The Main Streets along many cities in southern Minnesota are lined with storefronts dating to the late 1800s and early 1900s. Some towns have taken special care to preserve this distinctive architecture. Today, the historic buildings are home to coffee shops and cafes, art galleries, antique and gift shops. Check out these four distinctive downtowns.
This German-flavored town has added
a contemporary Glockenspiel (clock
tower) downtown. The impressive
1910 post office building now houses
the county history museum. While not
downtown, the 1889 Schell Brewery
is another local gem.
The Northfield Historical Society offers
podcasts for self-guided walking tours. The old bank in
Northfield looks as it did when the Jesse James Gang rode
into town to rob it. The 1877 Archer House hotel, a gallery
featuring local artists and a river walk are other highlights.
Many of the old buildings were constructed of locally
quarried red quartzite. Look up to see gargoyles, sculpted
relief images, and other architectural details. The historic
district includes the 1888 Calumet Hotel, the local history
museum, and a performing arts center.
Highlights include the 1880s St. James Hotel,
performances at the beautiful 1912 Sheldon Auditorium,
a restored train depot with a gallery, and the Red Wing
Boots building and museum. In the summer, downtown
is decked with flowers.
Defeat of Jesse James Days, Northfield
museum. A community theater performs at the Marion
Ross Performing Arts Center.
To the west along I- 90 is Blue Earth, where the Jolly
Green Giant stands 55-feet-tall, overlooking some of the
richest farmland in the country. The Giant Museum has a
large collection of Green Giant memorabilia.
Fairmont is built around a chain of five lakes. These
and several other lakes in the area are popular fishing
waters, habitat for walleye, bass and catfish. Golfers can
try out one of the two courses in the area. Visitors can
check to see what’s on stage at the beautifully restored
1901 Fairmont Opera House. Waterslides and a splash
pool are part of the cool fun at the outdoor Fairmont
North from Albert Lea to the Twin Cities, the I- 35
artery links a handful of small cities with some interesting
places to visit.
Owatonna is a city of lovely parks and noteworthy
architecture. The star is a Prairie School-style bank designed
in 1908 by Louis Sullivan, with beautiful stained glass
windows and intricate ornamentation. Still operating as a
bank, this gem draws architecture buffs to Owatonna.
Fifteen buildings from further in the past, including log
cabins and a country school, comprise the Village of
Yesteryear. The small Orphanage Museum tells the poignant
story of the thousands of children who grew up at this
state school between 1886 and 1945. A major stop is
Cabela’s, one of the largest outdoor gear stores in the
Midwest, with numerous mounted wildlife displays. Just
north along I- 35 is a large outlet shopping mall at Medford.
Faribault also is noted for its lovely architecture
dating to the 1800s, including the historic downtown