History of The Grand

A Brief History of the Grand

The Grand dates back over 150 years when the first hotel on this property was built. Over the years, buildings have been destroyed, rebuilt, changed hands, and served various purposes significant to the New Ulm and greater Brown County, Minnesota region.

1856 - 1899

MN Haus & Union Hotel

In 1856, Phillip Heinrich Gross built the first of three hotels on the property where The Grand Center for Arts & Culture stands today. Inspired by his own roots and the heritage of New Ulm as a heavily German-populated city, he named this two-story wood frame building the Minnesota Haus. In 1860, the original hotel was destroyed by fire. Gross immediately began plans to rebuild a larger wooden structure in its’ place, which he named the Union Hotel. Located in the heart of New Ulm, the hotel soon became a bustling attraction in the city. The second floor was used as a dance hall and held theatricals at one time and the building even served as a make-shift hospital during the U.S. – Dakota War of 1862. FUN FACT: one of the doctors who cared for the injured during the Dakota War was William Worrall Mayo, who sons went on to found the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

1900 - 1950's

The Grand Hotel

Like the Minnesota Haus, the Union Hotel was also destroyed by fire on July 5, 1875. Not to be deterred, Gross immediately began construction on a new two-story structure, this time made from brick rather than wood. Architect Julius Berndt, who also designed the Hermann Monument in New Ulm, was hired to design the new hotel. Gross operated the Union Hotel until his retirement in 1885. After Peter Manderfeld purchased the property in 1899, the building underwent through renovations. In addition to adding a third floor, he also upgraded heating, plumbing, and lighting fixtures. The property also was given a new name: The Grand Hotel. After the renovations were complete, the exterior appeared as we recognize it today. The Grand Hotel had 30 sleeping rooms, an office, a new kitchen, and large dining room which occupied half of the first floor. And there was originally a saloon where the Kabaret now stands.


Transitional Years 1950's - 2000

The Grand Hotel

The building continued to serve travelers visiting the New Ulm area well into the 20th century, primarily as a hotel and restaurant. However, unable to compete with the amenities of more modern hotels, the building eventually fell out of use as a hotel in the 1970s. It changed owners several times and at one time was a boarding house, a fudge and frame shop, a barbershop, a laundromat, and even housed apartments. A radio station (KNUJ) was also located on the second floor, while the third floor was completely vacant. A century of repurposing the various spaces took its toll on the structure, and many areas were unrecognizable or had fallen into disrepair. The Grand was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 21, 1990.

2000 - Present Day

The Grand Center for Arts & Culture

In 2000, Anne G. Makepeace, the great-great granddaughter of Philip H. Gross, purchased the building along with members of her family. One year later, the family began restoring the building to its original beauty. In 2009 a non-profit was formed and the organization worked with Citizens Bank and the community to begin the process of a complete renovation. A four-story elevator addition was added for accessibility. Ultimately, the building was owned by the nonprofit and was wholly converted into The Grand Center for Arts & Culture, Inc.

Christine Carmichael, designer extraordinaire, put in hundreds of hours on the re-design of The Grand spaces and helped inform the transformation of the building. The building features many “green” efficiencies, including LED lights throughout, locally sourced materials, and energy efficient heating and cooling units. The renovated and restored building now serves as an arts and cultural center with four floors of space.  A back deck was also added where community events and live music can be held. When entering through the back of the building, you will also notice the large back donor wall which features individuals and businesses who have contributed $500 or more to The Grand.

The Grand Tour

1st Floor

The first floor houses The Grand Kabaret, which holds live music events regularly, most of which are free to the public (donations greatly appreciated!). There is also a kitchen, a historic bar, and an Artisan Gift Shop featuring the work of local artists that opened in the fall of 2017.

2nd Floor

The 4 Pillars Gallery, with major funding from the New Ulm Area Foundation, is located on the second floor and holds about ten art show exhibits each year. The Grand and New Ulm Area Foundation offices are also located on the second floor. This is also where we conduct many of our classes, including music lessons in our music studio and art classes in the Citizens Bank Arts Education Area.

3rd Floor

The third floor still has the original doors and layout from 1899. The former sleeping rooms have been converted into studios for artists and several of the rooms were combined to create a modern one-bedroom apartment and a separate two room sleeping studio.  Both are available for artists-in-residence, visiting teaching artists, as well as overnight guests via Airbnb.


Because after two fires the thrifty Germans utilized the foundation from the original structure, much of the basement dates back to the 1850’s. The newest addition to The Grand Center for Arts and Culture is a letterpress & printmaking studio in the basement, appropriately named The Cellar Press. This area is used for our artist-in-residence program, and for classes and demonstrations of these ancient art forms.

Outdoor Space

The property features a grassy area out back with several raised-bed gardens and a mural that was created by a local artist in 2018. Many of our own Creativity Camp and Children’s Painting Class participants have also contributed artwork to our backyard. 

Creativity Camp participants with their hubcap flowers along the fence in The Grand's backyard.
Mural on The Grand's back deck.

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