--is now (somewhat) open to the public! I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek this summer, which I wrote about here. I'm looking forward to seeing it when it's fully up and operational, but hey--any access is good access, right?
And in other news, if you haven't already made your Valentine's Day reservations, consider this option: a sit-down dinner at White Castle. Apparently this has become an annual tradition for many couples.
I don't believe I'll join them, but you know, whatever makes them happy.
As they mention in the press conference, there are so many things to do in that community. Obviously proximity to the Boundary Waters is a plus. But there are other sites and venues for entertainment and historical enlightenment as well, including one of my favorites.
The Dorothy Molter Museum. Molter was known as the "Root Beer Lady." The cabin pictured was her decades-long home on the Isle of Pines in the Boundary Waters. She was the last living resident of the BWCA, allowed to remain even after the area became a protected wilderness by the efforts of friends, who gathered petition signatures and lobbied for her to be "grandfathered" in. A wise move--in her own way, Molter was a most singular diplomat for the area, receiving thousands of visitors each year, who had the good fortune to purchase her homemade root beer (hence the nickname).
After her death in 1986, some wise Ely folks (presumably of the same ilk that are running the Ely 2016 campaign) arranged to have her cabin and its contents carefully dismantled and catalogued, then resurrected just outside Ely as a memorial. It's a wonderful glimpse into a lifestyle long gone.
The kitchen, with all its tools and implements.
The cozy bedroom.
And a display of Christmas decorations, of which Molter was very fond (and many of which were made by her).
If you're in the Ely area, the Molter Museum is well worth a stop, although its proximity to major roads , while convenient, makes it hard to imagine what life in the cabin was like in the wilderness.
Oh, and don't forget to buy some of the Root Beer Lady root beer. Probably not quite the same as it was in Dorothy's day, when she didn't have any pesky food regulations to adhere to, but still, darn good root beer. (Also available at some Byerly's and Lunds stores.)
I recently wrote several columns for WCCO.com about some of Minnesota's "other"museums and special exhibits taking place this summer. Today, let's take a look at one of the museums up north:
The Beltrami County History Center in Bemidji. It's relatively new, as county historical museums go--it opened to the public in 2001, in a restored James J. Hill railroad depot building.
This is one of the (many) small museums in the state that impresses me. It helps that it's got fairly new facilities, but nevertheless, it has a surprisingly varied collection, well maintained and displayed, with many items on loan or donated outright by local residents.
Look at the beautifully displayed Native American pieces:
And a car:
Then there are some quirky items:
Old license plates, from an odd source:
There's also a display full of old office items, including this tongue-in-cheek notice:
Overall, a great place to visit. I've heard that some of the local residents were unhappy when the Center opened and charged admission ($5 for adults, $4 for students/seniors, $1 for kids 12 and under). Apparently people felt that given how much the local community had donated, both in terms of display items and money, that there should be no admission fee. I understand where they're coming from, but at the same time, museums are expensive places to operate. When a site is doing a fine job preserving and displaying their artifacts, I don't know that $5 is too much to ask.
The highly successful production of the musical Little House on the Prairie at the Guthrie Theater is creating new fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder and causing long-time fans of the books and thepopular TV show to revisit their favorites. I was a huge pioneer fan as a kid and would have loved to explore places pioneers had lived or traveled. If you or someone in your household is newly inspired by pioneer life through the musical, here are some places and events to explore both Laura’s life and pioneer life in general. Check the websites for hours of operation and admission fees; opening hours vary seasonally.
Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and the Ingalls Dugout Site (Walnut Grove). The Ingalls family lived just outside of Walnut Grove from 1874-76. There’s not really a lot of hard-core Ingalls items here, and the dugout is mostly a depression in the ground, but a trove of pioneer items and memorabilia from the TV show make it a must-see for Ingalls fans. The annual Wilder Pageant is an outdoor performance recreating the Ingalls’ time in Walnut Grove.
Sod House on the Prairie (Sanborn). This recreated sod house gives visitors the chance to dress up in pioneer clothes and experience pioneer life. The site also has a dugout and a log cabin. Sadly, it used to operate as a bed and breakfast--how cool would that be??--but no longer.
Wheels Across the Prairie Museum(Tracy). Created as an archive of the wheels that grew the nation, this museum has slowly expanded to become a pioneer village and museum, including a vintage church, post office, train depot, and school. Other features include a four-unit freight train and an antique machinery display.
Roseau Pioneer Farm & Village(Roseau). This gem is in the far northwestern corner of the state, but for pioneer enthusiasts, it’s well worth a visit. Seventeen restored pioneer buildings make up the village, each filled with vintage furnishings. The Village’s location just outside of Roseau gives is a true pioneer feeling. Visitors can take a guided tour or explore on their own. Throughout the summer, there are several special events, including Art in the Park, Scandinavian Days, and the annual Harvest Festival. The Village is closed in the winter, but does open briefly in December for special holiday events. The photos on this entry are from the Roseau village.
Peter Engelstad Pioneer Village(Thief River Falls). Just southeast of Roseau is another worthwhile pioneer village, although this one is in an urban setting. Nineteen restored buildings, plus a research collection.
Village of Yesteryear (Owatonna). Southern Minnesota has a considerable pioneer legacy too. Fifteen restored buildings, including log cabins and a mansion, plus farm machinery and a train caboose.
Nobles County Pioneer Village (Worthington). A sizable Village with 49 buildings (36 currently open to the public) providing a timeline of 19th- and early 20th-century life in Minnesota, including a grain elevator, saloon, jail, and a graveyard of abandoned gravestones.
Little House Camp Sampler(Historic Ft. Snelling, St. Paul). Reservations required; contact the Minnesota Historic Society. Campers will get to “live” a day in the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder through songs, games, crafts, and food of Laura’s time.
Sometimes the sights at the various villages are more vintage than others; sometimes they're still functional.
Full disclosure: I went to school in Blackduck (K-12 in one building) and grew up just nine miles south. How could I not include this little town in my book?
Approximately 250 miles north of the Twin Cities, Blackduck is located on Highway 71, the major highway heading to Canada. Unlike so many other small towns across the country that are struggling to retain population and jobs, Blackduck is not just holding its own, but is thriving. Local businessman Ron Anderson helped revitalize the community by headquartering his fabric company there, providing jobs and other benefits to the town.
You can't have a town named Blackduck without a statue, can you?
This is the original duck. It's been in town for as long as I can remember. It used to be a few blocks away, in front of what was a creamery, but was moved to accommodate a funeral home. It's kept freshly painted. Kids love it. It's a favorite family photo opp.
One duck is not enough, though; a few years ago, a second duck was added on the outskirts of town, easily visible from Highway 71:
Located in Wayside Park, this duck oversees one of the town's annual festivals: the Woodcarvers Festival, taking place this Saturday (7/26). Woodcarvers converge from all over the state (and even out-of-state), exhibiting and selling their handcrafted items. Of course there's food; what kind of Minnesota festival wouldn't have something to eat? If you're in town, check out the Uffda Tacos. Mmmm. Perhaps not so healthy, but it'll still make you feel good.