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Past News Archive

Past Events


In The News 2020

We have listed below publicity we have received over the years. You can also view some videos where we have been featured on television programs.

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Abby Bizzett-Johnson Retires | Wednesday, May 25, 2020 | Reba Gilliand

Abby Johnson is retiring after a decade with the Prospect House Museum (PHM) where she carried out many functions, including fundraising, organizing and overseeing operations. She was instrumental in the museum’s success even before moving to Battle Lake in early 2011. How did Abby Bizzett, a management and development specialist with hospital foundations in Denver, end up at the museum?

The story is one of romance and serendipity. It turns out Abby grew up in Basswood in Otter Tail County and went to Perham High School. She dated a boy from Battle Lake whom she really liked - Jay Johnson. After graduating, they went their separate ways: Abby to Iowa eventually graduating with a BS in History and Political Science and Jay to Minneapolis and an apprenticeship in drafting.

But the two would meet again. During the early 2000s, Jay moved in with his mother, Kay Wilkins JOhnson, to care for her as she was failing. There, he discovered decades of family mementos, not the least of which was memorabilia from his great grandfather and Civil War veteran, "Cap" Colehour.

The property feel to Jay upon his mother's death and, rather than sell, he began to dream of turning the house into a Civil War museum. Jay connect with Abby - mainly through letters - and shared his dream.

Abby recalls, "After hearing Jay's grandfather was a Civil War veteran and had brought home many items from the war, I really began to think this could be doable. What helped me decide that it would work was seeing the Prospect House and all its antiques."

One cold day in January 2011, Jay set out to visit Abby in Colorado; a month later, she and Jay were married in First Baptist Church in Battle Lake.

Abby's work with PHM began in earnest. By this time (upon Abby's urging), Jay had acquired a board od directors and filed with the government to become a 501c3 nonprofit, which allowed the museum to offer tax exempt benefits to donors. With Abby's background in major fundraising, raising money for PHM should have been easily achievable. But she was soon to lear that fundraising for large hospitals in Denver was not like fundraising for a fledging museum in a small town like Battle Lake. Abby worked tirelessly, writing grants and approaching businesses, service organizations and corporate sponsors as potential donors, gaining some successes, but often disappointed.

During those early years, she worked hand in hand with the board of directors to get PHM listed on The National Register of Historic Places (the only building in Battle Lake on the National Register); she also worked with the board to have a MnDOT historical market installed on Lake Avenue to direct people to PHM.

After those early years, the enthusiasm of the board waned and the task of keeping the nonprofit operating fell mainly to Abby and Jay. She continued writing rants, organizing fundraising events, building relationships with potential donors and marketing PHM, while Jay focused on giving tours and sorting and displaying the mountain of family memorabilia contained in the house.

It was during those years that PHM's regional and even national reputation grew as organizations such as PBS and MPR featured the nonprofit on its public programming, such as Postcards (Season 5, Episode 2) and LakesCountryTV, a made-for-cable video magazine featuring stories of rural Minnesota (Season 2, Episode 2). Still the task of covering operating expenses during long winter months when tours slowed to a trickle was a challenge. Abby and Jay soldiered on.

A breakthrough occurred when Abby teamed up with a talented grant writer who moved PHM forward with several grant awards that not only helped them upgrade systems, but also allowed them to bring in an educator to develop an interactive learning experience for 6th graders. The curriculum was developed upon Minnesota State Social Studies Standards regarding the Civil War and Reconstruction 1850-1877 and is an accredited educational program. Currently, PHM is working to complete work on a $10,000 state grant to develop curriculum regarding "Industrialization in Minnesota" for use in Minnesota classrooms.

Nowadays, PHM has a cadre of volunteers who help with tours, fundraising events, maintaining gardens and administration, and Abby feels she can step away and PHM will be in good hands.

Abby is proud of what she has helped Jay achieve and says, "I have had 10 years into PHM of love and labor, and I'm proud I could be part of that. Some call PHM my 'baby'. In many ways that is true."

But she's also looking forward to retirement where she can REST and do the things she's been unable to do for a while - enjoy life, and like all of us, hopes she will have the years to do it.

Perhaps it is Jay who best sums up PHM's last 10 years:

"I made the Prospect House into a museum; Abby made it work."

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Prospect House in Battle Lake receives history grant | Friday, February 14, 2020

State Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, announces the Prospect House in Battle Lake is receiving a $4,800 history grant from Minnesota Legacy appropriations via the Arts and Culture Heritage Fund.

Nornes said the Minnesota Historical Society indicated to him the funding will allow the Prospect House to "hire a qualified museum consultant to conduct a general preservation needs assessment survey and long-range collections preservation plan."

Congratulations to the Prospect House for earning this grant, especially since competition for these dollars is stiff," Nornes said. "We are fortunate to have the Prospect House in the heart of Otter Tail County and this funding will be valuable in their efforts to preserve history."

The Prospect House also in recent months was awarded a $10,000 state grant to develop curriculum regarding "Industrialization in Minnesota" for use in Minnesota classrooms. More information regarding history grants through the MHS is available at

Veden Trust Grant

The Prospect House Museum proudly announces another grant from the Veden trust. This is the second year we have been funded by the trust. We are very fortunate to have such good friends as these. The trustees visited the museum recently and were amazed at the progress the museum has made. Since their last visit we have received our 3rd grant for the education program for 6th graders, with writing a curriculum about "industrialization" — an extension this year allowing schools (6th graders) a whole day of hands on learning. Another grant offered us the opportunity to start the collections process.

We thank the trustees of the Veden trust for seeing the potential the museum has to battle lake as well as to the entire state. Our jewel of history.

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