From the front, Eagan's old Town Hall looks the same, but damage sustained during a suspicious fire on Sunday has rendered the building unsafe, city officials say, and perhaps unsalvageable.
The building, which served as the budding town's meeting place from 1914 until 1965, is undoubtedly a historic treasure, said city Communications Coordinator Joanna Foote. Its fate will most likely rest in the hands of an insurance adjustor, however.
"We simply will have to wait and see. I wish I could promise that this is going to be rebuildable," Foote told the Eagan Historical Society after meeting with insurance representatives.
Foote herself was not able to enter the remains of the society's museum until earlier that day. Until 7 a.m. on Tuesday, the site was considered a crime scene.
"It can be accessed now to some extent. As of yet, I have not been able to get in there other than the first three feet in," Foote said. "It's just not safe."
At midday on Sunday the foam and water left over from the the firefight was six inches deep. By Tuesday, the water had seeped away, and the floor was covered with soggy insulation. The fire has compromised one of the main beams holding up the rafters, Foote said. The beam is sagging badly, and protrudes forward toward the front door. The chimney and floor are also unstable.
The fire had an uneven effect on the contents of the small building, which was used as a repository and display area for historical materials.
"That left side was hot enough to melt metal. And on the right side we still have flour sack curtains hanging on twine," Foote said with a shake of the head.
Foote and members of the historical society praised Eagan firefighters for taking care to salvage as much of the archive as possible. Nevertheless, some irreplaceable artifacts were destroyed. Many pieces of memorabilia from Eagan's past elections were lost. The entire exhibit on the first ladies of Eagan has completely disappeared into the ashes, as has the display about the fire department.
However, many important items did make it out, among them a 48-star flag, chunks of the Lone Oak tree, and remnants of a plywood sign scrawled with the words "Vote No to Annexation."
The surviving items, like the building itself, will need intensive restoration. Photos, newspaper clippings and furniture alike were soaked with water and covered in soot. ServiceMaster has been contracted to dry the goods to keep them from molding. Others are too delicate to endure drying, and will have to be put into a frozen state. Foote said that the Minnesota Historical Society had already contacted the city to offer leads on grants and other assistance.
Members of the historical society took the news with as much good cheer as they could muster, but questions still linger, the foremost being, "Who did this, and why?"
"It's an educational tool. That's what tears me up inside," said former Mayor Bea Blomquist, who added that the building had been a big part of her own life. "You could take children in there and take them back 100 years. I just couldn't get it off my mind."
Foote said that answers will be few for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, the society will be sifting through the rubble, looking for anything that may have escaped the flames.