Clarks Grove man’s creations can be found all over the area

Published 9:07 am Saturday, February 7, 2009

“I’ve lost count on the total number of fireplaces I’ve ever made. It could be 100. I do know there are 50 to 60 fieldstone fireplaces I’ve made for other folks,” said Curt Rietveld of Clarks Grove, explaining his work as a masonry artist during the past five decades.

Mention the name of a nearby town and Rietveld will likely recall a fireplace he created for a family in that community. He can back this up in many instances with the photos he had preserved in a large album.

“I have something in every town around here,” he said. And sometimes this includes other masonry work like exterior and interior walls besides fireplaces.

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Those fireplaces have brick, stone and even agate facings or exteriors. The stones he considers to be special creations are the ones made with fieldstones. This type of stone is a leftover from the glacial era. Through the years what many people like to also call boulders have a tendency to work their way up to the surface of farm fields. Also, through the years many of those stones or boulders have been somehow removed and end up in small piles on the edges of those farm fields, thus the name. Some of these ancient stones or rocks are used in their natural state and others are split to create a different appearance.

“Some of the farmers who cussed the stones in their fields wanted them in their homes for the fireplaces, “ he said.

“It takes two to three weeks to make a fireplace,” he added.

Rietveld says this interest in masonry started at Albert Lea High School where he graduated in 1957. He credits teacher Earl Jacobsen for sparking this interest. His first major employer was local contractor Dick Diekema. He later worked for Harvey Brua Masonry and then as an independent contractor. In later years his son, Todd, became involved with the masonry projects..

Some of the projects he’s worked on include the present City Center and Brookside Junior High School. He also created the fieldstone wall for the office at Miami Margarine (now Ventura Foods). Other area projects Rietveld has on his long list of accomplishments include masonry work at Hollandale Reformed Church, a baptismal fount in the Clarks Grove Baptist Church, the base for the statues in St. Theodore’s Cemetery, and the stage for Ponder Point overlooking the pond in front of Albert Lea High School.

Incidentally, his 1957 class were the sponsors for the Ponder Pint project. Rietveld also did all the masonry work for this and the high school stone and cement sign near the entry of the parking lot on Y.H. Hanson Avenue. This sign project was sponsored by the class of 1958.

“When the work slowed down in the winter, I went to California,” he explained.

This resulted in a number of photos for his album. Some of the California projects he lists are a research building in Santa Monica, several exterior walls in the Los Angeles area, two fireplaces for rock singer Pat Benetar of Malibu in 1991 or ‘92, a project on the UCLA campus, and two fireplaces for actor Peter Strauss of Ojai.

While visiting a daughter who was then living in Geneva, Ill., he became involved with the revision of the old city hall which was being converted into an office building.

Still more projects he has pictured in his photo album include work at a Bloomington retirement home, the sign for Brown Printing of Waseca, and work for the Veterans’ Hospital in Nashville, Tenn.

Rietveld says he built his home in Clarks Grove during 1970. A good portion of the lumber came from the former Westside School in Hollandale. A wall in the family room was created with chimney brick from this school.

“I added the fireplace a year later,” he explained. Thus, one wall in the living room with the fireplace as its centerpiece is made of Kasota stone from a quarry located north of Mankato.

Rietveld and his wife, JoAnn, have four children. Todd lives in Clarks Grove and works with his father in masonry, Byron lives in Phoenix, Amy resides in Andover and Beth lives in Farmington.

There are also six grandchildren.

“I have slowed down, but I hate the word retired,” the creator of so many area fireplaces and masonry projects said.