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Finding Minnesota: The Little Log House Pioneer Village

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(credit: CBS) Mike Binkley
Mike Binkley has been covering Minnesota news for more than 25 year...
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HASTINGS, Minn. (WCCO) — It was a sad time for fans of onion rings, cheeseburgers and hot rods when Porky’s closed in 2011.

While many customers stopped by to say goodbye, a Minnesota family stepped up to say hello, and save the building.

It now has a fresh coat of paint as it sits with other landmarks at Little Log House Pioneer Village, about five miles south of Hastings.

Its owners, Steve and Sylvia Bauer, have been saving unique buildings from the wrecking ball for decades.

“A lot of things, if we don’t save it, it’s going to be gone,” Steve Bauer said.

The Bauers’ farm is the new resting place for buildings dating as far back as the 1800s.  And each one has a story.

“It’s fun to hear the people talk about it,” Bauer said , “and bring back their memories.”

Visiting the village is usually by appointment only – for special events or photo sessions — but the Bauers open it up to the general public during the final full weekend in July.

Their Antique Power Show will have vintage vehicles, music and Old West re-enactments by the Cannon Old West Society.  Admission is $10.

There’s a country saloon from Dakota County that became notorious for bootlegging.  That’s next to a turn-of-the century jail from the nearby town of Hampton.

They even moved an entire church that was set for demolition in Hastings, taking it apart and rebuilding it onsite.

“Stained glass windows are all in there,” Bauer said. “They’re exactly the way they were in the church in Hastings. And every one was donated by a family member back in 1892.

It’s a re-awakening on a large scale with new life springing up nearby, in Sylvia’s Gardens.

“Oh, I have thousands of different types of plants,” Sylvia Bauer said. “I combine perennials, annuals and different types of shrubbery to give the garden a lot of different texture. We have a lot of photography done out here and a lot of weddings.”

This year alone, there are 70 weddings booked at the village, with couples taking advantage of the well-worn backdrops.

Now, they can add a drive-in restaurant from St. Paul, and a drive-in theater from Cottage Grove.  The Bauers purchased much of the old Cottage View Drive-In.

“I mean, it’s not so much that I have to have it,” Steve Baue said, “but the people need it here.”

Their collection is now approaching 50 buildings, in what the Bauers call “a hobby out of control.”

Their reward comes in knowing that future generations will get to enjoy them.

“We’re just thankful that we have the opportunity to do it and we’re healthy enough to do it.”

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