Building the Next <br />50 Years of the <br />Minnesota Humanities Center

Many Voices, One State

Building the Next
50 Years of the
Minnesota Humanities Center

The Minnesota Humanities Center (MHC) is engaged in a Capital Campaign to raise $3.5 million to preserve and repair our home, an architectural landmark near Lake Phalen in St. Paul. This building provides a critical foundation that supports our statewide programs and impact.

Built in 1924 as the schoolhouse for the original Gillette Children’s Hospital campus, our building maintains an important place in the community as a center of healing and education. It serves as the heart of operations for our statewide programs and staff, and it’s home to a full-service Event Center that hosts 350 meetings and 10,000 people a year. The Event Center primarily serves nonprofits and government agencies, providing an affordable gathering space for these organizations to build and strengthen their missions and work.

Designed by locally-renowned architect Clarence H. Johnston, the building has many significant and unique decorative features, including delightful carved tiles and elaborate plaster sculptures. Learn more about this landmark which is on the local register of historic places. Because of its status, the building can’t be demolished. If MHC were not housed here, it would likely once again stand vacant and fall into disrepair which would be a detriment to the local community.

The Need

The building, which is central to MHC’s far-reaching work, is in urgent need of remediation and updates to stop ongoing damage from water intrusion and to replace an outdated, inefficient HVAC system. The following updates will ensure a safe environment for staff and visitors and the continued fulfillment of our mission:

  • Exterior Building Repairs: $723,000 – To stop water intrusion and preserve the historic character of the building roof tiles, stucco, cast stone wall caps, parapet, and exterior soffits need to be repaired. Plus, foundation walls must be waterproofed and area well walls rebuilt.
  • HVAC System Replacement: $2,122,000 – A modern system is necessary to reduce moisture, eliminate mold, conserve energy, and provide a comfortable environment.
  • Groundwater Mitigation: $685,000 – Repairs to the basement slab membrane and new interior perimeter drain tile are essential to stop water intrusion in the garden level.

These costs exceed our operating budget, and without financial support, we cannot continue operating here. The City of St. Paul leases the building to MHC for just $100 annually. Moving would necessitate restructuring our budget to include office and venue rental space which would significantly reduce resources available for programming. This would have profound consequences for the communities we serve locally and throughout the state.

We have raised nearly $2.5 million of our $3.5 million goal. We’ll start construction in summer 2020 and need our community’s support to ensure this project stays on track. Please consider a gift to help restore this significant building. Donate online or contact Director of Development Ann Mayers at 651-772-4262 or

We are deeply grateful to the following foundations and government agencies for their generous support of our building’s restoration: