Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Maine Prairie Corners Historical Marker / Kimball Roadside Parking Area

Highway 15
Maine Prairie, north of Kimball

This historical marker was built in 1949 by the Minnesota Department of Highways (MHD) and Cold Spring Granite Company. It consists of a small turnoff and stone marker which commemorates a small prairie village. The beauty is its simplicity.

Text of Granite Marker
"Maine Prairie Corners"
"Here in 1856 settlers from Maine established a community that grew into a vigorous pioneer village including three churches and stores, two lodge halls, blacksmith shop, cheese factory -- all built near the site of a 2 1/2 story tamarack fort used during the Sioux outbreak of 1862."
"With the coming of the Soo Line in 1886 most buildings were moved to Kimball. The last to remain burned in 1919."
"Stearns County Historical Society and the Kimball Centennial Committee 1949."

Friday, November 21, 2014

Stage Station Historical Marker - Osakis Historical Marker - Historical View

Osakis, MN
State Highway 27

This postcard¹ is postmarked 1948. See present view of marker.

Historic Site - Osakis - Minn

Built in 1942 by the Work Projects Administration (WPA) this marker commemorates the Osakis Stage Station, a stop on the Minnesota Stage Company route between St. Cloud and Fort Ambercrombie (near Breckenridge).

¹ Personal collection

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Stage Station Historical Marker / Osakis Historical Marker

East Nokomis Street
Osakis, MN

The Stage Station Historical Marker commemorates the Osakis stagecoach stop of the mid-1800s. It is a small turnoff and marker built in 1942 by the WPA.

"Osakis Stage Station
"Osakis was one of the stops on the Burbank Minnesota Stage Company line to the Red River, established in the spring of 1859 upon the opening of the Fort Abercrombie military road. During the Sioux Outbreak of 1862 the maintenance of this line of communication was vitally important, and the route was constantly patrolled by troops." [Seals of the Minnesota Historical Society and the Minnesota Department of Highways]

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Wrenshall Overlook/Veterans' Memorial Overlook/Veterans' Scenic Overlook

Highway 23
Carlton County
Jay Cooke State Park

The Wrenshall Overlook roadside parking area was originally designed and built between 1947 and 1949 by the Minnesota Highway Department. The design was two sites located roughly a quarter mile apart. The southern site was known as the Wrenshall Overlook or Fond du Lac Overlook and had a stone overlook wall. That area is no longer accessible by vehicle and consists of the remnants of the overlook wall and circular overlook bay.

Southern site:

Trail to southern site

This part of the site is accessible by a walking trail from the main parking area. There is a sign warning the visitor of dangerous conditions on the trail and at the southern overlook. The view from the site is to the west and north out over Jay Cooke State Park.


The northern site consists of a parking area and circular overlook wall with five lecterns with marker plaques.

Text of plaque:
"Evergreen Memorial Drive dedicated Oct. 5, 1947, in grateful memory of all men and women
from Carlton, Pine, and St. Louis Counties, who served in the armed forces of our country during the World Wars."

"You've never lived until you almost died. For those who fight for it life has a flavor the protected will never know.
Vietnam 1959-1975."

In Memory of Benjamin R. Sjoberg HT3 US Navy
Aug 24 1973 Oct 19 1996
Lost at Sea

"For God and country. Alex J. Laveau 1928-1991 WWII
For their dedication for this Veterans Scenic Overlook."

The fifth lectern has a geological marker which was moved from the southern overlook.

"St. Louis River. The broad valley of the St. Louis River, visible from this point, is a western extension of the Lake Superior basin. The rounded banks are composed of red clay deposited in Glacial Lake Duluth during the centuries in which it flooded the St. Louis Valley. The scenery at this time is due to the partial removal of that clay by the river as the lake surface fell to its present level.
The St. Louis River today is the result of stream piracy and now comprises parts of two river systems. The Prairie River, which rose 30 miles north of Two Harbors, ran southwest from its source to the Mississippi, while the turbulent St. Louis flowed southeast to Lake Superior. The St. Louis River, falling rapidly in its steep descent, extended itself by erosion toward its source until it intercepted the Prairie River and, by an act of river piracy, diverted the headwaters of that stream to its own channel. The main stream of those headwaters is now the Cloquet River.
"Erected by the Geological Society of Minnesota and the Department of Highways, State of Minnesota aided by a grant from the Louis W. and Maud Hill Family Foundation, 1955."

Northern site; parking area and overlook wall.

The site has had considerable alteration over the years. The southern area was closed in the 1980s. After local requests MnDOT and DNR paved a trail from the northern parking area to the southern site. The DNR has posted a warning sign about dangerous conditions. The overlook is within the boundaries of Jay Cooke State Park, thus the dual agency involvement.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

St. Cloud Historical Marker revisited

The St. Cloud Historical Marker originally stood along Highway 10 near the state prison. A few years ago it was taken down and moved to a new home a bit southeast of the original site. It was reassembled and looks as glorious as ever. Turn east off Highway 10 at Minnesota Blvd and follow the sign to the Sand Prairie WMA access. The marker is at the WMA parking lot.

The prison smokestack in the background

Friday, September 19, 2014

Kensington Runestone Replica R.P.A. / Runestone Park

County Road 82
Alexandria, MN

This roadside parking area is a bit unusual; it greets west bound traffic to Alexandria with a rune stone replica 5 times the size of the original, but there is no parking area. The site is best seen by taking city streets to the south side of the park.  This site was built in 1951 by the Minn Dept of Highways (MHD) and Cold Spring Granite Company.

The features include the rune stone replica granite marker, granite benches, flagpole, and mooring rock. The site is nicely planted with decorative plants.

'We are 3 Swedes and 22 Norwegians on an exploring journey from Vinland through the West. We had a camp by a lake with two rocky islands one day's trip north from this stone. We were out and fished one day; after we came home we found 11 of our men red with blood and dead. Ave Maria. Save us from evil.' On side of stone: 'We have ten of our party by the sea and two look after our ships fourteen days trip from this island. Year 1362.'"

The Runestone Museum

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cold Spring Roadside Parking Area

MN Highway 23
Cold Spring

This roadside parking area was built in 1936 by the Works Progress Administration and straddles Highway 23 at the east bank of the Sauk River. When the 1997 survey was completed the site was considered eligible for the National Register. Visiting the site in September 2014, I was reminded that historical can mean something that existed in the past. The site appears to have been abandoned. There is no signage along the highway or the street that runs along the site. A parking lot exists, two actually; one at the south site and one at the north site. But the high weeds, dumped mattress and other trash was not encouraging. Nevertheless, several remnants of the site can still be seen.

The Overlook - south site
A muddy trail leads up to the top of the knoll where the overlook was built.

Typical trail at the site

Looking west at the overlook

Stairs at the west end of the overlook

The overlook appeared to be intact. Brush is growing against the sides and in the interior. The stone work is local Cold Spring granite and, like other sites of it time, well built.  A second trail goes down the bluff from the west end of the overlook. The trails converge near the river. The trail along the river can be followed north, under the highway bridge, and south for a short distance.

The Dam - Sauk River

The dam was also built by the WPA in 1936.

The Council Ring - north site

The council ring was in pretty good shape, a couple of stones were loose. Like the other areas of the site trash was strewn about.

Other features
I did not find the fireplace remains noted to have been in both sites. Perhaps a visit later in the fall would reveal more. I could not comfortably photograph the retaining wall under the bridge but it too, was built of local granite. I did not photograph the restroom building or the parking lots. I did not find the spring water features but did see the rip-rap area the water drains into. I did not see the stone ring on the north side. Again, a visit in late fall or spring might reveal more.

The Cold Spring Roadside Parking Area does not serve its original function any longer. I saw a few individuals fishing from the river banks within the site but saw no other visitors.  Hiking the trails is tricky especially when wet.

Cold Spring Roadside Parking Area, 1936 (Mn/DOT photo)
Susan Granger, Scott Kelly, and Kay Grossman. (1998, December). Historic Roadside Development Structures on Minnesota Trunk Highways. Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The photo above suggests this site was once park like with open spaces and visible features. These sites that nature is reclaiming (see the Pine-Hickory Lakes RPA), perhaps more than the intact sites, give me pause to think of the time in which it was built. This was a depression era site, a time some describe as the "make work" era. So be it. People had jobs and made enduring things. We don't do this anymore. Our rest areas are designed to be quick in and quick out. Little incentive to linger or have a picnic. This RPA was probably a terrific place for a picnic or storytelling around a fire and I can imagine it being a destination for those very activities.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Noyes Roadside Parking Area - Historical Views

US 75
The US - Canadian Frontier, the closed Noyes Customs Station

The Noyes Roadside Parking Area was designed by A. R. Nichols and built by the Minnesota Highway Department (MHD) in 1937. The stone obelisk was erected in 1929 and notes the international boundary. MHD erected a flagpole and built a flagstone base around the marker, creating a plaza. Three 6 foot-long concrete benches were placed around the obelisk. In 1997 MnDOT placed a metal marker noting "Our Native Prairie." A number of trees were planted at the site in 1997.

The RPA is directly across TH 75 from the now closed Noyes Customs Station. Both the station and the RPA are directly on the US side of the border. The inventory visit conducted in 2003 noted "due to post-Sept. 11, 2001, changes in national border security, Gemini Research was allowed only an abbreviated field visit in April 2003 because of site's proximity to the border and the border station. As a consequence, the site was not thoroughly examined and very few notes and photographs were taken." That survey did note that the site's original parking area and traffic island were removed.

I made a telephone inquiry with the US Border Patrol regarding access to the site. The border is a sensitive area and I was not assured of being able to walk around the site or photograph the site. Since it is a 3 1/2 hour drive I am forgoing the site visit.

MnDOT has information about the site, particularly right-of-way plats. A slight design change was drafted in 1938 adding separation islands for inbound and outbound traffic. Contemporary air photos show one island.

1938 proposed changes (MnDOT)

The RPA is seen to the right of the roadway.
The obelisk, flagpole and plaza as well as a concrete bench are visible.



Right-of-way plat. The triangle in the center is the roadside parking area.
(MnDOT EDMS. (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2014, from http://dotapp7.dot.state.mn.us/cyberdocs_guest/Libraries/Default_Library/Groups/GUESTS/frameset.asp)

Flagpole and plaza, Noyes Roadside Parking Area, April 2003.
(Susan Granger, Scott Kelly, and Kay Grossman. (1998, December).
Historic Roadside Development Structures on Minnesota Trunk Highways.
Minnesota Department of Transportation.)

The Noyes Customs Station is being auctioned off, the auction closing soon if not already. It has also been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (National Register Property Details : National Register of Historic Places : mnhs.org. (n.d.). Retrieved August 29, 2014, from http://nrhp.mnhs.org/NRDetails.cfm?NPSNum=14000257).

The Noyes Roadside Parking Area is eligible for the national register. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ironton City Hall (NRHP)

Ironton, MN

1917 brick and stucco city hall built to house a variety of municipal services. Added to the National Register June 14, 2002.

National Register Property Details : National Register of Historic Places : mnhs.org. (n.d.). Retrieved July 19, 2014, from http://nrhp.mnhs.org/NRDetails.cfm?NPSNum=02000637

Deerwood Auditorium / Elevated Metal Water Tank: Deerwood Tank (NRHP)

Deerwood, MN

Moderne-style, concrete-and-stone, multipurpose municipal building designed by Carl H. Buetow and built in 1935–37 under the SERA and the WPA. Added to the National Register 
November 29, 1995 .

Cylindrical tank on latticework tower, built 1914 during period of widespread public improvements in mining towns. Added to the National Register October 22, 1980.

National Register Property Details : National Register of Historic Places : mnhs.org. (n.d.). Retrieved July 19, 2014, from http://nrhp.mnhs.org/NRDetails.cfm?NPSNum=95001376

National Register Property Details : National Register of Historic Places : mnhs.org. (n.d.). Retrieved July 19, 2014, from http://nrhp.mnhs.org/NRDetails.cfm?NPSNum=80002029

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Cuyuna Iron Range Municipally Owned Elevated Metal Water Tanks: Trommald Tank (NRHP)

Trommald, MN

Elevated Metal Water Tank, Trommald
Added to the National Register October 22, 1980.

One of five water towers built 1912–1918 during the development of the Cuyuna Range. Cylindrical tank on latticework tower, built 1918 during period of widespread public improvements in mining towns.

One of three remaining of the original five.

National Register Property Details : National Register of Historic Places : mnhs.org. (n.d.). Retrieved July 19, 2014, from http://nrhp.mnhs.org/NRDetails.cfm?NPSNum=80002038

Minnesota and International Railroad Freight House and Shelter Shed (NRHP)

Lake Hubert, MN

Circa 1918 open-air passenger depot and freight house, added to the National Register May 27, 1980.

The Paul Bunyan State Trail runs behind the site.

National Register Property Details : National Register of Historic Places : mnhs.org. (n.d.). Retrieved July 19, 2014, from http://nrhp.mnhs.org/NRDetails.cfm?NPSNum=80002033

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fond du Lac Culvert (Bridge 5757) (Historic Roadside Structure and NRHP)

Mn Highway 23
Fond du Lac

Bridge 5757 carries Highway 23 over Mission Creek. The bridge was built by A. Bodin and Sons of Minneapolis in 1937 without federal relief money. The bridge, noted as a Historic Roadside Structure, is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places...
Two-span, multi-plate arch bridge with Gothic Revival fieldstone veneer, built in 1937 as part of highway beautification movement. (National Register Property Details : National Register of Historic Places : mnhs.org. (n.d.). Retrieved May 21, 2014, from http://nrhp.mnhs.org/NRDetails.cfm?NPSNum=98000720)

The rip rap along Mission Creek seen above was "crudely patched" with poured concrete at some point. 
(Susan Granger, Scott Kelly, and Kay Grossman. (1998, December). Historic Roadside Development Structures on Minnesota Trunk Highways. Minnesota Department of Transportation.)

The bridge is listed on the Mn/DOT Historic Bridge Inventory (http://www.dot.state.mn.us/historicbridges/pdf/historicbridgelist.pdf).

Portion of 1937 plan