Under the dome in Minnesota?: How a futuristic dome city was nearly built in Aitkin County – Bemidji Pioneer

An enormous motive for that was Terry Mejdrich.

"It was completely impractical for the time," Mejdrich stated. "I imply, they have been going to dome the city, however dome it with what? The know-how wasn't accessible to construct a dome a quarter mile in diameter and doubtless 400 or 500 toes excessive."

Mejdrich was a younger math trainer when he began listening to rumors about the Minnesota Experimental City, or MXC. It was proposed by Athelstan Spilhaus — a well-known inventor, meteorologist and futurist, who ran the Institute of Know-how at the College of Minnesota.

Athelstan Spilhaus (Courtesy of the University of Minnesota Archives 1932)

Spilhaus wished to construct a complete city designed for scientific development. It will home 250,000 folks in ever-altering modular buildings. There could be monorail techniques and transferring walkways. The city was presupposed to be self-sustaining, so plans concerned excessive-rise parking garages full of beef cattle, and a energy plant.

All of this is able to be built below a huge geodesic dome, proper on prime of Mejdrich's hometown of Swatara, Minn.

"At first I did not imagine it," Mejdrich stated. "It sounded loopy."

However Ford, Boeing and Honeywell had all invested. So had the state Legislature. It was anticipated to value $four billion. It gave the impression of a positive factor, and Mejdrich didn't wish to stay below a dome.

"It was sort of overwhelming," he stated. "I am a farm child. I am extra snug choosing up a shotgun and heading for the woods."

At simply 26 years outdated, he led a group of mates and neighbors to battle the experimental city. Tons of joined him. They rented buses and protested in St. Paul. A few of them even made indicators, and marched 170 miles from Swatara to the state Capitol constructing.

They usually received. In 1973 the Minnesota Air pollution Management Company voted to desert the mission amid native opposition and issues about value and feasibility.

Mejdrich nonetheless lives on a piece of his household's homestead down the street from Swatara. It was at all times small however today, the unincorporated group is wanting fairly sparse.

There are about a dozen properties. The final retailer, the place a youthful Mejdrich purchased his groceries, went below the in the 1980s. The outdated church constructing is being auctioned off by the county, and the Swatara faculty is empty. Most of the home windows are busted out. For awhile, someone used it as a makeshift horse barn.

A missed alternative?

Mejdrich sees the lack of domes and transferring walkways as a victory for the local people. Not everybody agrees.

Richard Fleming owns the outdated Swatara faculty. He was residing in Detroit Lakes however purchased the place final yr after studying about the 1970s experimental city goals on-line. He and his spouse are homeschooling a few of their 10 youngsters in a pair of trailer homes out entrance, whereas they renovate.

The Swatara school has been empty for years. (John Enger | MPR News)

"They have been going to construct a dome over the city," he stated. "It was simply the excellent sci-fi setting."

For Fleming, the concept of the dome city nonetheless resonates. If they can not stay below a dome, he stated residing in a place the place a dome was nearly built is the subsequent neatest thing.

The closest working enterprise to Swatara is a bar about 4 miles away, referred to as the Nook Membership. The poster behind the bar dates again to the 1980s. It reveals a mannequin holding a bottle of Schmidt lager. Her crop prime T-shirt reads "Sincere to Minnesota."

Science educator and author Sharon Moen talked to folks at the Nook Membership a few years in the past, whereas researching a guide "With Tomorrow in Thoughts" on Athelstan Spilhaus. She understands why the dome city was a robust promote. Even so, she thinks it was as a missed alternative.

Spilhaus was striving to excellent the trendy city, and he or she stated, he acquired actually shut. We had simply landed on the moon, why not construct a city below a dome in rural Aitkin County?

However by the early '70s that religion in science was dwindling, and never simply in Swatara.

Moen stated what occurred Swatara continues to be taking place throughout the nation. She stated it is taking part in out again and again on the information — in stump speeches to coal miners.

"It is folks which can be so afraid of adjusting their lives, or livelihoods," she stated. "Gripping on as laborious as they will to one thing that's crumbling. There's going to be nothing to carry on to. It may be rotted."

At four p.m. on a current Thursday a handful of native guys relaxed at The Nook Membership. The bar does not inventory Schmidt anymore so Herb Stansberry drinks Bud Gentle. He talked about the outdated days, like when the Schmidt beer lady on the poster got here to the bar and signed copies. And when a bunch of lecturers from the cities tried to construct a dome over Swatara.

"No, I did not need it," he stated. "What the hell would I would like it for? I'd have moved out of right here if it occurred. If I wished to stay in a friggin city I would transfer to a city."

Stansberry admitted Swatara has seen higher days, however stated it is nonetheless higher than some huge city — particularly one below a dome.

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Under the dome in Minnesota?: How a futuristic dome city was nearly built in Aitkin County - Bemidji Pioneer