Forum editorial: Purchase historic Welk site

"Forum editorial: Purchase historic Welk site." Fargo Forum, 30 June 2013.

Some observers of the North Dakota scene commented last week that Lawrence Welk’s boyhood home near Strasburg won’t cut it as a historical site because many fans of the “champagne music maker” have died off. That’s no reason to dismiss or relegate to obscurity the historical significance of Welk, his music and his boyhood home.

The house and several other buildings on six acres are still owned by the Welk family. The farmstead was restored by private funds after a federal appropriation was withdrawn years ago. Welk family members still give tours. The site is for sale for about $100,000, a modest sum to preserve not only Welk’s legacy but also a part of the history of the German-Russians who settled that region of the state.

Naysayers seem to think it would be bad expenditure. Sen. Joe Miller, R-Park River, who says he’s a Welk fan, nevertheless suggested buying the historical site would be absurd. He’s wrong. What is absurd is refusal to recognize the state’s role in preserving and showcasing its history, however off the beaten path historical sites might be.

Welk was the first recipient of the state’s Theodore Roosevelt Roughrider Award. Obviously he is a historical figure of significance to the state. His music, like it or not, still is heard every week on television and at a popular venue in Branson, Mo.

Furthermore, if attendance at a historical site were the only measure of its worth, several would be shut down. The reality that many of Welk’s fans are older and dying off is not pertinent. And it’s possible that as the years pass, new generations might come to appreciate his rags-to-riches story and his contributions to American music.

History and heritage are not about a popularity contest. The values of a place like the Welk homestead must be measured by other criteria, not the least of which are Welk’s place in both state history and in the national music landscape.

The Historical Society board meets next month to consider the purchase. The board should make an offer, make the sale, and then raise the Welk homestead’s profile as a unique feature of North Dakota’s history and heritage.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller