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10 years and counting: Historic Dayton House to mark milestone on Monday

The Historic Dayton House, shown Friday, is celebrating its 10th anniversary Monday with a summer picnic event from 5 to 7 p.m. (Robin Baumgarn/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON — It’s been 10 years since the completion of the Historic Dayton House’s restoration, and — especially when you’re 124 years old — that merits a party.

“We’re absolutely thrilled about the 10th anniversary of the Historic Dayton House’s rebirth as a restored home and community gathering place, and we believe this is a significant milestone worth celebrating,” said Teresa Widboom, chair of the house’s board of directors.

From 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, supporters of the historic property and interested members of the general public are invited to attend the Historic Dayton House’s 10th Anniversary Summer Picnic, which features a tasty menu of barbecued pork sandwiches, potato salad, baked beans and dessert.

“We had a similar event last August when our historic marker sign was dedicated, and it was very well received by everyone who attended,” said Colleen Bents, house manager.

“Worthington and the surrounding area are so fortunate to have such a unique and lovely venue as the Dayton House, and Monday night is a great opportunity to enjoy and honor it.”

In the fall of 2001, Historic Worthington Inc. gained the financial support and blessing of Bruce B. Dayton, a grandson of George D. Dayton and the father of Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, and in 2002 work began on restoring the dilapidated house to its former glory.

“In looking back, it [the Historic Dayton House] was definitely something we needed to preserve,” said Darlene Macklin, executive director of the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce and a member of the original house board.

“We did everything properly in order to return it as closely as possible to its original state, and it took a lot of volunteer time, dedicated people and a major financial commitment to make it happen,” she added.

“Many people probably don’t realize the amount of time invested in the project, and, going forward, how much money it takes to maintain the house.”

Bents, Widboom and the other staff and board members are actively seeking more members — people who are willing to give a portion of their dollars on an annual basis to keep the Historic Dayton House operating and well maintained — as well as volunteers, not to mention those who will engage the house for events and guest suite rentals.

“The Dayton House is still underutilized, I think, and I’m surprised that more people here don’t think to rent a guest suite as a one-of-a-kind place to put up their out of town company, or that businesses with visiting professionals don’t use it more in that way,” said Mike Woll, another original board member and past board chair.

“I’d encourage people to think of reasons to rent the house because it’s a tremendous gift to have it in our community and such a tribute to the legacy of the Dayton family.”

Macklin concurs.

“For Worthington, the Dayton House has been a great asset over the past 10 years, not only to preserve a portion of the town’s history from one family’s perspective but also because we are able to market it to tour buses and other tour groups,” Macklin explained.

“We have a limited number of historic sites here, and it has been a wonderful attraction for our local tourism industry,” she continued. “When we bring in a convention or meeting, the Dayton House is always something we highlight because it is unique to Worthington.

“Historic buildings are always a big draw for tourism, and really, we should try to preserve more of them here.”

Because the Historic Dayton House is a non-profit organization that is dependent on private donations, memberships and event and guest suite rentals, the ongoing support and involvement of individuals is critical to its future success, Widboom notes.

“We feel it is important for people to support the house and strongly consider investing in its future by becoming members,” she endorsed.

And if a 10-year anniversary offers an excuse to show off the property and get more people involved, all the better, says Woll.

“I’m still dazzled by the house,” he admitted. “The shine hasn’t gone off it for me. It has such a rich history associated with it and is an important part of our town’s heritage, and the Dayton family was on the forefront of the corporate philanthropic effort, both in Minnesota and nationally, and really demonstrated what it means to be a responsible corporate citizen.”

Whether celebrated for its history or its role as a tourist attraction, most can agree the Historic Dayton House remains a special place.

“Have you seen it on our new billboard along I-90 near Sherburn?” asked Macklin. “It’s encouraging to see the community continue using and supporting the house, and carrying out the vision of a few people who made it what it is today.”

Tickets remain available for the Historic Dayton House’s 10th Anniversary Summer Picnic, 5-7 p.m. Monday at 1311 Fourth Ave., Worthington. Tickets may be purchased at the Daily Apple, 207 10th St., Worthington, or reserve meal(s) by calling 727-1311 or emailing Tickets may also be purchased at the door.