Abridged version of Carlton Lee's "Museum Story," Published originally in the Cokato Historical Society's In the Midst Of (Winter, 1983) vol 1 no 2.
The Cokato chapter of the Wright County Historical Society was organized in April, 1974. Seventy-one persons signed as charter members. Articles of Incorporation were dated December 23, 1974, with Carlton Lee as president; Gordon Bergstrom, vice president; Ronette Doering, secretary and Lillian Barberg, treasurer.
A decisive turn of events occurred when the Bull Memorial Library building, owned jointly by the city and school district, was acquired totally by the school district. This transfer precipitated discussion concerning need for new quarters.
How should construction of a new museum building be financed? Where should it be located? Should the building include a public library and a meeting room? In a referendum October 14, 1974, voters approved, 224 to 195, the issue of 170,000 in general obligation bonds by the City of Cokato to finance the erection of the library-museum building.
An architect was engaged, proposed plans were studied, and the site was acquired in February, 1975, at the corner of 4th Street and Millard Avenue. In addition to proceeds from the municipal bond issue, funds were made available through the sale of the Bull Library building, from a balance in the Bull Memorial Library bequest, the Federal Revenue Sharing program, and a grant from Wright County. Total cost, including site and architect's fees, was $204,000. Ground breaking ceremonies were held Sunday, September 14, 1975.
"Moving days" in August and September, 1976, were hours of lifting, pulling and hauling by a heroic band of volunteers who transported by hand and by vehicles the artifacts from the H. C. Bull Memorial Library building to the new museum. Assembling the pioneer cabin and building compartments called for mighty effort and skillful work by volunteers. The Minnesota Historical Society contributed advice that resulted in a model museum. Dedication was held Sunday, September 11, 1976.
Operation of the Museum, along with the activities of the Historical Society, would not have been possible without the faith and vision of many loyal individuals and officials who contributed talent and just plain hard work toward the cause. Thousands of visitors, young and old, from many states and countries, have registered.
Often I have walked into the museum, or the library, or Centennial Room, and blinked my eyes. Is it true, or is it an illusion? And I have said to myself, "I wish my friends, Richard Peterson, and his wife, could have lived to see the culmination of their dream."