Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Walk, sit & then study Faribault’s history via educational benches August 1, 2020


“Faribault supports the military” themes a recently-installed bench.


SEVERAL DAYS AGO, I featured historic-themed benches recently installed in historic downtown Faribault. Well, more have been added to Central Avenue. And some I missed during my first walking tour. More are yet to come.

All 12-plus (I’ve lost count) highlight important aspects of my community’s history in images and words.


Alexander Faribault and the fur trade focus a bench on the north end of Central Avenue.


This depiction of Alexander Faribault trading with a Dakota trading partner stands in Faribault’s Heritage Park near the Straight River and site of Faribault’s trading post. Faribault artist Ivan Whillock created this sculpture which sits atop a fountain known as the Bea Duncan Memorial Fountain. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


The home of town founder Alexander Faribault, located just a block off Central Avenue. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2017.


One bench focuses on town founder, Alexander Faribault, and the local fur trade he began with the Dakota peoples. He was of French-Canadian and Dakota heritage. One of his fur trading posts eventually became the site for the town of Faribault.


Focus on downtown.


This mural on the corner of Minnesota State Highway 60 (Fourth Street) and Second Avenue, welcomes people to our historic downtown. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


A 1950s scene along Faribault’s Central Avenue is shown in this mural in our downtown district. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


Another bench shines a light on the core business area with Downtown: The Place to Be.


An historic photo of students and staff at the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind backs one bench.


Honoring a teacher and leader at the school for the blind.


Another bench highlights the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf.


Across the river on the east side of Faribault, sit the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind and the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf, schools still in operation and each getting their own benches along Central Avenue.


WASP Pilot Liz Strohfus, after whom the Faribault airport is named.


Finally, Faribault’s support of the military themes another bench that showcases WASP Pilot Liz Strohfus and Brigadier General Lewis Beebe, a veteran of WWI and WWII, a POW and more of notoriety.


The bench honoring the school for the deaf sits on the north end of Central Avenue.


There’s a lot of historic information to take in on these benches, a project coordinated by the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism and Faribault Main Street and supported by local businesses. My posts only summarize what you will discover on these locally-crafted park style benches that now enhance our downtown.


Here you see the fleur de lis symbol.


No detail is too small. On the bench ends, the branding symbol of Faribault—the fleur de lis—has been incorporated into the iron work. Depicting a lily, the symbol honors Faribault’s French roots.


Markers like this tag historic buildings throughout downtown Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


There’s so much to learn about my southeastern Minnesota community from these benches. I invite you to walk along Central Avenue, sit for a spell, shop, admire the historic buildings, enjoy the many historic murals in the downtown core. Faribault truly is an historic gem. In so many ways.


© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


10 Responses to “Walk, sit & then study Faribault’s history via educational benches”

  1. Sandra Van Erp Says:

    In a time when statutes and other “historical” is being vandalized or changed, this is nice to see. But then, the Bishop and Alexander were ahead of their time. So many trailblazers and standard bearers from not only Faribault, but southern MN. The bench and artwork quality sturdiness seem the long term has been planned for. A nice statement and communication tool. Also glad to hear masking up is happening more too!

    • Yes, it is good to see these people from our past honored. The team working on this bench project did an outstanding job.

      And, yes, for the most part, people are masking up more. That said, I saw three teens and a middle-aged woman walk into Kwik Trip on Friday evening unmasked. The clerk gave two of the teens masks and the other waited outside. I didn’t see him give one to the woman.

  2. Bernadette Thomasy Says:

    Thanks for the history lessons on Faribault; I knew none of this while growing up just a county away. What an ambitious community project!

  3. Rachel Eggleston Says:

    Loved seeing the benches and info about them. What a beautiful city you live in and the care you all have for each other. Thanks for your continuing great posts.

  4. Don’t you just love the history we have in our towns, always something to learn. Thanks for sharing some of the history that surrounds your town. I think Faribault is such a pretty place!

  5. valeriebollinger Says:

    We drove down Central Avenue after church and noticed the benches…we were on our way to get sweet corn. 😉 I like the idea of the history on the benches.

    • I noticed benches (or at least one) along the River Walk in Northfield. But nothing was on them. Maybe Northfield should do something similar. I first saw historic-themed benches in downtown New Ulm about a month ago and photographed them. I have yet to write a post on that stop in downtown New Ulm. I have so much content to write…

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