152-year-old landmark Lanesboro Dam gets a makeover

A view of construction crews working on a structure.
Construction crews begin the rehabilitation of the Lanesboro dam in the spring of 2020.
Courtesy of Jason Resseman

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for Thursday to celebrate the rehabilitation of the Lanesboro Dam, a project that’s been in the works for a decade.

The gravity-arch dam, along the Root River in Lanesboro, is one of only five structures of its kind in the U.S. that still work, according to Lanesboro Mayor Jason Resseman.

It was built in 1868 by craftsmen using massive, dry-stacked limestone blocks. A routine check 12 years ago found some deficiencies in the structure. Rather than remove and replace the historic dam, city leaders opted to take the time to secure state funding to restore the dam.

The actual work began earlier this year. With the help of 3,500 tons of concrete, 5,500 tons of limestone and 5,000 hours, the repair is complete, even ahead of schedule.

A view of construction crews working on a structure.
Crews finish up the construction process of the Lanesboro Dam in September 2020.
Courtesy of Jason Resseman

Resseman said that during the lockdown, the dam project became a point of interest within the community.

“The community took pride in the project and it was really a relief that something positive could go on in the town as we were dealing with the pandemic,” he said.

The dam produces enough hydroelectric power to serve about 10 percent of the city’s homes, but arguably its main role is as a focal point for Lanesboro.

“It's emblematic of our community,” Resseman said. “Pretty much every senior in high school gets a class picture by that dam.”

“I was actually married in front of the dam,” he added.

Resseman says he’d like to make the dam an informational experience for people who visit the community.

“We are thinking of doing some signage throughout the site that talks about the history of the dam, that talks about the hydroelectric and what its capabilities are and how that all works,” he said.

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