Once federal office building now museum in Park River
Jack-of-all-trades Harlan Larson displays old cars
PARK RIVER—Quite an “eye-opener” greets visitors to the former Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) office in Park River, and it would not only be the striking display of classic cars.
Owner, car collector, builder, retired teacher, lifeguard, surfer and self-described “jack-of-all-trades,” Harlan Larson loves to tell stories, entertain, and get a laugh out of visitors to the newly remodeled building.
To get visitors in the mood to have fun at the federal office building turned museum and home, he throws a $50 dollar bill look-a-like on the floor. Visitors who pick it up find a coupon for one free “eye opener” cocktail at the Club Bar in Park River, which he owns along with his brother, Dayton Larson.
He also gets quite a kick out of telling how the building got its new name, the American Super Classic Salute. Taking top honors in the building naming contest was Brad Brummond, Walsh County extension agent. “We wanted to stay with the original ASCS acronym,” says Larson.
It’s quite a stretch to come from their former business, the LaPurisima Inn near the historic LaPurisima Mission in Lompoc, Calif., to the 6200 square foot office building in Park River, but it was a labor of love for Larson.
“My grandfather, Lloyd Staven, wanted to attract a government agency to Park River, so he built the building and the ASCS leased it,” said Larson. Due to concerns about the lack of available parking, the newly coined Farm Service Agency (FSA) decided to build a new building and move to the former KAP Implement location along Highway 17. After the death of his grandfather Staven, the property reverted to Larson’s brother Dayton.
Since Larson and his wife Carrie were retired from teaching and returning to Park River often, they decided to convert the vacant building to a home and a showplace to display and enjoy their classic car collection.
“It took us less than two years to complete, says Larson. I had some great help.” Larson’s friends Randy and Kevin Jensen, his brother Dayton, Brad Dahl, and many other volunteers helped Larson convert the building. One large piece of the project was the installation of a new roof built with 55 foot trusses that needed to be put in place on top of the original roof.
Now flags from several different countries, states, athletic teams, universities, and automotive companies hang from the new rafters in the display area. Under the colorful ceiling sits four of Larson’s favorite classic cars and two motorcycles, including his favorites – the Harley Davidson and the Oldsmobile 442.
In addition to the automotive display area, the Larson’s have built a beautiful living area at the back of the building and have been able to preserve some of the original office spaces, converting them into a reading room, his and her offices, and a hobby room.
Larson spends approximately 9 months of the year in Park River and returns to California during the winter after hunting. He refers to his wife Carrie as a world traveler who just returned from the Baltic States and will soon depart for Iceland and Greenland. “I guess when you teach history and geography, you have a natural desire to see the world,” said Larson. “I did a lot of traveling with her, but I can’t stand flying anymore.”
A fan of Buicks, Larson is always looking for cars to add to his collection and he has his sights on a ’54 Buick Century hardtop. “I will be attending the car show in Thief River Falls in August and it will be there,” said Larson. He may be able to make some room available in the ASCS building in Park River.