Owatonna is a charming small town in Steele County, best known as the home of the Steele County Fairgrounds, which hosts the annual Steele County Free Fair. Until 1945, the city was the home of the Minnesota State School for Dependent and Neglected Children, which was purchased by the city in the 1970s and converted into a living history museum campus and community arts center. The beautiful National Farmer's Bank building, designed by renowned architect Louis Sullivan, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is known as one of the premiere examples of Prairie School architecture in the United States.
1.The National Farmer's Bank of Owatonna
© Thanakorn Thaneewach/stock.adobe.com
he National Farmer's Bank of Owatonna is an historic bank building that was originally constructed in 1908 by renowned architect Louis Sullivan, known for his signature jewel box-style bank designs. The bank is designed to resemble a jeweled strongbox, metaphorically mimicking the bank's security and reliability for depositors. Colorful terracotta paneling blends with gold and blue glass mosaic bands and red brick walls, creating a unique color scheme for the building's exterior. Inside, stained-glass windows by Louis J. Millet provide color, while four large cast-iron electroliers showcase design elements by Elmslie and the Winslow Brothers Company. Today, the building is recognized as a National Historic Landmark and is home to a Wells Fargo bank branch location that can be visited to observe its architectural elements.
101 N Cedar Ave, Owatonna, MN 55060
2.The Minnesota State Public School Orphanage Museum
© The Minnesota State Public School Orphanage Museum
The Minnesota State Public School Orphanage Museum preserves the history of an historic 1885 orphanage in Owatonna that once served as the third-largest institution of its kind in the United States. The orphanage campus served as the home for more than 10,000 children between its construction and its closing in 1945, housing orphaned, abandoned, abused, and neglected children throughout the Minnesota region. Today, visitors can tour the preserved historic building campus, which has been converted into an interactive living history museum. Self-guided tours can explore buildings such as the Children's Cemetery and historic Cottage 11 and view historic videos, photos, and artifacts that tell the stories of former child residents.
540 W Hills Cir, Owatonna, MN 55060, Phone: 507-774-7369
3.Village of Yesteryear
© Village of Yesteryear
Village of Yesteryear preserves more than two dozen historic structures from the 19th century, including the beautiful Dunnell Mansion, which was constructed in 1868. The village can be toured Tuesdays through Sundays as part of guided afternoon tours between May and September. Historic buildings include the 1891 Saco Church, which was relocated from nearby Lemond Township and showcases a spectacular 1875 painting of Saint Wenceslas. A two-story 1859 cabin constructed from tendon and mortise logs is showcased, along with a late-19th-century Bachelor Cabin, a restored general store and post office, and the relocated 1856 District 14 Schoolhouse. Recreated buildings include a fire hall, a farm machinery building, and a replica town square gazebo.
1431 Austin Rd, Owatonna, MN 55060
4.Rice Lake State Park
Rice Lake State Park is a lovely Minnesota state park that is located just east of the city of Owatonna, surrounding the lake of the same name, which serves as an important migratory waterfowl stopping point in the region. The lake stretches for 750 acres throughout the park, which is located on a section of 500 million year old limestone that was covered by glacial till until 400,000 years ago. Today, the park serves as a popular spot for boating, camping, and other outdoor recreational opportunities, offering a boat launch and rental canoe service. Four miles of hiking trails are available, including trail areas that are groomed for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing during the winter months. Day-use picnic sites are also offered, along with a waterfowl observation area and cart-in campsites.
8485 Rose Street, Owatonna, MN 55060
5.Owatonna Arts Center
© Owatonna Arts Center
Owatonna Arts Center converts the former West Hills Campus area of the Minnesota State Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children into a community arts organization. The historic campus, which operated as a state orphanage between 1886 and 1945, was purchased by the City of Owatonna in 1974. Gallery exhibitions, musical performances, and community arts workshops and courses are hosted at the arts center throughout the year and are open to the public for visitors of all ages. State-of-the-art facilities include a performance hall and studio, several beautiful galleries, and a full catering kitchen all developed by the Owatonna Foundation.
435 Garden View Ln, Owatonna, MN 55060, Phone: 507-451-0533
6.Costas Candies and Restaurant
© Costas Candies and Restaurant
Costas Candies and Restaurant was originally opened in Owatonna's downtown district in 1919 by George Boosalis as George's Candy Kitchen. The company has been crafting handmade hand-rolled candies for nearly a century, including delectable truffles, cremes, and turtles. Scratch-made fare is served up at its cozy cafe facility at breakfast and lunch throughout the week, including excellent breakfast favorites such as egg plates and three-egg omelettes. At lunch, diners can choose from creative hamburger, cheeseburger, and sandwich options, including classic deli sandwiches and healthy wraps. Fresh-ground hot coffee is served up throughout the day, along with hand-spun milkshakes, malts, and root beer floats.
2304, 112 N Cedar Ave, Owatonna, MN 55060, Phone: 507-451-9050
6 Best Things to Do in Owatonna, MN