BISMARCK – The State Historical Board voted 6-5 Friday to purchase the boyhood home of famous bandleader Lawrence Welk, leaving it up to the state Legislature to fund the site’s operation as a tourist attraction.
The Legislature approved $100,000 last spring for the State Historical Society to buy the site near the south-central North Dakota city of Strasburg. However, it did not include money to operate the site, which is owned by Welk’s two nieces, Evelyn Schwab and Edna Schwab.
Board members voted to buy the 6-acre homestead under the condition that repairs will be made and that the Tri-County Tourism Alliance will operate the site until June 30, 2015, at which time the State Historical Society will take over – that is, assuming the 2015 Legislature approves funds to operate the site. The state estimates the annual operating costs at about $69,000.
The property has been on the market for about two and a half years. The Schwab sisters said they have enjoyed giving tours of the site, but the time had come to sell it.
“I have a very good feeling that if the state takes over, it will be a great asset to the state and to the community,” Evelyn Schwab said after the board’s vote.