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Arts & Culture

Best Historical Sites In Minnesota

June 18, 2012 6:00 AM

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historic, fort snelling

(credit: CBS)

From being the home to famous authors and entrepreneurs to industrial and cultural sites responsible for significant boosts to the state’s economy, Minnesota has a wealth of historic sites that are worth paying a visit. If you are hankering to soak up some Minnesota history, why not pay a visit to one of Minnesota’s many historic landmarks? Listed below are a few of Minnesota’s historical highlights, each of which have been deemed a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service.
hillhouseexterior2 Best Historical Sites In Minnesota

(credit: Coco Mault)

James J. Hill House
240 Summit Ave
St. Paul, MN 55102
(651) 297-2555
mnhs.org

Home to railroad magnate James J. Hill and family, this historic mansion located in St. Paul was the largest and most expensive home in Minnesota upon its completion in 1891. James J. Hill played a key role in transforming the Northwest as his Great Northern Railway served as the backbone of commercial expansion and development. The James J. Hill house stands as a testament to capitalistic enterprise, consisting of an astounding 36,000 square feet built on five floors, equipped with technical systems – including central heating, gas and electric lighting, plumbing and more – that were considered sophisticated at the time. The home also boasts a 100-foot reception hall, a two-story skylit art gallery and beautiful, elaborately-carved oak and mahogany woodwork which can be found throughout the home. Those interested in paying the James J. Hill house a visit may tour the estate for a small fee during business hours.

millcitymuseum Best Historical Sites In Minnesota

(credit: Mill City Museum)

Mill City Museum
704 S 2nd St
Minneapolis, MN 55401
(612) 341-7555
millcitymuseum.org

From 1880 up through the 50 years following, Minneapolis was referred to as the “Flour Milling Capital of the World” (and more informally as “Mill City”). Originally built in 1874, but rebuilt in 1880 as a result of a tragic flour dust explosion and fire that claimed 18 lives, the Washburn A Mill was a boom to Minneapolis’ economy and responsible for significant population growth (from 13,000 people in 1870 to 165,000 just 20 years later). At the time of its rebuilding in 1880, the mill was the biggest and most technologically-forthright mill in the world. During its peak of operations, it is said that the mill ground enough flour to produce 12 million loaves of bread each day. After WWI, the mills began to fall into disuse – largely as a result of evolving technologies and consumer preferences – and were finally closed in 1965. In 1991, the Washburn A Mill was nearly destroyed by a fire and its remains were incorporated into the Mill City Museum, which interested parties can tour for a small admission fee.

Related: Best Museum Gift Shops

historic, fort snelling

(credit: CBS)

Historic Fort Snelling
200 Tower Ave
St. Paul, MN 55111
(612) 726-1171
historicfortsnelling.org

Undoubtedly one of the most emotionally-charged historic sites listed, Fort Snelling served the U.S. military for over 120 years, through conflicts that occurred both locally and abroad. Thousands of Minnesotans experienced military service for the first time within its walls, and by the late 20th century, over 180,000 men and women who served in the armed forces were laid to rest in its national cemetery. Fort Snelling’s location at the junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers also made it conducive to fur trading, which was one of the most lucrative businesses during the 19th century. After the war of 1812, the U.S. government strategically established military forces to protect its interests in the region’s fur trade and also to befriend and acquire the cooperation of American Indian tribes. Fort Snelling’s historical and cultural significance extends far beyond the brief description given here, and may be best understood by touring the historic site which has been carefully preserved over the years.

hullrustmahoningmine Best Historical Sites In Minnesota

(credit: ironrange.org)

Hull Rust Mahoning Mine
401 Penobscot Road
Hibbing, MN 55746
(218) 262-4166
ironrange.org

Dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the North,” this man-made mine is the largest operating open-pit, iron-ore mine in the world, spanning more than three miles long, two miles wide and 535 feet deep. Since 1895, more than 1.4 billion tons of earth have been removed on its 2,000 acres of land, with over an astounding 800 million gross tons of iron ore having been shipped from the mine. During the mine’s heyday in the 1940s, up to one quarter of the ore mined in the United States came from the Hull Rust Mine. Although a bit of a drive from the metro area, approximately three hours, this site is a staple of Minnesota history that shouldn’t be missed. For a small fee, a tour of the active mine affords a view of ongoing mining operations by the Hibbing Taconite Company Mine. On occasion, dynamite blasts may be witnessed as bedrock is cleared to grant access to the iron ore.

fscottfitzgeraldhouse Best Historical Sites In Minnesota

(credit: nps.gov)

F. Scott Fitzgerald House
481 Laurel Ave
St. Paul, MN 55102
home.comcast.net

In 1896, notable author of great tomes including “Tender is the Night” and “The Great Gatsby,” F. Scott Fitzgerald was born at the 481 Laurel Avenue residence in St. Paul. Fitzgerald only resided in the home for a year after his birth, at which time his father relocated the family to New York after losing his job as a wicker-furniture salesman. The family returned to the neighborhood in 1921, at which time Fitzgerald and his family lived in several different houses in and around St. Paul. The 599 Summit Avenue residence is particularly noteworthy because it was here that Fitzgerald completed “This Side of Paradise” in 1919, at 23 years of age. In many ways, Fitzgerald considered St. Paul to be his hometown, as evidenced in his writings. A self-guided walking tour may be taken by printing off a handy map and strolling through the neighborhood where Fitzgerald grew up.

Related: New Books By Twin Cities Authors

A Minnesota native that was born and raised Up North, Minneapolis is where Christina Kalinowski currently calls home. Christina appreciates irony, loves bacon, enjoys a hearty libation (drink responsibly, folks), and is an avid proponent of the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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