Cook County Historical Society--planning for Bally Blacksmith Shop and more

Since Cook County purchased the historic Bally’s Blacksmith Shop in August 2013, great strides have been made toward funding restoration of the building, thanks to many generous donations. Museum Director Carrie McHugh was happy to visit with the Cook County News-Herald about plans for the building after the historical society board accepted the latest donation of $5,000 from the Grand Marais Lions Club on Tuesday, November 5, 2013.
The Lions Club donation brings the total raised for the historical society’s Bally Blacksmith Shop fund to $16,000. Much of the money was donated to the Eric Thomas Memorial Fund, in honor of the Cook County High School Class of 1975 graduate who died May 15, 2013 and whose family earmarked memorials for the old blacksmith shop.
The long range goal is clean out the shop on Broadway Avenue, as well as the more modern metal building behind it, and to stabilize the old wooden building so it can be open to the public as an interpretive site. However, that will take some time, said McHugh.
And funding. The historical society has applied for two grants. If received, the first grant from the Minnesota Historical Society Legacy funds would be used to hire someone to create an inventory of all the items inside the two buildings. “They are packed full of stuff,” said McHugh.
Once all the materials are cataloged and appropriately stored, the historical society hopes to stabilize the old building. Doug Seim of Artikos Construction has completed a scope of work for the blacksmith shop, identifying historically appropriate ways to restore the building—its roof, chimney, siding, a loft in the interior. The historical society has applied for a grant from the Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation for that work.
Historical Society Board Member Gene Erickson said the society hopes to raise at least $20,000 to match the IRRRB grant. That is why the Lions Club donation was so important, said McHugh.
“We had such a positive response last spring,” she said, “We want to keep momentum going.”
Cook County will own the Bally Blacksmith Shop property and the Cook County Historical Society will maintain and manage it. The partnership between the county and the historical society is a continuation of what has been in place since 1966 when the historical society began managing the county’s Lighthouse Keeper’s Residence Museum property on Broadway Avenue.
McHugh noted that the Bally Blacksmith Shop is just one of the historical society’s sites. The historical society recently completed a planning project for its four sites—the Lightkeeper’s Museum, the Chippewa City Church, the Neegee and Fish House replica, and now the Bally Blacksmith Shop.
Lake Superior Coastal funding supported the planning, which continues on Saturday, November 16 at the historical museum at 8 South Broadway from 1 - 4 p.m. The historical society is hosting an open house to see what is envisioned for each site. McHugh said the public is invited to come view site plan alternatives and if interested, join a task force for one of the sites. “We want people to participate, to help create a direction for each of these places,” said McHugh.
Anyone who is interested can learn more by calling the historical society at (218) 387-2883 or emailing Information is also available at