New Menomonie Farmers Market Pavilion Will Have Unique Timber Frame Design

Hailey Novak

At work on wood for the pavilion. Image: Christopher Bartlett via Oxbow Designs
At work on wood for the pavilion. Image: Christopher Bartlett via Oxbow Designs

For the Menomonie folks who have been patiently awaiting the completion of the new downtown farmers market pavilion, the end is near. In a good way, of course.

Last year the City of Menomonie and The Menomonie Market Co-op were awarded a $500,000 grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. The grant was contingent on moving the farmers market downtown, and planning began for a brand-new market pavilion. Now a 140-by-30-foot pavilion is under construction in Wilson Park, near the newly built Menomonie Market Co-op grocery store.

The project was originally scheduled to be completed at the beginning of the summer season, but due to the unique angle taken in the design process, the progress has been slightly slower than expected. The new pavilion is now anticipated to be open for vendors and shoppers alike in late summer or early fall.

“You can’t wave a magic wand and make something as complex as this simply appear,” said Aaron Wallace, founder of Menomonie-based Oxbow Designs.

Wallace and timber wright/architectural consultant Jay White Cloud of Oxbow Designs are the people behind the intricate structure. With the help of engineer Joe Miller, they have taken an eco-friendly and highly creative approach to what could have easily been just another wooden pole-in-ground structure, which neither the city of Menomonie nor Oxbow Designs wanted. The pavilion is constructed with very few screws, bolts, or metal plates and is inspired by traditional Asian-style architecture that is specifically designed to withstand seismic activity.

The upper, locally sourced and harvested timber portion of the structure itself is incredibly rigid and strong without any corner braces or diagonal pieces, which allows it to flex and move while still remaining sturdy. This frame will sit on traditional three- to four-ton stones that were donated by a local business, Kramer Quarries. The wooden structure will almost look as if it is melting into these stones, Wallace said.

Conceptual design of the completed pavilion.
Conceptual design of the completed pavilion.

With the help of a couple of donors, Oxbow Designs have designed the pavilion at the cost of $109,000, though the frame itself is worth around $600,000, Wallace said. “If we were going to do it at cost, we wanted it to be gorgeous and of architectural interest,” he explained.

The main designer behind the whole project is White Cloud, who began timber framing with the Amish when he was only 13 years old and eventually began working slowly with Aaron and Oxbow Designs. “Jay is the timber framing expert or national treasure as I like to call him,” Wallace said.

The designers faced some setbacks along the way due to the nature of this unique construction. The engineering itself took around four months and was done through much trial and error in order to come up with a design that would not only be aesthetically pleasing but also meet the regulations necessary for a public structure. It is required that it be able to hold up to 30 feet of snow and have 26-foot spans to accommodate the vendor stalls, which is a challenge in timber framing, especially without any corner braces, Wallace said.

“I’m glad we were patient and made sure that it was done the way we wanted it,” Wallace said. “The wait is well worth it.”

While the farmers market will soon look drastically different, it won’t see much change in vendors this season, except for the addition of a meat vendor, said Robyn Thibado, associate director for West Central Wisconsin Community Action Agency Program, which operates the market.

Thibado said something market shoppers can look forward to regarding the new pavilion is the freedom to shop in the rain without getting wet, which also means vendors don’t have to face the hassle of setting up tents during poor weather.

“We already have a great market that brings a lot of vitality to downtown Menomonie,” she said, “but having a concrete, non-changing location is a huge plus now, it’s location will help drive up local business sales.”

To learn more about the market, visit Menomonie Farmer's Market on Facebook.