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Alumni to raise money to save features from old BHS

A group of Bemidji High School alumni plans to raise money to save architectural features from a building on the old high school campus.

Sharon Fruetel of Bemidji, a 1964 BHS graduate who organized the group, said alumni decided at a Thursday meeting to explore grant, loan and contribution possibilities to save features from the front of the school's A Building.

Demolition of the A Building and auditorium is set for May after hazardous material abatement is completed.

The Bemidji State University Foundation owns about 12 acres of the old BHS campus, including the A Building and auditorium. It bought the property last summer from the Bemidji School District for $575,000 and is paying for the abatement and demolition with the plan that BSU will reimburse it for these costs.

BSU President Jon Quistgaard, also a BHS alumnus, said earlier this week that he hopes the university will find a way to preserve some building bricks and sell them. The proceeds, he said, could go toward the creation of an endowment to provide scholarships for BHS graduates attending BSU.

Meanwhile, the group of BHS alumni that Fruetel organized is hoping to save additional building elements.

"There was a consensus that it would be nice to get the entryway," Fruetel said.

The group, at this point, is considering saving one of the two main entryways, including the columns and arch.

Fruetel said the group will work with BSU to explore if an entryway could be saved rather than three features she had suggested earlier. These features were the balustrade; a decorative element above some windows; and the carving and short pillars near the top of the building.

Fruetel said a bid to remove the three pieces from the building and transport them to storage came in at $9,000.

However, she said the group is more interested in saving an entryway because it is more meaningful. She said alumni, who daily walked through the entryways, would likely remember it more than the three pieces.

Fruetel said the group learned that saved features could be stored by the stone building on the property owned by the BSU Foundation.

On Thursday, the group brainstormed ideas for using saved features, Fruetel said.

The group will next meet at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Cabin Coffee House and Cafe.