Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The impressive Owatonna Power Plant building February 4, 2016

The Owatonna Power Plant building, photographed while waiting at a stoplight on Sunday evening.

The Owatonna Power Plant building, photographed while waiting at a stoplight on Sunday evening.

NO MATTER HOW OFTEN I TRAVEL through downtown Owatonna, I remain impressed by the massive and historic Owatonna Power Plant building hunkered along the banks of the Straight River.

LED technology replaced the original neon lighting in this iconic lettering.

LED technology replaced the original neon lighting in this iconic lettering.

Constructed of brick and with three silver smokestacks rising behind OWATONNA POWER PLANT signature red lettering, this place stands as a local landmark.

It’s a landmark Owatonna chose to renovate following a devastating 2010 flood that filled the plant’s lower level with 12 feet of water.

Under the direction of architect LEO A DALY, the building has been renovated and repurposed as headquarters for Owatonna Public Utilities. Locals recognized the value of this iconic structure. That seems to be a trend more and more, and one I hope continues.

Please share any examples/stories you have about aged buildings that have been saved and renovated/repurposed rather than destroyed.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


17 Responses to “The impressive Owatonna Power Plant building”

  1. Great Captures – I love signage like this!

  2. treadlemusic Says:

    No story but sure am in love with that neon against the darkened sky!!!! Beyond awesome photo!!

  3. Almost Iowa Says:

    It is great to see these grand old buildings repurposed. Austin is struggling to save their power plant building. It is not as stately as Owatonna’s but it is a landmark.

  4. Dan Traun Says:

    I just discovered that power plant this last fall while traveling for work. I was looking for a place for lunch downtown and drove by it. That was my first trip to downtown Owatonna; I plan to return.

    • You need to tour the National Farmer’s Bank, dubbed “the jewel box of the prairie,” and Louis Sullivan’s most famous bank project. Beautiful stained glass and architecture. Also tour the former orphanage. Catch the Farmer’s Market at Central Park; it’s incredible. The Steele County History Center and Village of Yesteryear are outstanding. I’m missing a lot in this short suggestion list, I’m sure. But, in summary, Owatonna is worth revisiting.

  5. If at all possible, I always prefer refurbishing old buildings rather than tearing them down and building new.

  6. Jackie Says:

    I love this building too…It make quite a statement!

  7. Jean Zamboni Says:

    Coming down the Main Street hill into Owatonna the OPU IS what one sees ahead. The smokestacks aren’t for real now but I feel so proud to know that we all OWN this place. I was a rural carrier for years and when I was at my farthest point on the route I could look back and SEE that center of the city. . In winter it was the steam but now it is just the scene. Owatonna has changed a lot in the ninety years I have known it, but I am happy to realize that others feel about this SIGNATURE building the way I do.
    From experience I also feel the people who work there are quality and have heart day and night to serve.

  8. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    Love the dome window above the door. Beautiful building

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