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

We are 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 the Minnesota Humanities Center’s 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 is home to a full-service Event Center that hosts 350 meetings and 10,000 people a year.

Designed by locally-renowned architect Clarence H. Johnston, the building is home to 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 we don’t continue upkeep, it would likely once again stand vacant and fall into disrepair which would be a detriment to the Humanities Center as well as the local community.

The Need

Currently, our building, which is central to the far-reaching work of the Humanities Center, is in urgent need of repairs and updates to stop ongoing damage from water intrusion and to replace an outdated, inefficient HVAC system. Remediation is needed in the following areas to ensure a safe environment for staff and visitors and the continued fulfillment of our mission.

  • Exterior Building Repairs: $340,000 – To help stop water intrusion and preserve the historic character of the building, the following updates are needed: repairs to roof tiles, stucco, and cast stone wall caps; replacement and repair of the parapet; and repair and painting of exterior soffits.
  • Groundwater Mitigation: $1,068,000 – Waterproofing the foundation wall, rebuilding area well walls, redoing the basement slab membrane, and adding interior perimeter drain tile are essential to stop water intrusion in the garden level.
  • HVAC System Replacement: $2,122,000 – A modern system is necessary to reduce moisture, eliminate mold, conserve energy, and provide a comfortable environment.

These costs exceed our operating budget, and without financial support, we cannot continue operating here. The City of St. Paul leases the building to the Humanities Center 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. While the resulting impact would first be felt within the organization, it would have profound consequences for the communities we serves around the state.

We have raised nearly $2.2 million of our $3.5 million goal. If you’re interested in supporting the campaign to restore this significant building, please donate online or contact Director of Development Jeni Gregory 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:

  • City of St. Paul Neighborhood STAR Program
  • F.R. Bigelow Foundation
  • Hardenbergh Foundation
  • Mardag Foundation
  • State of Minnesota Bonding Appropriation
  • The Saint Paul Foundation