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Cozy Theater among buildings considered for demolition

One of the buildings in Pine River recently considered for destruction, known as the Eastern Star building, was once a source of news and entertainment for the city.

Joe Zigmund constructed the split-level building in 1915. Its initial purpose was to house the Pine River Sentinel-Blaze in the basement and a silent film theater called The Cozy Theater in the top. Elmer Dahl published the Blaze, and two brothers from Walker operated the theater.

The theater showed four silent films a day at an admission price of 15 cents.

During construction on the Pine River School in 1920-21, the building became a temporary classroom to grades three and four.

Within recent memory, the building was used as a Masonic Lodge and Eastern Star chapter. That use ended in 2009.

This property is one of three parcels recently proposed for destruction to create parking on the Barclay Avenue/Highway 371 corner. The other two parcels house a former dry cleaning building and the Pinewood Café. These three parcels were to be converted to parking with the condition that the adjacent lot currently occupied by the former Tom Thumb building was purchased and that the city was awarded a Department of Employment and Economic Development grant to pay for the demolition and property development.

However, the city did not receive the grant. Earlier this month, the Pine River City Council learned that Family Dollar was still interested in the nearby corner lot, and demolition of the Cozy Theater and two other buildings would not be necessary under the new plan.

Some history buffs in Pine River have reservations about the possible demolition of the Cozy Theater building. Pine River’s Heritage Group North historical preservation group has not made any official group statement or taken any official stance, though group vice president Alan Johnson commented independently.

“I just hope that all the potential uses for the building are considered before it is leveled,” Johnson said. “From our position, through my involvement with Heritage Group North, I’ve heard dozens of people bemoan the destruction of buildings that used to stand in Pine River. There’s always so much moaning and groaning and wailing after the fact. Let’s make sure we get all the concerns up front and if it does have to be torn down, then at least nobody can complain they weren’t heard or that an option wasn’t considered.”

Johnson said he understands that alternatives to demolition might be difficult to find, partially because it would be difficult to make the building comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“The problem is, nobody does have a specific repurposing in mind for right now; however, if the building stands there for another five years, it isn’t hurting anything, and maybe someone will come up with something,” Johnson said. “This might be a challenge to repurpose because of the way it has been built. I would understand that.”

Johnson said he would still like to see the building saved unless the parking is absolutely needed.

“I just hope all the alternatives are explored and nothing is torn down until firm commitments are in place. Evidently that’s the city’s intent also,” Johnson said.