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Cemetery In The Heart Of The City Needs Renovation Help

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – There are 25 historic sites around the Twin Cities vying for a chance to win big money for preservation purposes.

The Partners in Preservation program promises $125,000 from American Express for the site that receives the most votes among those 25. Votes are being tabulated through Facebook.

One of them is Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery, the only cemetery in Minnesota on the National Register of Historic Places.

Driving down Lake Street, the cemetery can easily be overlooked, though it holds the remains of about 21,000 Minnesotans.

The first body was buried here nearly 160 years ago.  The city stopped deeding plots here more than 90 years ago.

One person who hopes those voting for preservation on Facebook won’t overlook the graveyard is Susan Hunter Weir, who chairs the group Friends of the Cemetery.

She pointed out that among those buried within the gates are unique, historic figures.

“There are other cemeteries that have Civil War vets, but the War of 1812? We have four,” she said. “There aren’t a lot of those in Minnesota.”

But that history is surrounded by a deteriorating iron fence. The Friends of the Cemetery have raised enough money to restore only a few small sections.

“It’s quite a process,” said Weir. “They take the sections out, they go to Loretto, Minn., they sandblast them, they weld them, galvanize them.”

The process is not cheap, but now there’s a chance to help out, thanks to the Partners in Preservation program. Weir believes this would be money well spent.

“What’s different about this cemetery — it’s not so much who we are individually, it’s about … who we are as a city and as a state,” she said. “These are the stories of all of us.”

This weekend, you’ll have a chance to check out each of the 25 finalist sites. There is an open house this Saturday and Sunday at each site.

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