Albert Lea’s building boom of 1911

Published 9:05 am Saturday, March 14, 2009

Trying to calculate what it could cost to construct a building today based on the actual amount spent nearly a century ago can be an interesting challenge. And what it actually cost to construct four local buildings 98 years ago can provide good examples of the inflation factors.

In 1954, local artist Irv Sorenson’s “Hi-Lites and Shadows of Yesterday and Today,” featured in the Tribune, had as its main theme what he called the building boom of 1911.

That year, the valuation for new construction in the city, according to Sorenson’s research, was $672,000. For his illustrations Sorenson depicted four buildings that represented just over 30 percent of that valuation total. Of those four buildings, two still exist.

Email newsletter signup

One of those well-constructed and sturdy brick and stone structures which existed for about five decades was the Albert Lea High School building, which faced West Avenue and Central Park. This part of the local education system was demolished in the early 1960s. Its replacement structures were demolished in 2006. A park-like area is now at this site.

The second of the four buildings depicted by Sorenson was St. Theodore’s Parochial School. It was located between the church and the American Gas Machine Co. building (now the City Center) on East Clark Street. About 1966, this school building was replaced with the present parking lot and parish house and church offices. In fact, a switch was made for St. Theodore’s layout because the former parish house on the east side of the church was replaced with the present school, Marian Hall and access structure additions.

For each of the four buildings illustrated by Sorenson, the total amount for the construction was shown. An estimate to calculate the present estimated cost for each structure is to just add a few zeros to the 1911 figures.