The decorative Minnesota limestone lintel above the entrance reads “ARCHITECT”. Through the door and up a steep, dark stairway, one bursts upon a surprise: an open, airy space that used to be a music hall, but now serves as the office of architect Kevin Anderson.
The old music hall turned architect’s office is located on the second floor of the building at 70 Northeast First Avenue, Little Falls, MN. The lower level of the building originally served as the Morrison County Lumber Company, operated first by Z. N. Barnes and later by Richard Drew Musser. The entire building, including the hall above, was constructed throughout 1918, with the lumber company occupying its space in January 1919. The interior of the hall was finished shortly thereafter and dedicated in March 1919. Maud Moon Weyerhaeuser, wife of lumberman Charles A. Weyerhaeuser, directed that the music hall be built as a gift to the City of Little Falls “that would be a fit meeting place for the women’s organizations of the city.” (Little Falls Daily Transcript, February 28, 1919) When the hall was completed, Mrs. Weyerhaeuser added the finishing touch of a Steinway grand piano to her gift.
During the March 3, 1919, dedication ceremony, the Maud Moon Weyerhaeuser Hall was officially gifted to the Musical Art Club, which incorporated that same year in order to accept responsibility for operating the hall. The Musical Art Club was started in 1911 by music teacher Maybelle Brannen. From the 1911-1912 Club Constitution, the purpose of the group was “to advance the interests and promote the culture of musical art in Little Falls.” To this aim, the Club sponsored regular musical performances by both local and visiting talent. Later, the Club added literary and student components to its offerings.
The Maud Moon Weyerhaeuser Hall was designed by architect O. R. Wilson, with interior decoration directed by Bess Lee. Following is a complete description of the hall from the February 28, 1919, issue of the Little Falls Daily Transcript:
“[The hall] includes an auditorium 32×44 exclusive of the stage which is 20 ft. wide and 9 ft. deep, and a committee room 17×19, which can be thrown open as part of the auditorium. It has restrooms and also a check room, is entirely modern and absolutely fireproof.
“The trim throughout is a dusty tan color, the dado and side-walls and cornice, carrying colors which shade from a warm putty to an old ivory on the ceiling. Six pilasters, two on either side of the auditorium and one on each side of the stage, carry the polychrome colors.
“The windows are hung with smoke-colored casement cloth, with over-drapes of putty colored silk with blue stripes. The stage curtain is old blue silk velour, matching the draperies. The chairs were especially designed and made with a view to comfort and are stained to match the wood-work. The artistic success of the entire building is due to the genius of Miss Bess B. Lee, who has had entire charge of this part of the building.”
Within a couple of years after the dedication of the music hall, Charles and Maud Moon Weyerhaeuser moved out of the Little Falls area, due to the closing of the Pine Tree Lumber Company. The Musical Art Club dissolved in 1950 and the music hall eventually became a storage area for KLTF Radio. After the radio station moved to its location north of town, a man purchased the hall in order to convert it to apartments. Kevin Anderson followed this owner and bought the hall in December 2002.
Anderson, who has designed and led many historic building restorations, has sensitively brought the Maud Moon Weyerhaeuser Hall back to its former elegance. He has arranged the space in such a way as to make the original use obvious. Most of the furnishings in the middle of the hall are low and easily moveable. The stage is exposed and unadorned. The stage and window curtains have been removed and the floors throughout refinished. The walls are painted in muted green and pale yellow, with sand-colored ceilings. The beams and moldings are off-white. The colors are reminiscent of traditional early 1900s paint schemes. Of the three chandeliers in the hall, one of the originals remains, while Anderson has replaced two with chandeliers taken from an apartment building by Lake Calhoun. He continues to search for chandeliers that match the original.
Restoration on the hall took about a year with Anderson and his son doing much of the demolition work. Various trades-workers updated the plumbing and electrical systems and painted and finished the floors. Anderson stained and varnished all the woodwork, along with assisting in other areas of restoration work. The result would make Maud Moon Weyerhaeuser and the Musical Art Club proud.
By Mary Warner
Copyright 2004, Morrison County Historical Society