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Katie Haun Schuring: The Preservationist

Colin Michael Simmons

Colin Michael Simmons

City Pages' People Issue celebrates people making Minnesota a better place.

Katie Haun Schuring can’t hide it.

Her eyes light up, her cadence accelerates. She’s talking about old Minnesota architecture—homes, towers, mills, warehouses, bridges, whatever. Her earnest, enthused passion for the physical past is obvious.

“I think it’s just fascinating,” the 35-year-old beams at a south Minneapolis coffee shop. “Architecture and history marry each other so well. The physical stuff you get to see tells the story. It’s tangible. That’s the beauty of the built environment.”

Haun Schuring’s story began in tiny, close-knit Forest City, Iowa. Dreams of being an architect brought her to Central College outside of Des Moines. But, while studying abroad in London, a professor steered Haun Schuring toward preservation.

“Who are the people that lived there, and what was their story? That sorta hooked me,” she says. “People want to touch the past. They want to be part of it.”

After earning a master’s degree in historical preservation at Ball State University, Haun Schuring worked in urban planning in Olathe, Kansas, before landing a job as a historian at a Minneapolis engineering/architecture firm. Two years ago, the Minnesota Department of Transportation hired her to helm its historical bridge program. If a bridge is over 50 years old and might need rehabbing or demolition, she’s all over it.

Haun Schuring is also president of Preserve Minneapolis, a nonprofit dedicated to championing historical architecture that launched in 2003. It engages the public through forums, lectures, and walking tours. There are also “Evening Exploration” events, where happy hour dovetails into tours of spaces that are often unavailable to the public—e.g. the Pillsbury A Mill and the Grain Exchange Building’s trading floor.

“It’s a group of people who really value history and really value the built environment. They just get fired up about it,” Haun Schuring says. “It’s about educating, respecting, and celebrating our cultural history.”

That includes advocacy. Preserve Minneapolis consults with the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission and issues statements on hotly debated topics like the razing of Nye’s Polonaise Room and the 2040 Plan, though the group doesn’t exclusively rebuke developers.

“Most history can get contentious when someone wants to keep something and someone wants to tear it down. That’s just the nature of it,” Haun Schuring says. “You can make development and preservation work together. You just have to find common ground.”

Asked about her favorite Minneapolis landmarks, Haun Schuring name-checks the usual suspects—the Foshay Tower, the Grain Exchange, the Stone Arch Bridge. She’s wistful about the grand estates the city has lost to the wrecking ball, like the ones detailed in Larry Millett’s essential book Once There Were Castles.

Mostly, though, Haun Schuring loves eyeballing Minneapolis’ houses from the early 20th century. Ones like her 1912 Kingfield home.

“I love walking around the city because there are just so many cute little houses,” she says. “And they’re not National Register eligible. These aren’t high examples of pristine buildings, but they’re places people live and breathe and where you go home to. That’s the heart of the city. It’s being part of that living history.” 

Click here to read other profiles from this year's City Pages People Issue