Fundraising campaign underway for Becker County museum; construction set to begin in spring

About $500,000 in donations is still needed for museum that will be attached to the Historic Holmes Theater.

The box office in the lobby of the Historic Holmes Theatre has been ripped out in preparation for a $332,000 lobby remodeling project that will include a new main staircase, box office and gift shop area, and upper-level balcony that will be accessible via the existing elevator. The balcony will eventually serve as the entrance walkway for the new Becker County Museum, which will share the lobby, box office and gift shop with the theater. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)

Though winter is just getting underway, staff and volunteers at the Becker County Museum are already looking ahead to next spring, when construction of a new $6.4 million museum building is slated to get underway.

"We're excited to get started," said the museum's executive director, Becky Mitchell.

But before that can happen, about $500,000 in donations is still needed — and Judy Brenna, president of Chapter FG of the Philanthropic Educational Organization, said the local nonprofit hoped to "jump start" the final stage of public fundraising for the project by cutting a check for $200, which they presented to the museum this past week.

Members of P.E.O. Chapter FG presented a $200 check to the Becker County Museum this past Tuesday, Oct. 27, in hopes of "jump starting" the final public phase of fundraising for a new $6.4 million museum facility. On hand for the check presentation were, from left, P.E.O. members Ardys Horner, Judy Brenna (chapter president) and July Aanenson (far right), along with museum director Becky Mitchell (between Brenna and Aanenson). (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)


"No donation is too large, or too small," said Mitchell after Brenna handed her the check on Tuesday, Oct. 27. She added that she is grateful for the amount of public and private support that they have received thus far.

Mitchell noted that the museum's board of directors would really like to have the full amount of funding for the project raised by the time bids are let for the new 30,000 square foot building. "Our architect has scheduled that (the bid letting) for late January or early February," she said, adding that while no official date for the bid opening has been set, they will need to stick to that tentative schedule in order to break ground in the spring.

If the timeline holds, she added, they plan to be moved in and ready to welcome visitors by spring 2022. "It's a 10-to-12 month project," Mitchell said.

Preliminary preparations for construction of the museum are already underway. The lobby of the Historic Holmes Theatre, which will be attached to the new museum via a shared entrance, box office and gift shop area, is in the process of undergoing a $332,000 facelift .

Theater-museum lobby.jpg
This is what the new lobby of Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre will look like when finished. The new main staircase will lead directly up to the theater entrance, and the balcony on the upper left will eventually be a walkway leading into the new Becker County Museum, which is scheduled to begin construction next spring. (Illustration courtesy of YHR Partners)

Once the entire project is finished, the renovated lobby's new upper-level balcony/walkway will lead directly into the new museum. Because that project also includes a new main staircase and other renovations that were incorporated into the project specifically to accommodate social distancing and other COVID-19 safety precautions, the bulk of it is being funded by a $290,000 federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act grant from Becker County, which has also committed up to $1 million of its own funding toward the project.

Other major contributors include the state of Minnesota, which has allocated $1.85 million in bond funding for the project that was recently approved by the Minnesota Legislature; and the city of Detroit Lakes, which has committed up to $500,000.


Mitchell added that the project to build a new county museum has been almost two decades in the making. "It started as a dream, and has turned into a necessity," she said, adding that the current museum building at 714 Summit Ave. has too many structural deficiencies — some due to age/deterioration, some to space limitations, and others due to constantly evolving technology and accessibility needs — to make renovation financially feasible.

Once the new facility is finished, the current museum building will be razed to make room for additional parking to accommodate the adjoining museum, theater and community center facilities (the Holmes Theatre is part of the existing Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center complex, which was completed in 2002).

Museum-theater exterior.jpg
This architect's rendering shows how the new county museum will "hook on" to the existing Historic Holmes theatre (shown in white at left) via a joint lobby. (Illustration courtesy of YHR Partners)

For more information about the Becker County Museum and its fundraising campaign, visit .

About the Philanthropic Educational Organization

Founded on Jan. 21, 1869, by seven students at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, the Philanthropic Educational Organization is an education-focused, international philanthropic organization committed to celebrating the advancement of women and providing them with scholarships, grants, awards and loans to further their education. They also own and maintain Cottey College, an independent, baccalaureate-granting liberal arts and sciences institution in Missouri. The organization has two chapters, FG and DQ, that are located in the Detroit Lakes area. For more information, visit .

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