City, county, state officials break ground on new museum in Detroit Lakes

Upwards of 50 people braved the unseasonably chilly and breezy conditions in Detroit Lakes this past Thursday, May 27, for a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the start of construction on a new Becker County Museum. The new 30,000 square foot, $6.8 million facility is set to open next year.

City, county and state officials gathered alongside museum staff and volunteers to break ground on a new Becker County Museum in Detroit Lakes this Thursday, May 27. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)

In the culmination of a project more than two decades in the making, officials from the City of Detroit Lakes, Becker County and the State of Minnesota were on hand this past Thursday, May 27 to break ground on a $6.8 million, 30,000 square foot building that will house the new Becker County Museum.

"Are you ready to reimagine?" asked Becker County Museum Executive Director Becky Mitchell — a reference to the slogan for the project's fundraising campaign — as she opened Thursday's festivities.
Speakers during the 30-minute ceremony included Detroit Lakes Mayor Matt Brenk, Becker County District 2 Commissioner Ben Grimsley, Minnesota State Sen. Kent Eken, State Rep. Paul Marquart and retired U.S. Congressman Collin Peterson, as well as Becker County Historical Society President Natalie Bly.

Mitchell noted that there had been multiple building plans and three different museum directors involved in the quest to build a new museum over the past 20 years — but when she started with the museum four and a half years ago, she decided to start over, enlisting the help of the Minnesota Historical Society's David Grabitske in developing a vision for the future of the museum.

Mitchell said that Grabitske had told her, "When it's the right plan, everything will fall into place."

And so it did. In his remarks, Mayor Brenk noted that the funding for the museum had been a cooperative effort between the city, county, state and private donors.


"This project adds to what has become the cultural hub of our community," Brenk said, in reference to the fact that the museum building will be attached to the existing Historic Holmes Theatre, which in turn is part of the overall Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center (DLCCC).

Peter Jacobson, who has been the CEO of the community center for about a year and a half now, thanked all the people who had been involved with "planting the seeds for a new museum."

"Today is the day where things are really starting to bloom," he added, before handing a bouquet of flowers to Mitchell in celebration of the event.

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The new $6.8 million Becker County Museum, which will be attached to the existing Historic Holmes Theatre via a shared lobby, gift shop and box office, is slated for completion next year. (Illustration courtesy of Becker County Museum)

Grimsley made reference to the unique collaboration between city, county, state, public and private entities that made the museum project a reality.

"The operating agreements and leases, and the trust we have put in each other is a model for us all," Grimsley said.

"I'm proud to be part of this project," said Peterson, who donated the office furniture and papers from his Congressional office in Washington, D.C., to the museum earlier this year, along with a cash donation to help with setting up and maintaining the exhibit, which will be permanently housed at the museum.


"I got my start in politics here in Becker County," he said, adding that it had been "the privilege of my life" to serve the people of Minnesota, first in the Minnesota Senate, and later in Congress.

Peterson also noted that he is working with the museum's staff on the possibility of writing a memoir about his 30 years in Congress, but noted that he is glad to be back in Detroit Lakes.

"It's good to be home," he said, adding that he's "here to stay."

Bly said that she found herself "jumping on the bus" to support the museum several years ago — a bus that brought her to the State Capitol to help solicit the state bonding bill funds that will pay for $1.85 million of the $6.8 million project.

The remainder of the funding will come from the City of Detroit Lakes ($550,000 plus another $100,000 from Detroit Lakes Public Utilities); Becker County ($1.1 million plus $290,000 in CARES funding r renovation of the Holmes Theatre lobby into a shared lobby, gift shop and box office that will serve both the theater and museum); and $2.5 million in private donations from businesses, organizations and individuals.

"Now we're asking all of you to jump on the bus with us," she told the crowd of about 80 people. "We're still trying to raise the last $400,000 and $500,000 needed (to fund the entire project)."

For more information about the museum and its building plans, as well as upcoming classes, summer camps and exhibits, visit or call 218-847-2938. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.


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