One era ends, another beginsAround 9:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 5, an earth mover chomped into the 19th-century Foster-family home -- first taking the transom over an upper-story window then gutting the inside before taking down the outside walls.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
Around 9:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 5, an earth mover chomped into the 19th-century Foster-family home -- first taking the transom over an upper-story window then gutting the inside before taking down the outside walls.
Within 40 minutes, only a pile of rubble remained on the two-acre site next to Lake George.
The home served the Foster family well and took with it a rich local history, but demolition of the structure -- partially enabled by a $15,000 grant from the state -- represents a major step in the Foster Community Foundation’s effort to build The Gathering Place.
Where the house and a mobile-home site once stood, FCF strives to build a 19,000-square-foot community center where groups, civic clubs, senior citizens, students, community-theater members, art patrons and people can come together for meetings, events and other activities.
The two-acre parcel sits at 404 W. Winter St., near the now-defunct River Falls power plant. FCF has a capital campaign underway. It aims to break ground for The Gathering Place in 2014.
Organizers plan for the building to use high standards for “green construction” so that it meets national certification standards.
The Gathering Place, says its board members and founders Judie Foster-Babcock and David Babcock, will exist to 1) promote community through acting in faith; 2) improve the quality of life for current and future generations in River Falls; and 3) provide a collaborative work environment for the outreach and administrative activities of charitable, nonprofit and community-service organizations.
The Foster Community Foundation salvaged a small building on the property that used to be a carriage house. This summer, that was transformed into the Art Wagon project, a summertime art program for children.
David Babcock said FCF is recycling as much of the old family home as is possible.
He said local woodworker Scott Ellis will take some floor and ceiling wood to build furniture. Another friend was taking the garage doors.
Many salvageable parts will be re-used, recycled or repurposed, while a large onsite dumpster takes in the trash.
The Foster family history remains important to River Falls.
Joel Foster is considered to be the city’s founding father, arriving with his ward and surviving the first winter in a cave.
Joel Foster made an original land claim in 1848 to the property where the Gathering Place will sit.
Five generations of the Foster family have lived in River Falls -- three of them in the home that was demolished Monday.
Historic records show the home was built on Cascade Avenue, then moved to its current spot in 1907.
The land passed from Joel Foster to Joel Foster II, to his sister Eunice Foster-Thompson, to her son Earl, then to well-known Bruce Foster, Judie’s father, and to her when he died in 2007.
Earl had worked a while in Chicago with Henry Ford, but he and wife Litha wanted to move back to River Falls. So Aunt Eunice gave them the property and had the house moved there.
David Babcock said in the late 1940s, several mobile homes had popped up in what is now Glen Park because men returning from World War II needed places to live with their wives while they attended college using veterans’ benefits.
The city convinced Earl and Litha to let the mobile homes park on their land. The homes then stayed for many decades, with gradually more citizens calling for redevelopment of the site.
When the home and property passed to Judie, she sold some of the property to student-housing developer Gerrard Corporation and donated the remainder for a community center.
Now the mobile homes are gone, the site has been cleared, Gerrard has constructed two new apartment buildings…and the FCF continues to raise money for the Gathering Place through individual donations and grants, but no taxpayer money.
FCF hopes to break ground on the project sometime in 2014.
Learn more about FCF and its projects at its website: www.foster-foundation.com.