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Ready to move: Chamber hopes to complete relocation to new offices this week

The Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce is ready to move.

"We hope to make the big move next week," Chamber President Dave Hochhalter said Tuesday morning.

Last week the chamber group moved files and other storage items to the new building located on Summit Avenue, and hope to move themselves this week, pending an occupancy permit.

Hochhalter said if anyone is willing to help move, give him a call.

The Chamber building is 2,400 square feet with both levels, and the new building is 2,700 square feet for the one level building.

"It's not much more room, but a lot more functional," Hochhalter said.

The chamber building has been sold to the Minnesota Department of Transportation for the Highway 10 realignment project. It is scheduled to be demolished in the future.

With its demolition, much history will disappear as well.

According to files at the Becker County Historical Society, the building that houses the chamber has gone through several businesses. The chamber organization has also gone through some historical changes.

In August 1908, the railroad train depot was built. Some time later, the chamber building was built.

Dated Oct. 20, 1988, a paper by Otto Zeck was given to the Historical Society recounting his memories of the chamber move to its current location.

He writes that he and Jesse Pryor went to visit Dan Nelson, secretary of the Detroit Lakes Civic and Com-merce, located on Pioneer Street. This was in 1936. Nelson's office space was 3x4x5 feet, with one chair and a desk. He kept his files in a briefcase.

If Nelson had a visitor, he let them sit and he stood. Pryor looked across the street to Axle Dahl's Florist Shop and said Nelson should be how much he wanted for the building. Dahl sold the building for $12,000.

Dahl owned the green house down Washington Avenue and Willow Street, and had built the flower shop on railroad property next to the depot to sell flowers.

Dated May 4, 1961, a piece by Carol Keenan on file at the Historical Society, tells of each president, known as the chairman of the board before by-laws changed the name of the position, and what significant things happened during each of their terms.

Dec. 15, 1936, the Articles of Incorporation and by-laws of the Detroit Lakes Civic and Commerce were adopted. Earlier records go back to 1921 though, when it was known as the Detroit Lakes Businessman's Organization.

The first president was John West in 1921.

In 1922, during G.E. Canfield's term, the club purchased a spot near the American Legion on Highway 59 for $300.

In 1924, during Alden Pearson's term, the first pamphlets about Detroit Lakes were printed and 5,000 were distributed.

H.D. Blanding held two terms from 1927-29. In several printed documents, he comments, "The most important thing they did while I was president was to elect someone else in my place."

In 1927, the first records of membership and funds were recorded. Membership was 144, collecting $2,922 for the year.

In 1930-31, the first paid secretary, F.M. Sherarts, was hired for the three summer months.

From 1933-34, C.W. Blanding was president, and ladies were invited to the annual meeting for the first time. Dave Nelson became the full-time secretary.

In 1935, under W.L. Taylor, the Junior Chamber of Commerce was formed.

In 1936, during W.A. Carlson's term, the name changed from the Businessman's Organization to the Detroit Lakes Civic and Commerce Association.

In 1937, under Ben Peoples, the Junior Chamber of Commerce organized the first Detroit Lakes Water Carnival.

In 1940, President George Mitchell helped organize the Third Annual Harvest Festival, with free food and movies for children. He also made a pledge to eliminate parking on Main Street by businessmen during business hours.

From 1941-42, Dr. O.O. Larson held the president's spot, and pushed for a railroad underpass through Detroit Lakes. During this time, the balance on the building was also paid.

In 1943, E. Linder made plans for the city's first municipal airport.

From 1946-47, Howard Myhre helped form Santa Claus Days, Pancake Day and the Fourth of July fireworks display.

In 1948, under the direction of B.C. Barrett, the joining of the Chamber and Junior Chamber, Kiwanis and Rotary put on the Achievement Awards Banquet for Becker County 4-H Clubs.

In 1955, under Parnell Sanford, the name changed to the Detroit Lakes Chamber of Commerce. Dorothy Johnson was hired as secretary.

(According to other records and the Detroit Lakes Tribune, the name change came in 1954 under W.R. McClary.)

In 1957, under Al Johnson, a Retail Program was organized to discuss the problem of shoplifting.

In 1959, under A.D. Kadletz, a Women's Division of Chamber of Commerce was organized. Miss Eleanor Nolan was named the president. T.W. Keenan was hired as secretary.

Much of the information taken for Carol Kennan's report was from the Chamber's financial records and meetings.

According Hochhalter, in the 1970s, the addition to the upstairs and basement were added.

The building is made with concrete floors and walls. Hochhalter said he's sure it's because those building it knew that being so close to the railroad would rattle it.

He said when the chamber installed an air conditioner in the building, they had to jackhammer through the wall. Also anytime wiring needs to be done, the basement ceiling has to be chipped away since it is cement -- a challenge when the building was rewired for Internet services.

In 1980, the chamber combined forces with the Northwest Resort Association to become the existing Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce.

In the basement, Hochhalter said the chamber has probably one of the oldest heating systems in the city, a coal stove converted to oil. "We've been nursing it along."

One thing that won't be missed in the new building is the low clearances. Coming down the stairs, people have to duck. Going into the bathroom, same thing. Forgetting could cause some head trauma.

A piece of history within the history is the round table in the basement.

"From what I understand, it was built down here," Hochhalter said.

Made from old wood from a sports show booth, the table is clearly much bigger than any doorways. Hochhalter said it's great to have a round table versus rectangle because of easier conversation.

He added that if anyone is interested in owning the table, they are welcome to it as long as they get it out of the basement themselves. Otherwise, the table will be demolished along with the building.

After this week, the original Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce will be added into the history books as the organization moves to its new location a few blocks west on Summit Avenue.