Young crews restore historic Forest Service ranger station near Ely

Halfway Ranger Station lodge (Photo courtesy Northern Bedrock Historic Preservation Corps)

The Halfway Ranger Station has a long and varied history. The cluster of buildings on the South Kawishiwi River was built by Civilian Conservation Corps crews in the 1930s, used as a Superior National Forest ranger station, and then a Forest Service research facility.

They were almost torn down in the 2010, but were instead saved to serve as a training center for the Northern Bedrock Historic Preservation Corps. After the nonprofit group restored the station’s buildings, it today hosts young people who come to learn the skills they need to  rehabilitate historic structures.

The site comprises 12 buildings and structures, including seven that were built by the CCC in 1934 and 1935, in the depths of the Great Depression, and one that is the oldest remaining building on the Superior National Forest.

“The historical significance of the buildings relates to the quality and workmanship of their construction, and the representation of various styles of log and framed construction characteristic of an historical era,” Northern Bedrock says.

The buildings were most recently used by the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, where scientists studied wolves, fire, and other topics. But the disintegrating buildings, many infested with bats, were deemed no longer usable in 2011. To facilitate Northern Bedrock’s restoration and management of the site, the Halfway Ranger Station was designated as a National Historic District in 2012.

Northern Bedrock is an Americorps program, working with people 18-25 years old. The young adults receive a living stipend and educational award after a six-month field season working on historic sites and structures across Minnesota. The crews work eight days followed by six days off, camping together onsite or nearby the work project.

Tradespeople in various fields provide technical training and work directly with corpsmembers. Participants receive hands-on training in carpentry, masonry, log building restoration, plaster, cemetery restoration, and more.

The program is similar in ways to the CCC program that originally built the station. Northern Bedrock is currently accepting applications for the 2019 season.

The public is invited to an open house at the site on Saturday, February 2 to learn about its history, the restoration, and Northern Bedrock. From noon to 3 p.m., there will be tours, a bonfire, and the opportunity to explore the property on snowshoes. Complete details about the open house are available here.

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