FERGUS FALLS, Minn. (WCCO) — Even in the cold of winter, we celebrate the season. What better way then going to a frozen lake up north? In our first trip of the new year, Frank Vascellaro and Chris Shaffer are in Fergus Falls!
Frank and Chris started the night on Lake Alice, where hundreds of people were enjoying the weather on skates. The lake had been closed for a number of years, until the water level rose and a warming house was rehabilitated. Now, it’s hard to find a night when folks aren’t out skating on the ice.
Downtown Fergus Falls & The Big Otter
Fergus Falls is really a charming town about 2 and a half hours straight up 94 from the Twin Cities. They’ve done a great job of keeping historic buildings intact.
The City Hall here is designed after Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. Fergus Falls has about 13,000 year-round residents, and plenty more when people come up to the cabin.
One of the things you have to see when you come to town is Otto the Big Otter. The town is on the Otter Tail River and in Otter Tail County, so why not make the world’s largest Otter?
It’s in Adams Park if you’re looking for a good photo opportunity in town.
There’s another site in town besides the skating rink at Lake Alice that’s been closed for years.
Locals call it the Kirkbride Building, after the architect who came up with its style. The official name is the Fergus Falls State Hospital.
The massive building atop a hill outside Fergus Falls, has been here since the 1890s. Its purpose was to house, and treat, the mentally ill, aiming to be focused on a more humane treatment at a time where it wasn’t considered much.
The sensitive style of treatment is even apparent in Kirkbride’s architecture, with narrow corridors and lots of natural light.
The Fergus Falls State Hospital housed as many as 2,000 men and women during the Great Depression. It was a major economic driver for decades, but state institutions gave way to smaller, community-based mental health treatment, and eventually the hospital closed.
The last patients left in 2009, leaving an eerie, empty facility instead.
Fergus Falls Dam & Union Pizza
You may be wondering where the falls are in Fergus Falls — right downtown!
A Scottish trapper found them in 1857, and named him after his boss, James Fergus. The town sprouted up around the Otter Tail River, with the falls powering a sawmill. Fergus Falls officially became a city in 1872.
There are a lot of great restaurants in town — One of them opened just last March.
Union Pizza and Brewing brings the town homemade pizzas made in a wood-fired brick oven, and great craft beer. Nearly everything on the menu is made from scratch on site.
Order one of the specialty pizzas, or put just about any ingredient on one you make up!
Frank & Chris Get Cozy In A Carriage
Fred Jacobs took Frank and Chris on a carriage ride around Fergus Falls, and it was a beautiful way to see the town in the winter. Check out the full video above to see how things went!
Trivia & Karaoke Night
Thursday is trivia and karaoke at Mabel Murphy’s Irish Pub & Restaurant in Fergus Falls where Frank and Chris took part. They found out that the winners can take home a prize, but the losers will have to endure a bit of humiliation in front of the crowd!