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Historical bandshell finds new home

By Nancy Leasman

After a story on bandstands came out in the Senior Perspective (Runestone, Nov. 2020), we learned of another historic bandstand in the area. This one had a full life in a community park and then found a new home on an area farm.

The Henning bandstand now sits on the Dan Broten farm. Dan’s family affectionately refers to it as “The Dan Stand.” Photo by Dan Broten

The bandstand was built around 1920 at the Henning City Park in Henning. The farmhouse on the land where it took up residence decades later was built around the same time. Dan Broten, current resident on that farm, made the decision to acquire and move the bandstand when the city was considering options to remove it.

In the early part of the 20th century, Henning had what they called a coronet band. The brass instruments, held by the musicians who played them, were featured in a W. T. Oxley photograph from that time. The musicians stood in front of the newly constructed bandstand. This photo is among those published in a book, Photos by Oxley, Historic Images of West Central Minnesota published by the Otter Tail County Historical Society.

The bandstand was built to be 24 foot (in diameter) octagon. It was (and still is) two stories high, which was unusual for bandstands. The upper story provided the expected space for bands and other gatherings. The lower story, though only had a dirt floor and seven-foot head clearance. It offered concession space and windows through which to serve refreshments.

As so often happened, the bandstand was used for decades and then fell into disrepair.

In the meantime, Dan’s maternal grandparents moved to a farm just a few miles from Henning and the city bandstand. They added an indoor bathroom and kitchen to the small farmhouse.

Dan’s mother, oldest of seven daughters, grew up there and graduated from the Henning high school in 1950.

In the mid 1960s, a living room, master bedroom and tuck-under garage provided even more space. Aunts, uncles, grandchildren/cousins all came to spend summers at the Minnesota farm. Winter visits provided a challenging sledding hill for those brave enough to try it.

In 2016, Dan Broten bought the Henning bandstand and had it moved to his farm, located near Henning. Photo by Dan Broten

Dan, a freelance photographer and admitted space geek, was among the grandchildren who reveled in the contrast between his Chicago home and that of this Minnesota wonderland. They loved the rolling hills, the oak trees, the granary that doubled as a club house, and the huge dark night skies.

“In 1969, I watched the astronauts land on the moon (on TV) from the (farm’s) living room floor,” Dan said.

In 1980, with no one in the family in position to take over the farm, it was sold. Eighteen years later, the farm came up for sale again. Dan, his brothers and their parents pooled their resources and the farm came back into the family. It wasn’t until 2005 that Dan’s parents moved to the farm from Chicago.

Dan was the kid who always had an instamatic camera in hand. His 5th grade teacher set up a darkroom in which the young photographers could develop their own photos. In high school he was on the year book staff. These interests, along with art courses at Columbia College and a photo-journalism class with Pulitzer Prize Winner John White, led to a 30-year career as a freelance photographer and assistant. With home base in Chicago, it took him all over the world working on corporate annual reports, catalogs, Clydesdale horse projects for Budweiser, and spreads for publications including the National Geographic. He traveled to all 50 states, South America, Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, and Russia. The little boy who watched the moon landing in 1969 grew up to cover Russia’s Soyuz launch in 2013 when Minnesota’s Karen Nyberg launched to the International Space Station.

Freelance work meant that Dan might work on-location for a month to six weeks and then have several weeks off. The flexibility allowed for significant amounts of time at the Minnesota farm, too.

Dan Broten at work at the Henning Landmark Center in Henning. Broten has been the organization’s director for about six years. Photo by Nancy Leasman

Dan’s years on the road made him value his connections to Minnesota, the land, and the buildings on the land. “You appreciate being home, clean water, the fact that traffic rules are obeyed, and that you’re not living under a corrupt government,” he said. “Life is pretty good here.”

In 2015, Dan had the opportunity to become the director of Henning’s Landmark Center. That’s when he made Henning his permanent home.

In 2016, Dan bought the Henning bandstand for $1,011 and prepared to move it to the farm.

“I hired a house mover. They ran two 40 foot I-beams though the windows and picked it up and drove it down the road. We had to cut the decorative wooden spire on the peak because it was too high for power lines.” Utility workers were also there to be sure there were no problems as the structure slowly traversed less than three miles to its new location.

Dan had used computer imaging to help decide where to place the bandstand. After it was in position, being held temporarily on stacked cribbing, he found he liked the added height and added four rows of concrete blocks under it. It now sits 30 inches higher than it did in the park. It received new shingles, a new stairway, and new window coverings. A little paint, and it should be good for another 100-years.

Dan’s family refers to this unusual farm building as “The Dan Stand.” The deck upon which Hubert Humphrey once stood to give a speech to the community is now available for star gazing by Dan’s extended family. And if Dan times it right, he might just catch a photo of the space station as it streaks high overhead.

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