Article by Irene Bender from the Cokato Historical Society's newsletter In the Midst Of, Summer, 1992, Vol. 12 No. 3.
June 16 seemed to be a normal day at the Cokato Museum at four thirty. The alarm was set. That evening a storm moved through Meeker County where I live; my husband and I went to the basement for about ten minutes. After the strong wind and some hail, we went back to bed. The phone rang about one o'clock. City Clerk Peggy Carlson said some windows were
broken in the museum. My first thought was the skylight in the Akerlund Studio. She said it was not broken.
Hurrying in from the country, I had no idea of the damage. Bruce and Peggy Carlson, Mary and Mike Ackerman, and I tried to board up the museum and library windows. The power was out. Leaving at four a.m., I still had no idea that a tornado had devastated the community.
The roof taken off the Akerlund Studio and apartment was covered early the following day by Boreen Construction who had done the original restoration work. Carl Rokala Construction also sent a crew. The insurance company gave permission to replace the roof. The roof was on within the next two days.
The work began. Museum directors are told to have a disaster plan. That was on my list of things to do. Now there was no choice. A few of us began to clean and protect the contents which had some water damage.
Calls to the Upper Midwest Conservation Lab and Minnesota State Historical Society provided technical advice. Staff and volunteers carried all paper to the Centennial Room where they were placed on absorbant paper and fans circulated air and objects were moved to off-site storage. On Friday a group of professionals from the newly formed Minnesota Alliance of Local History Museums worked on the paper collection.
Staff and volunteers worked diligently to stabilize the collection. We are grateful to everyone who worked together in the disaster.
In addition to the concern from the community, the museum recieved calls from an assessor in Kansas City who had worked for the museum and our friend, Margaretha Hedblom, in Sweden. The studio was referred to as "being meticulously restored" by Tom Steward, reporter who covered the storm in his hometown on WCCO-TV. Several contributions have been designated for storm damage. Work is beginning on the interior of the studio and the apartment which have to be redone.
The devastation of local landmarks-the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (formerly the First Baptist Church, which had beautiful stained glass windows donated from James J. Hill), the severe damage to the Stockholm Lutheran Church (who last year celebrated their 125th anniversary), the Green Giant warehouse (the 1905 Cokato Canning Company), the loss of the Titrud round barn on the National Register of Historic Places, and the loss of one-hundred year-old trees, makes it all the more important that historic structures be restored if possible. Even though the studio was moved almost two inches from the foundation on one corner, we are thankful the skylight was not damaged and the studio can continue to be a visible reminder of our past.
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