This amazing building, built in 1916 began romantically as an Opera Palace. When Doctor William Bessesen fell in love with the beautiful, internationally acclaimed opera singer, Miss Beatrice Gjersten, he spared no expense to create this stately structure with classic charm to showcase her talents.

Beatrice taught singing and acting in the conservatory on the second floor and performed in the theater below. The building has since been home to the Rivoli movie theater, a tea house, YWCA club rooms and much more. Currently, it houses Studio 1, The Art Incubator, Inkfish Inc.,  Kids College and the Freeborn County Arts Initiative.

The Historic Bessesen Building, located at 224 South Broadway in Albert Lea, Minnesota, is a National Historic Landmark, and a contributing property in the National Registered Historic District. Designed by St. Paul architects Cederberg and Van Kirk, the building has a fantastic French Renaissance style facade.

Restoring a building of this size requires a serious commitment. For America to have a rich architectural and cultural history in the future, we really have to make an effort now.

We are determined to succeed. Our building has inspired many. We know it could inspire many more. We need your help to get it done.

We propose to save and restore The Historic Bessesen Opera Palace, an elegant, one-of-a-kind, arts and wellness hub. This beautiful, high-style French Renaissance building is located in the heart of the historic business district in downtown Albert Lea, Minnesota. Built in 1916, the Bessesen was designed as a marriage proposal for the world-famous, Minnesota, opera prima donna Beatrice Gjertsen Bessesen.


Though ravaged by time and neglect, The Bessesen still displays beautiful historic references such as oak floors, mahogany trim, 1920s stained glass, ceramic tile fireplaces, and clear-story small paned vertical windows set in a symmetrical brick and stone facade. The functional part of the building is currently used to promote the arts regionally, hold classes and special events, and encourage diversity through cultural outreach and general health and wellness programming.


We propose to revive and rehabilitate this building, returning it to its original grandeur, mindful of environmental impact, using green technology discreetly to power the structure and offer it as an example of how recycling historic elements and using turn-of-the-century colors and design can meld seamlessly with the practical repurposing of this architectural gem.

Marv Schulz

Marv Schulz

Master Carpenter

Marv began his carpentry career in 1970 restoring homes that others were afraid to touch. His experience with historic restoration and his pioneering energy efficiency building in the area makes him an excellent choice for work on The Bessesen. Marv’s Custom Woodworking is heading up the restoration of our windows, trim, and other carpentry needs.

Jason Tieskotter

Jason Tieskotter

Electrical Engineer

Jason Tieskotter, owner of Southern Minnesota Electric, and his team recently brought electricity to the second, third, and fourth floors of the building for the first time since 1958. Restoring hundred-year-old wiring is a task that requires planning and a comprehensive approach. Jason, Ryan, Matt and Joe at SME have excelled at their work reviving parts of the building long unusable.

Elisha Marin

Elisha Marin

Restore the Building Foundation

Elisha is a musician, artist, and founding member of the Freeborn County Arts Initiative. He has worked with the FCAI and on the building restoration project as a grant coordinator. He has also offered his expertise in marketing by placing his graphic design company Inkfish Inc. at our disposal. As well as creating his first album, Elisha is currently documenting each step of the restoration process and is researching the deep historical roots he has unearthed.

Susanne Crane

Susanne Crane

Project Manager

Susanne Crane is the project manager and owner of the Historic Bessesen. Susanne saved the building from condemnation in 2006 and has since worked tirelessly to promote the project and invest in the arts community in Southern Minnesota. She is a painter, poet, author, and educator. Her artwork can be found at

As of January 2020, we have accomplished key goals in each part of our project. The building was acquired and the basement, foundation, and part of the roof were stabilized. With the help of a Worth County Development Authority grant, we successfully restored electricity to the upper floors, plus rebuilt four windows in 2018. We have also refinished, plastered, painted and replaced several historical elements in the basement, on the first floor, and in the third floor apartment. We are seeking financial support to continue our efforts and completely revive this inspiring example of turn-of-the-century French Renaissance architecture.

All donations are tax deductible. Donate securely online via PayPal.

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