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The Cottage View Drive-In has been a community staple in Cottage Grove since 1963 when owner Gerry Herringer first began projecting films on the white screen. Bulletin photo

Cottage View Drive-In sign, screen headed to Hastings

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The iconic Cottage View Drive-In marquee that has welcomed outdoor cinema-goers for nearly five decades will soon be en route to the Little Log House Pioneer Village in Hastings.

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A late Monday afternoon deal was made between the city of Cottage Grove, drive-in owner Gerry Herringer, and local preservationist Steve Bauer, sealing the fate of the now-closed outdoor theater.

Cottage Grove City Administrator Ryan Schroeder said Monday agreements were being signed between Herringer and Bauer, and between Bauer and the city of Cottage Grove, in a strategic move that would allow the city to regain possession of the drive-in equipment in the future. The deal, Herringer said, gives Bauer the mega white screen, projection equipment and the famous cottage-shaped sign at no cost.

"I'm pleased to see that this is happening because the last thing I want to see would be the sign destroyed," Herringer said.

The Cottage View Drive-In closed its doors last fall after Herringer announced that tending to a four-month operation with 12-month costs was next to impossible. Now, with plans on the horizon to build a 177,000-square-foot Walmart and other retail centers, tentatively dubbed Shoppes at Cottage View, the symbols of a bygone era must go.

The retail giant purchased roughly 24 acres from Herringer and Schroeder said closing on that property is likely to happen on Friday, April 5, and "the deal on the sign should be inked next Monday."

"Given (that) our infrastructure bids came in well," Schroeder added, "we do not anticipate anything holding up the Walmart closing and thus it seems the sign deal will work out on schedule as well."

After the property closing is complete and all contracts are signed, Schroeder said he expects the drive-in items to be removed by May 8.

As part of the deal, Bauer will refurbish the 1960s sign to its original form and plans to replace all the neon work with new bulbs. Should the city of Cottage Grove request the sign back, Bauer will be reimbursed $9,000 to help defer upgrade and relocation costs.

The Little Log House Pioneer Village is home to some of the area's most beloved relics including the historic St. Boniface Church, which originated in Hastings, an old-time jail from the Wild West days of Hampton, a country saloon, and even a Webster, Minn., train depot. The most recent acquisition to the east metro attraction occurred in 2011 when Bauer added Porky's, a famous St. Paul drive-in, to his collection.

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Emily Buss
Emily Buss joined the South Washington County Bulletin in February 2013. She covers local government in Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park and Newport, along with other general assignment reporting. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communications from Minnesota State University, Mankato.
(651) 459-4629
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