FEMCO Farms: The Birth of Diversified Farming in Minnesota

Frederick E. Murphy was known as the publisher and guiding spirit of the Minneapolis Tribune newspaper in the 1920s and 1930s, but it was his commitment to agriculture in the upper Midwest that received worldwide recognition. He was touted nationally as an advocate for identifying problems in the business of agriculture and promoting sound, common-sense solutions to the issues that farmers were facing in...

The Dudley Mansion in Duluth

Most of us wouldn’t consider a 13,000 square foot mansion situated on a six-acre wooded lot with more than 400-feet of Lake Superior shoreline anything less than the very finest. But having a majestic estate like Glensheen for a neighbor is tough! When Harry and Marjorie Dudley built their home, they chose not to compete with their (very familiar) neighbors to the west. At...

The New Ulm Company Service Station

Built in 1926, the New Ulm Company Service Station is the best remaining example in a series of whimsical stations designed by George Saffert of the Saffert Construction Company during the 1920s. Each station was custom-designed for its location for independent oil companies. Saffert-designed stations often used strong yet fanciful imagery such as windmills or lighthouses. Located on Broadway and Fifth Street in New...

Spencer Brook: Nearly a Ghost Town

Settled in 1854 by Pennsylvania native Benjamin Spencer, Spencer Brook was one of the first communities in Isanti County. During the 1850s, Spencer Brook became a favorite spot for east coast Yankees seeking lumbering opportunities. The nearby Rum River provided the flowing waters needed to float logs downstream to the Twin Cities. The first post office in the county was established in Spencer Brook...

District 6 School in New Sweden

The District 6 school in New Sweden Township stands in a field surrounded by tall stalks of corn in the summer and drifts of white snow in the winter. This pretty, white clapboard building with a porch and full basement was constructed in 1929. It is the third school to stand on this site—the first was built in the 1860s and the second in...

The Pine Tree Lumber Company

Pine Tree Lumber Company was established in Little Falls in 1890. Located on the banks of the Mississippi River in central Minnesota, the company was run by Charles Weyerhaeuser and Richard “Drew” Musser. Little Falls was chosen as the location for this new mill because of its proximity to the Mississippi River. The dam created a large boom area where the logs could be...

Tivoli Gardens in New Ulm

In 1872, Joseph Schmucker took over operation of Friton Brewery, which was the first brewery to operate in New Ulm starting in the 1850s. Operating under a new business name, Schmucker Brewery, Schmucker built Tivoli Gardens in 1885. Located adjacent to the brewery, Tivoli Gardens operated as a bar that served products from the brewery with a dance hall on the second floor. Tivoli...

Cozy Theater in Wadena

The Cozy Theater in Wadena was built in 1914 from a design by Minneapolis architect Kirby Snyder. John Quincer bought the building in 1923, and remodeled it to its present Moderne appearance in 1938. Quincer closed the theater for three months to install the marquee, glass and metal Streamline Moderne front doors, as well as a raised front wall and stepped side walls to...

West Riverside School Near Cambridge

Built in 1898, the West Riverside School was originally known as District #38 School. Isanti County once had 67 rural schools similar to this. Aside from teaching children, one of the important roles of rural schools was to teach immigrants the English language and prepare them for the American citizenship exam. Most were also an important community center for social and cultural events. Located...

Swenson’s General Store in Norseland

Around the turn of the twentieth century, Nicollet County had eight rural crossroads hamlets. While all of the other small towns have removed many of the structures that marked their existence, Norseland has held onto their identity by recognizing the importance of their general store. In 1858—the same year that Minnesota became a state—Irish immigrant John Burke moved to Nicollet County from New York...

Hollywood-Inspired Fairyland Cottages in Detroit Lakes

Although the local resort industry near Detroit Lakes stretches back to the 1870s, it wasn’t until the automobile allowed families to become more mobile that Detroit Lakes became known as one of the top resort destinations in the region. As roads improved and leisure time increased for Americans after World War I, demand for outdoor recreation hit a fever pitch. To meet this demand,...

Fredrick C. Pillsbury Mansion in Minneapolis

The Fredrick C. Pillsbury mansion in Minneapolis was considered the finest of all of the homes in the Pillsbury family. The house was built in 1888 and designed by noted architect Leroy Buffington. It was located at 303 Tenth Street South—just across the street from his brother George’s mansion that was built nine years earlier. This 1888 drawing from Buffington shows the elaborate front...

District #28 School in Ramsey

The District #28 School was constructed in Ramsey in 1892 to replace a smaller, wood frame school house. Buff-colored bricks manufactured by the nearby Kelsey Brickyard cover the exterior of the school. Inside, one large classroom dominates the space. It has a pressed metal ceiling and chalkboards covering the walls. All windows and the original double entry door are arched to match the decorative...

Jefferson Highway Through St. Cloud

Lincoln Avenue, located on the east side of St. Cloud, became part of the Jefferson Highway system in 1916. Edwin T. Meredith of Iowa believed an international highway from New Orleans to Winnipeg would be economically beneficial to farmers and promoted his idea in states along the proposed route. A committee determined that the Minnesota route would enter the state at Albert Lea and...

The Fire Relief Houses of Pine County

After a devastating forest fire obliterated the villages of Finlayson, Hinckley, Miller, Mission Creek, Pokegama, and Sandstone in Pine County on the afternoon of September 1, 1894, the state put forward an unprecedented humanitarian effort to attend to the needs of survivors. Hundreds of people were left homeless and without necessities such as food and clothing. Governor Knute Nelson appointed a state commission that...