BISMARCK, North Dakota — North Dakota's Historical Society has drafted an agreement to finalize the purchase of famous band leader Lawrence Welk's boyhood home.
The Historical Society board voted 6-5 last January to buy the Strasburg homestead from Welk's nieces — Evelyn Schwab and Edna Schwab— but the purchase was contingent on negotiated repairs being made to the property, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
State Historical Society Director Claudia Berg said most of the repairs have been competed at the site, and the remainder are slated to be done in the spring. Winter weather delayed some of the repairs. "There is still a list of things to be done but all the issues and everything has been resolved," she said.
The society's board is slated to vote on the agreement next month.
Last year, the Legislature allocated $100,000 for the society's purchase of the 6-acre homestead, but lawmakers stipulated that repairs must be made first.
Al Wolf, a Bismarck attorney representing the Schwab sisters, said the agreement would release $70,000 of state money immediately and another $30,000 when all work is completed.
"All the work will be done by May 31. I'm not worried about that," he said.
The home on the outskirts of the town of about 400 people, many of whom still converse in German, features a life-size cutout of an accordion-wielding Welk. The property also has a barn, summer kitchen, granary, buggy house, blacksmith shop and outhouse.
The historical society envisions the property as a tourist destination to tout the importance of agriculture and the region's German-Russian heritage.
Berg said much of the work that was done by volunteers involved "painting and scraping" and stabilizing the barn.
Volunteers also have pledged to help staff the facility through next summer. After that, it will be the state's responsibility. Berg said the Historical Society is requesting $134,000 over the next two years for maintenance and to pay part-time staff.
The Schwabs have said the site drew more than 7,000 people in 1992, but attendance has since slipped to only a few hundred per year.
Welk left Strasburg at age 21 to start a musical career that took him from dance halls in the Dakotas to national television. He became known as the "King of Champagne Music" for his bubbly dance tunes and added to the national lexicon with his heavily German-accented phrases, "Ah-one, an' ah-two" and "wunnerful, wunnerful."
The Schwabs have given tours of the farmstead since it was restored with private funds in the early 1990s. Welk donated about $140,000 for the restoration before his death in 1992 at age 89.
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