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Northern Research Station
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726
(608) 231-9318
(608) 231-9544 TTY/TDD

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Halfway Ranger Station

The USDA Forest Service’s Halfway Ranger Station, which is located on the Kawishiwi Experimental Forest near Ely, Minn., has a long and storied history, first with the Superior National Forest and then as a site of Forest Service research.  However, the 105-year-old site has not been used for Forest Service research in over 20 years and there is not a current research need for the complex. Until 2012, other research organizations had used the buildings periodically, but the condition of the buildings deteriorated too much for them to continue operations and the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station could not justify the expense of rehabilitating the buildings or supporting operating costs. In 2010, the NRS released an Environmental Assessment (EA) that analyzed six alternatives for disposition of the buildings at the site. The proposed action identified at that time was demolition after architectural documentation. Residents of the Ely area as well as representatives of the Minnesota Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) opposed the proposal due to the structures’ historic significance and popularity as a familiar feature of the forest landscape.

Northern Bedrock Historic Preservation Corps

In response to the concerns voiced by the community and SHPO, the Northern Research Station began exploring other options for the future of the Halfway Ranger Station. The only viable opportunity that emerged was an adaptive re-use plan from a non-governmental organization called Northern Bedrock Historic Preservation Corps (Northern Bedrock). 

To facilitate the adaptive re-use by Northern Bedrock, the Northern Research Station formally nominated the site for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district. The period of historic significance for the site is from 1931-1961.  At that time, the site was referred to as the Halfway Ranger Station (HRS), which is the name by which it is now referred and listed.  Listing occurred in November 2011. The site is listed as a nationally significant historic district.

In 2015, the Northern Research Station executed a Participating Agreement with Northern Bedrock and the organization began preliminary rehabilitation efforts. A Minnesota Historical Society Legacy grant was awarded to Northern Bedrock to contract for architectural drawings and specifications for the Phase 1 rehabilitation of Halfway Ranger Station, as detailed in the Adaptive Re-Use Plan. The architectural drawings will be used to apply for further funding to carry-out the construction projects necessary at the site.

Current Activities

Halfway is continually used as a training ground for Northern Bedrock Crews. During the organization’s 2017 Field Season, crews were given basic tool, log building maintenance, Leave No Trace, and safety training at the complex along with completing several maintenance projects including, building cleaning, site stabilization, insect prevention, and brush burning.

Next Steps

Northern Bedrock plans to continue working to secure funding for the rehabilitation of the buildings. The organization is working closely with the State Historic Preservation Office and the Minnesota Historical Society Grants Office. The 2018 Field Season will see more training at Halfway Ranger Station and an increase in maintenance tasks. Preliminary work will begin on community outreach, research and documenting the history of the site for future interpretation. 

Last Modified: 03/13/2018