Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Noticing details at Faribault’s historic woolen mill February 23, 2017

The Faribault Woolen Mill sits on the bank of the Cannon River.

The Faribault Woolen Mill sits on the bank of the Cannon River. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

SNUGGED ALONG THE BANKS of the Cannon River in Faribault, the 150-year-old Faribault Woolen Mill stands as a noted local landmark and a nationally-recognized producer and purveyor of high quality wool blankets and more.

Faribault Woolen Mill blankets/throws are artfully hung on a simple pipe.

Faribault Woolen Mill blankets/throws are artfully hung on a simple pipe. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

In recent years, with the acquisition of the briefly-closed mill by successful and marketing savvy Minnesota businessmen, the mill has experienced growth and significant national exposure. Many times I’ve picked up a magazine to see the mill’s products featured.

In the upper left corner of the mill, the sign unnoticed by me until several days ago.

In the upper left corner of the mill, the sign unnoticed by me until several days ago.

What I’d not noticed until recently was a faded sign along the back side of the historic mill, the side visible from North Alexander Park. My view of the mill complex is typically the public side motorists see while driving by on Second Avenue.

The back of the mill as photographed from the North Link Trail. The mill is on the National Register of Historic Places. Several years ago the city of Faribault received a $300,000 Minnesota Historical Cultural Heritage grant for rehab of the smokestack.

The back of the mill as photographed from the North Link Trail. The mill is on the National Register of Historic Places. Several years ago the city of Faribault received a $300,000 Minnesota Historical Cultural Heritage grant for rehab of the smokestack.

But this time I was walking, following the North Link Trail that runs through the park and is part of a city-wide recreational trails system. I paused to appreciate the inky blue waters of the Cannon on a brilliantly sunny afternoon when my gaze drifted to the mill. There I focused on white sign advertising BLANKETS. Faded, indiscernible lettering hovered over that key word.

A replica of an original sign is now in the Woolen Mill's historic display area.

A replica of an original sign is now in the Woolen Mill’s historic display area. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

I wondered how, in my 35 years living in the area, I failed to notice the vintage signage. Sometimes familiarity of place creates a lack of visual awareness. We become so accustomed to our usual surroundings that we fail to truly see. And to appreciate.

TELL ME: Have you ever felt the same upon discovering something (what?) in your community that’s been there forever but you didn’t see?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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12 Responses to “Noticing details at Faribault’s historic woolen mill”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Sometimes you can see something that has been there forever like this signage and miss it because you had not looked at it from that angle or something. Love that the mill is up and running again and making great products.

  2. So it is true that sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees.. To look is not always to see, lest we peer beyond the obvious and search for that which we are not seeking!

  3. If you ever make it to Dunedin you have to look for ALL the oranges painted on the various buildings around town. http://www.tampabay.com/news/humaninterest/two-dunedin-artists-are-behind-graffiti-mystery-of-oranges-painted-on/994168 and https://www.dunedinorangefestival.com/history.htm. It fascinates me and love when I discover a new one. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  4. I love the significant things you see that you can then SHOW US))!
    Those little things MATTER, have significance.
    Such nuances, character, history.
    It all matters.

    xx from Duluth.

  5. Heidi Nelson Says:

    Isn’t it wonderful that the small, local restoration company, Restoration Services, Inc. was the company that did the work on the exterior of the mill? Check out their website to see more of the places in and around Faribault that they have been able to expertly restore!

  6. I would love to visit this place someday. It’s funny how many things go unnoticed because we are so busy doing the things that we have to do in life.


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