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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Historic Sites Fall on Hard Times

Aired July 4, 2003 - 19:34   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: For many Americans, the 4th of July is time to remember history. You're going to see some live pictures here, there we are, from Washington, where large crowds are starting to mark the holiday with visits to historic sites and monuments. Now, across the country, however, some historic sites are actually falling on hard times because of government budget problems. Minnesota is a case in point. And Jeff Flock filed a report from there.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CRAIG JOHNSON, TOUR GUIDE: Here's a great example of the caving. You can see all the detail of that.

JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Guide Craig Johnson shows us the opulence of the James J. Hill House, the 36,000 square foot St.Paula, Minnesota mansion of the man who founded the Great Northern Railroad. But enjoy the leather walls, the gilded ceilings and the hand-carved Virgin Islands mahogany while you can.

C. JOHNSON: I couldn't believe it. I was shocked that they could close a place like this.

DAN MCELROY, MN FINANCE COMMISSIONER: We found ourselves with a $4.2 billion deficit.

FLOCK: Minnesota's finance guru Dan McElroy says something had to give in the budget. It was history.

(on camera): How much money are you losing?

NINA ARCHIBALD, DIRECTOR, MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY: We're losing $4.3 million each of the fiscal years.

FLOCK (voice-over): Nina Archibald directs the Minnesota Historical Society, which is laying off or cutting hours for 240 workers, reducing the hours of the state's main history museum, and considering shutting some historic sites, like the Hill House, and this, the Oliver Kelly (ph) farm, where soy beans were first planted in the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is America and what it was like to live on a farm.

REP. JEFF JOHNSON (R), MINNESOTA STATE HOUSE: I am a fan of user fees for government services.

FLOCK: Republican State Rep Jeff Johnson who voted for the cuts says history is nice, but it doesn't top education and health care.

J. JOHNSON: If this is important to people in Minnesota, and I think it is, I'm hoping that people are willing to pay more of it out of their own pockets.

FLOCK: They are. Private and business donors coming up with enough money to keep all the state's historic sites open at least through the summer, and the new Mill City Museum, which will open in the fall, is 80 percent private dollars. But some say history is the public's business.

ELMER ANDERSON, FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR: Minnesota has believed in history.

FLOCK: Elmer Anderson is 94, a piece of living Minnesota history, was a Republican governor from another era, one he tells us when Republicans weren't afraid to raise taxes for the common good.

ANDERSON: The idea that we can't afford attention to history is ridiculous and terribly shortsighted.

FLOCK: Back at the Hill House, Craig Johnson agrees. He says the mansion captures a time when America was focused too intensely on money. A history lesson, he thinks, the state may be doomed to repeat.

I'm Jeff Flock, CNN, St. Paul, Minnesota.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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