Breathing new life

The Parker Center, first envisioned in the 1930s and finalized in 1948, was once a grand old hotel. It even housed then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower during the construction of the Garrison Dam in the 1950s. But there was a difference in style in 1986 when the Minot Commission on Aging acquired the ground floor for the Parker Senior Center. An $800,000 renovation effort, though, will remove some of the institutional look to invite a warmer, more welcoming atmosphere.

The budget encompasses $600,000 for the base renovations with an additional $200,000 for bringing in new furniture, according to Roger Reich, the executive director of the Minot Commission on Aging.

Of first concern, he said, is the lobby area. Natural lighting is the goal, and a large storage closet to the left when people walk in will be one of the first things to go. There are additional windows behind that wall, which will stream light through the lobby and then through the stained-glass windows into the banquet room.

That room, with metal institutional chairs, a gaudy, colorful floral-print carpet and drop ceilings can be much more useful, Reich believes.

“Our banquet room will update from floor to ceiling to better utilize the area we have,” Reich told The Minot Daily News on Saturday. “Break it up … to smaller meeting rooms or open it up to larger groups as needed.”

He pointed to some concept drawings set up in the room. One is a classic picture of the hotel, the others in a free, 1950s-drawing style.

“I think in the ’80s the theory was ‘let’s put in a false ceiling and put in fluorescent lights and carpeting.’ Really that may have been the economical way of doing things but now there are so many new options,” he said of the stylistic changes. “It’s (the future look) still economical but it will give it a new, more regal look.”

“We want to bring back some of … the characteristics of the center as it was when it was a hotel,” he added. “Bring it back to that renaissance look.”

The decision was made about a year ago to update the facility.

At the time, board members were looking into whether they wanted to stay in the Parker at all or move to a new place. But, in the end they decided the agency should stay in the historic building.

“It’s a good location for the senior center,” Reich said, citing the downtown location and the fact that the senior center had always been downtown.

Walking through the Parker Center Coffee Shop, where a portrait of hotel founder Clarence Parker hangs across the hallway from a 1986 article from The Minot Daily News on the building, Reich mourns the unfortunate carpeting decision and envisions, instead, alternating 1950s-style tile flooring. For one thing, he said, the carpeting is so colorful that it’s hard to match with furniture, and he would like to keep the feeling of a classic diner with swivel stools set against a druggist-style counter.

The stools will remain.

The fluorescent lights will go and will be replaced by hanging lights and sconces, and the room will be opened up to the billiard room

Other updates will include modernizing the nurse’s station where seniors can obtain health services, and changes to the look of the main entrance. The awning, with a corner damaged by a truck striking it, will also be fixed.

The Minot Commission on Aging serves seniors 60-years-old or older with home-delivered meals, congregate meals, frozen meals, foot clinics, health screening, information and referrals, and homemaker services, according to a brochure.

The Minot Commission on Aging has expanded from providing those services for the Minot area in 1973 to covering seven counties in the north central portion of the state. In the last year about 130,000 meals have been served at the Minot site and 28 other meal sites in Burke, Renville, McHenry, Mountrail, Ward and Pierce counties, with 85,000 meals served in Minot alone.

“We’re not just asking other people to give money but we’ve actually set aside money ourselves to help renovate the building,” Reich said on funding the project.

The commission itself has set aside $250,000 for the project and is currently in the process of applying for public grants. Members of the public who wish to donate to the cause of renovating the Parker can do so on the Minot Commission on Aging’s website ( or call 852-0561.