A Brief History of The Grand
The Grand dates back over 150 years when the first hotel on this property was built. Over the years, buildings have been destroyed, rebuilt, changed hands, and served various purposes significant to the New Ulm and greater Brown County, Minnesota region. Read on to learn more about where The Grand has been and were we envision going forward.
Minnesota Haus & Union Hotel
In 1856, Phillip Gross built the first of three hotels on the property where The Grand Center for Arts & Culture stands today. Inspired by his own roots and the heritage of New Ulm as a heavily German-populated city, he named this two-story wood frame building the Minnesota Haus. In 1860, the original hotel was destroyed by fire. Gross immediately began plans to rebuild a larger wooden structure in its’ place, which he named the Union Hotel. Located in the heart of New Ulm, the hotel soon became a bustling attraction in the city. It even served as a hospital during the Dakota Conflict of 1862. FUN FACT: one of the doctors who cared for the injured during the Dakota War was William Morral Mayo, who went on to found the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Like the Minnesota Haus, the Union Hotel was also destroyed by fire on July 5, 1875. Not to be deterred, Gross immediately began construction on a new two-story structure, this time made from brick rather than wood. Architect Julius Berndt, who also designed the Hermann Monument in New Ulm, was hired to design the new hotel. Gross operated the Union Hotel until his retirement in 1885. After Peter Manderfeld purchased the property in 1899, the building underwent thorough renovations. In addition to adding a third floor, he also upgraded heating, plumbing and lighting fixtures. He also gave the property a new name: The Grand Hotel. After the renovations were complete, the exterior appeared as we recognize it today. The Grand Hotel had 30 sleeping rooms, an office, a new kitchen and large dining room which occupied half of the first floor.
The second floor was used as a dance hall and held theatricals at one time and there was originally a saloon where the Kabaret now stands.
The Grand was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 21, 1990.
The building continued to serve travelers visiting the New Ulm area well into the 20th century, primarily as a hotel, restaurant and originally a saloon as well (where The Grand Kabaret is currently located). However, unable to compete with the amenities of more modern hotels, the building eventually fell out of use as a hotel in the 1970s. It changed owners several times for various purposes. It was a boarding house, a fudge and frame shop, a barbershop, a laundromat, and even housed apartments. A radio station (KNUJ) was also located on the second floor, while the third floor was completely vacant. A century of repurposing the various spaces took its’ toll on the structure, and many areas were unrecognizable or had fallen into disrepair.
In 2000, Anne Makepeace, the great-great granddaughter of Philip Gross, purchased the building along with members of her family. Three years later, the family began restoring the building to its original beauty of the late 19th century. In 2009 a non-profit was formed that now owns The Grand building and property with the purpose of converting the building into what it is today: The Grand Center for Arts & Culture.
The purpose of the organization was to convert the building into a four story Arts and Culture Center for the community of New Ulm and surrounding areas.
The Grand Center for Arts & Culture
The primary designer responsible for the renovation was Christine Carmichael, who has put in many hundreds of hours on the project and has transformed it into the beautiful space it is today. The building features many “green” efficiencies, including LED lights throughout, locally sourced materials, and energy efficient heating and cooling units. The renovated and restored building now serves as an arts and culture center with four floors of arts space. The renovation included an addition in the back of the building that includes an elevator allowing accessibility to all four levels, and each half level that houses an outdoor patio. A back deck was also added where living music is held most Fridays June through August. When entering through the back of the building, you will notice the back donor wall which features individuals and businesses who have contributed to The Grand.
The first floor houses The Grand Kabaret, which holds live music events nearly every Friday and Saturday night, most of which are free to the public (donations welcome & greatly appreciated!). There is also a kitchen, a historic bar, and an Artisan Gift Shop featuring the work of local artists that opened in the fall of 2017.
The 4 Pillars Gallery, primarily funded by the New Ulm Area Foundation, is located on the second floor and holds ten art show exhibits each year. The Grand and New Ulm Area Foundation offices are also located on the second floor. This is also where we conduct the majority of our arts education, including music lessons in the music studio and art classes in the Citizens Bank Arts Education Area.
The third floor is the most original to the 1899 structure. The former sleeping rooms have been converted into studios for artists to create their work and practice their art. Several of the rooms were combined to create a modern one-bedroom apartment and is available for overnight guests via VRBO.
Because the original builders utilized the foundation from the original structure, much of the basement dates back 1860. The newest addition to The Grand Center for Arts and Culture is the development of a printmaking studio in the basement, appropriately named The Cellar Press. This area will be used to conduct printmaking classes. More info coming soon!
The arts continue outside of the building as well. The property features a grassy area out back with plans to add raised-bed gardens in the future. A mural was created by local artists in 2017, and many of our own Creativity Camp and Children’s Painting Class participants contributed artwork to our backyard as well.