The bright red sign shaped like a cottage, first lit up in 1963 to draw moviegoers to “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” before going dark for good last fall, appears to have found a temporary new home.
The signature marquee of the Cottage View Drive-In, which in many ways also is a landmark for the city of Cottage Grove along Hwy. 61, will likely take its place soon alongside another venerable Twin Cities institution, Porky’s Drive-In, at the Little Log Cabin Pioneer Village in Hastings. The 80-acre village holds an eclectic collection that includes 19th-century buildings, a two-thirds scale replica of the historic Spiral Bridge in Hastings, and other remnants from the baby boomer-era such as the old A&W Root Beer stand from Newport and Lee Chevrolet Garage from Cannon Falls.
The Cottage View Drive-In is being closed and the sign must be moved to make way for a retail development called the Shoppes at Cottage View, anchored by a 180,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter. A road project along E. Point Douglas Road near the junction of Hwy. 61 and Innovation Road that launches that construction will start in April, with Wal-Mart expected to open early next year.
The Cottage Grove City Council on Wednesday is expected to vote on a contract under which the marquee, along with the drive-in’s movie projector and huge movie screen, will be transferred to Pioneer Village and refurbished. The contract is being structured so that the city could lay a claim to the marquee in the future and move it back to Cottage Grove, said Ryan Schroeder, city administrator. At the same meeting, bids are expected to be awarded for the road construction work on Douglas Road.
City officials, including Mayor Myron Bailey, have expressed interest in saving the marquee and displaying it somewhere in the city. There are also protections in place for the sign, now in a fragile state, in the proposed contract, Schroeder said. “We’re putting some engineering on the sign so that, in the worst-case scenario, if it crumbles, we’ll rebuild a new one,” Schroeder said.
Gerry Herringer, longtime owner of the Cottage View who offered the marquee to the city at no cost, said he is pleased. The marquee’s fate has been a worry, he said, and he is relieved it will be preserved.
“When something becomes an icon in the community, and you’ve been able to be a part of it, that’s something special,” he said.