The Scandia Heritage Alliance was loosely formed in late 2016 when a group of Scandia residents* with a common interest in restoring Scandia’s historic Water Tower Barn (see history at right) gathered with Christine Maefsky after she was elected Mayor. They discussed ways to preserve and celebrate Scandia’s rich history, culture, arts, and rural character – as well as ideas for bringing back the Water Tower Barn in a public way. They decided to form an organization dedicated to culture and historic preservation, and after a series of meetings landed on the name Scandia Heritage Alliance and charted the organization’s mission.
SHA aims to strengthen community bonds in Scandia, and to further this goal, board members initiated an annual Progressive Dinner fundraiser that enables residents to get to know one another in the personal setting of residents’ homes. SHA forged a relationship with the local Gammelgården Museum, which agreed to hold the dessert course for all participants. More than 70 Scandia residents participated in the inaugural event in Fall 2018, and another successful event was held in 2019.**
SHA identified the following initial goals:
Following are the organization’s key milestones.
Held inaugural Progressive Dinner fundraiser event
Gained IRS approval as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization
Held community meeting to gain feedback on proposed Arts & Heritage Center project
Completed architectural report recommending the most ideal site for the Arts & Heritage Center
Gained unanimous vote from City of Scandia to partner on the Water Tower Barn: Scandia Arts & Heritage Center project, including proposed land lease for $1/year
Redevelopment agreement signed with City of Scandia to develop the Arts & Heritage Center at the ballfield site south of the Community Center on Olinda Trail
Awarded a $10,000 Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant from the Minnesota Historical Society to “Research the History of Scandia and its Important Sites,” the first step in developing the Scandia Heritage Trail
Completed site feasibility study for Arts & Heritage Center (positive result)
Completed research on “History of Scandia and its Important Sites”
Completed the Master Plan and schematic architectural drawings for the Water Tower Barn - Scandia Arts & Heritage Center.
Awarded a $10,000 Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant from the Minnesota Historical Society to “Research the History, Engineering and Distinctive Design of the Scandia Water Tower Barn Tankhouse," the first step towards resurrecting the barn in a historically accurate way and applying to place the barn on the National Registry of Historic Places.
*The Scandia residents who spearheaded creation of SHA are: Susan Rodsjo, Christine Maefsky, Pamela Plowman Smith, Leila Denecke, Sarah Porubcansky, John Herman, Pam Arnold, and Steve and Lisa Philippi.
**Due to COVID-19, no events were held in 2020.
Built by businessman Frank Lake in the late 19th Century, the historic Water Tower Barn is an early tank house that provided water to downtown Scandia residents and businesses. Lake was an energetic, visionary businessman responsible for creating multiple businesses that formed the commercial center in Scandia. He built the Water Tower Barn in association with the Scandia Mercantile Company, a bustling business he started in c.1880 to sell a range of goods including farm equipment, hardware, gifts, housewares, groceries/dry goods – even coffins. The barn housed a team of horses and a wagon that traveled regularly to the Copas Depot to pick up loads of goods for the Mercantile.
The historic barn, which stood on Olinda Trail behind the Mercantile building, was dismantled in 2014 at the direction of then-owner Hilltop Water Company. When the Hilltop board voted to demolish the barn, now SHA President Susan Rodsjo coordinated to allow Rustic Innovations (a local barn restoration company) to mark the beams and carefully dismantle and store the structure for future reconstruction.
The barn’s distinctive cupula was built to support a windmill that pumped water from the well below. It also housed an elevated wood water tank, elevated to increase water pressure. During the second half of the 19th Century, combinations of windmills and elevated holding tanks were used by municipalities, railroads, and large ranches as a means of supplying water.
The barn comprised two attached structures. The original structure and tower was built in c. 1895 using hand-hewn lumber and mortise-and-tenon construction methods. The later addition with barn doors was constructed of dimensional lumber and timber supports.
The barn’s unique construction includes features of Swedish design. While most barns of this era used vertical siding and timber-frame construction spaced into large bays, the Water Tower Barn used horizontal siding and vertical tamarack logs (loved by Swedes) spaced on only 2-foot centers.
The Water Tower Barn played an integral role in the early beginning of Scandia and was an iconic site loved by many.
Scandia Artist Andrea Leila Denecke has spent a number of years studying and working in Japan as well as living in other parts of the United States, but her heart is at home on the St Croix River where she lives and grew up. Leila's work and aesthetic have been greatly influenced by her studies in Japan, her interest in vernacular architecture, and her appreciation of the simple beauty of ancient objects.
Her sculpture "Stele Mississippi" is the focal point of a garden in Minneapolis’ sister city in Japan, located alongside the Ibaraki City Central Municipal Library. Leila’s work is in the collection of the Seto Museum of Art in Seto, Japan, and in the permanent collections of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Minnesota History Center, the Northern Clay Center, and the Bemidji State University Margaret Harlow Ceramic Collection. She also designed and built the fountain in the United Hospital lobby in St Paul
. Leila has been recognized for her accomplishments by the McKnight Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, and the Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant. She has been awarded the prestigious McKnight Fellowship for Ceramic Artists three times and also received a McKnight Residency Grant.
Abstract minimal sculptures, wheel-thrown stoneware and porcelain pottery, and "hybrid vessels" with a sculptural stance are all part of Leila's repertoire. She has developed her own unique process of imbedding granite into the surface of her work to produce patterns in the clay.
John practiced law in the Twin Cities for more than 40 years, most recently as partner at Faegre Baker Daniels, the region's largest law firm. He now provides development advisory services through Herman Real Estate Advisors LLC.
John’s practice centers on the intersection of finance and regulatory approvals for major development. He was the lobbyist for many laws in the environmental and development finance areas and has represented many major cultural and real estate developments in the state. His real estate development financing experience includes Tax Increment Financing, State Bond Financed Property, Historic Tax Credits, and New Market Tax Credits.
John has also been a leading environmental advocate involved in passage of much of Minnesota's nationally recognized environmental legislation. He is a long-time land preservation advocate and was a key player in creation of the Metropolitan Open Space System, as well as establishment of the Root River Trail, Tettegouche Park, and Cedar Lake Park. He is a member of the Minnesota Advisory Board of the Trust for Public Land and the St. Croix River Association Board. John has received numerous awards and recognition for his legislative work and his legal practice.
John guides SHA on the regulations surrounding State Bond Financing of capital projects, State Legacy Funding, and other financing options.
Mayor Christine Maefsky has lived in Scandia for 48 years, where she and her husband and family operate Poplar Hill Dairy Goat Farm, Minnesota’s only Grade A commercial goat dairy. Christine is completing her fourth year as Scandia’s mayor and was elected for another two-year term in November 2020. She previously served on the Scandia Planning Commission for 10 years, six years as its Chair.
Christine taught in K-8 education for 33 years. For over 26 years, she conducted teacher training in areas related to curriculum and instruction
, She has presented at national conferences including the National Association for Gifted Children and the International Reading Association.
Christine’s vision for Scandia emphasizes its rural character, environmental riches, and proud history. This includes preserving its open-space viewsheds, dark night skies, small-town hospitality, excellent school, rich public parks and trails, the high water quality of its lakes and the St. Croix River (which makes up the City’s entire eastern border), and revitalizing the City’s Village Center to support appropriate-scale growth and change that is compatible with this vision. Christine prioritizes promoting the City’s rich heritage -- including acknowledging its Ojibwe and Dakota roots and its history as the site of the first Swedish settlement in Minnesota – and its historic sites such as Gammelgården Museum, Hay Lake School Museum, and the Swedish Settler’s Monument.
Sarah returned to Minnesota six years ago and began immersing herself in Scandia’s heritage after decades in which she worked for non-profits in the field of culture, co-founded an innovative online women’s clothing retail business, and slowly circumnavigated the globe, living in New York, Moscow, Vienna, Hong Kong, and Los Angeles. She helped organize a conference of influential women from the newly liberated countries of Central and Eastern Europe. She also traveled widely as a board member for the Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas. She was responsible for creating the organization’s first web presence. In Southern California, she did marketing and event management for a world-class cultural institution, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. With partners, she later launched MyShape, an ambitious startup that sought to revolutionize the women’s apparel business. Sarah served as Customer Experience Officer for MyShape, which attracted millions of dollars in venture capital and employed more than 100 people.
Back in Minnesota, Sarah manages and serves as board chair of the Scandia Farmers Market. She has held several positions at Scandia’s premier cultural institution, Gammelgården Museum, where she has spearheaded a drive to have buildings accepted onto the National Register of Historic Places. Sarah also chairs the city’s official tourism committee.
Susan, SHA Founder and Board President, brings to the table a love of history and preservation, family ties to Scandia (her grandfather was born and raised in Scandia/Marine), and project management and branding expertise. Susan is a marketing communications consultant for the website Medtronic Academy, an award-winning healthcare writer and graphic designer, and owner of the brand consulting firm Entelo Marketing Communications. She is former majority owner of Global Air Charters in St. Paul, having sold her shares to her husband and investors in 2016, and she currently serves as a marketing consultant for the company.
Susan served on the Scandia Planning Commission for three years starting in 2008, chaired the Scandia Architectural Design Guidelines Committee, and wrote the Architectural Design Guidelines document. Susan and her family serve as a Big Family through Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Twin Cities, and they have hosted multiple foreign exchange students In 2010, Susan purchased and renovated the former phone company building on Olinda Trail in the Scandia Village Center, creating an entirely new storefront design.
Pam’s ties to Scandia and the St. Croix River run deep, going back four generations. Her great-grandparents paddled upriver from Stillwater in the autumn of 1917, camped in Marine, continued north, and ended their journey by purchasing a cottage in Otisville (a platted neighborhood in Scandia). Over his lifetime, Pam’s great-grandfather bought hundreds of acres of land along the St. Croix River to protect it from development, and this land is now part of the Wild and Scenic River protected parkland. Pam and her husband, Mike, feel very fortunate to own the cottage in which Pam’s grandmother and father spent every childhood summer, and Pam’s generation of cousins (coming from opposite coasts) did the same
.. She and Mike split their time between their Scandia cottage, and a residence in Idaho.
Pam’s professional career has been in the life insurance industry, first in management at an innovative fast-growing insurance carrier and then for the last 30 years as co-owner and chief operations officer at a life insurance brokerage company.
Pam has been involved in philanthropic and civic endeavors
, including co-chair of an annual fundraising event for a child abuse prevention center, PTO officer and events committee leader and , member of the Scandia City Council-appointed Log House Landing Committee. She currently serves on the board of a business Women’s Leadership Council.