1980’s. Our goal is to have all the salvaged materials cleaned and in new files, and cataloged into our museum software before we move into a new building.

We begin this next year having made the decision to rebuild at our former site and have been working over the past two months with preliminary designs and layouts. Our annual membership update and volunteer recognition meeting is being held on July 10, 7:00 p.m. at the Minnco Center in Cambridge. I extend an open invitation for anyone interested in joining us for this meeting as we present our plans for a new building. Now is a great time to get involved if you have a passion for local history as we are literally starting over.

The Isanti County Historical Society building was set on fire by arsonists during the early morning hours of July 8.

The year ahead is expected to be a very exciting time for our history organization. We have received Legacy grants to help us process documents, to purchase a scanner and microfilm reader, plus microfilm of newspapers. We are working to hone our mission and sharpen our focus to become a premiere resource center for Isanti County history. We will be building upon our successful programs to bring history to life for all generations using current technology and social networking.

Four weeks of Old Time School wrapped up on June 29. In July we will have a display at the Fair in the Snowmobile Club building, located by the Grandstand ticket booth. Our 23rd Annual Swedish Language & Culture Camp will be held in August. Rebuilding is to begin in late August or early September. We will begin taking rental reservations this fall beginning for spring 2013, when our new facility will be completed. Life looks pretty busy and good.

But we will need your help to pull all of this off, starting with rebuilding to moving in, and to planning and holding events beyond 2013. Our goal is to rebuild with little or no long-range mortgage, and for this to happen we will need to raise additional funds. We need support from anybody and everybody to make it happen.

Our marathon journey in continues. If you want to support ICHS, donations are greatly appreciated and can be made by mail, at our website, or directly at Cambridge State Bank. For all other inquiries, visit, follow us on Facebook, call us at 763-689-4229, email at [email protected] or drop us a letter at 1700 E. Rum River Drive S., Suite K, Cambridge, MN 55008. We are open by appointment only at this time.