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Benefit raises $10,000-plus for the preservation of historic Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery

The 1853 Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery in Minneapolis, where thousands of the city’s earliest settlers are buried, was the backdrop for a recent benefit concert.

It featured Jeremy Messersmith, a local musician whose 2010 album, “The Reluctant Graveyard,” has songs that are based on some of the cemetery’s historic figures. Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles also performed.  

The concert raised around $10,000 to help restore the cemetery’s steel and limestone pillar fence, which has long been in disrepair, according to Sue Hunter Weir, who chairs Friends of the Cemetery, which organized the event.  

It also drew a crowd of about 1,200 people, many of whom had never been to the cemetery before. “That kind of attention is good for us,” she says.  

Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery, which is the city’s oldest, is among the 25 historic preservation projects that are competing for dollars through the Partners in Preservation contest, which The Line covered here.

Through the competition, which closes this week, the public has a chance to help pick preservation projects that will get a portion of a $1 million grant that’s being offered jointly by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  

A couple of years ago the Friends group jumpstarted the $1.4 million preservation effort with an “Adopt a Picket” campaign. Of 3,510 pickets, nearly 700 have been adopted so far, according to Weir.

Since then, the gates lining Cedar Avenue and Lake Street, and parts of the fence have been restored, but much of it still needs fixing up, she explains.

The fence is a priority because it protects the cemetery. Despite its status on the National Register of Historic Places, the cemetery has been described as endangered. Only a few years ago, “Some sections [of the fence] were so bad that people could push it in with their hands,” she says.   

Source: Sue Hunter Weir, chair, Friends of the Cemetery
Writer: Anna Pratt
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