Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The nuances of Northfield keep me returning August 5, 2020

Beautiful historic buildings grace downtown Northfield, Minnesota.


NORTHFIELD. There’s so much to appreciate about this southern Minnesota community with the slogan of Cows, Colleges and Contentment. Cows honor the area’s rich agricultural heritage. Colleges reference the two resident colleges, Carleton and St. Olaf. And contentment frames the feeling in this riverside town rich in natural beauty, history, and a thriving business community and arts scene.


A view of the Cannon River in downtown Northfield from the flower-edged pedestrian bridge connecting riverside walkways.


Every time I walk along the River Walk aside the Cannon River or meander through the downtown on Division Street, I am struck by the sense of artistic vibrancy. The sense of care in this community. Pride. Hometown loyalty.


The display windows of Content Bookstore grab attention in vivid hues. I once participated in a poetry reading here.


I see this in shop windows with displays that are creative and eye-catching.


Poetry is stamped into sidewalks throughout the downtown district.


I read this in words imprinted in cement as part of Northfield’s Sidewalk Poetry Project.


One of several musicians performing last Friday evening at The Contented Cow Pub & Wine Bar.


I hear this in music performed outdoors at eateries.


Art showcased in the exterior lower streetside window of the Northfield Arts Guild.


I view this in colorful art.


At the Northfield Public Library, this sculpture is changed up to promote the U.S. Census.


Bold art.


You’ll find plenty of coffee shops in Northfield.


And a hometown bakery, Quality Bakery and Coffee Shop.


In neon lights marking businesses.


A personal note posted in a business that has closed.


In publicly posted gratitude.


Banners honor the Northfield High School graduates of 2020.


And banners that show each individual matters.


Novelty tees displayed in the front window of the Northfield Historical Society reference the 1876 bank robbery by the James-Younger Gang.


Photographed through the front window of MakeShift Accessories, a handcrafted bracelet.


Temporarily closed because of COVID-19, Antiques of Northfield is one of my favorite stops.


Northfield draws me back, as a writer and a photographer, to notice nuances of place. The rushing water. The home-grown art. The aged buildings in this community where locals, in 1876, defeated the James-Younger Gang during a raid at the First National Bank.


No longer the First National Bank, this historic building houses Merchants Bank. The original First National (site of the bank raid) sits across the street and houses the Northfield Historical Society and Museum.


Northfield is simply one of those towns when, each time I visit, I leave feeling better for having spent time there.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


11 Responses to “The nuances of Northfield keep me returning”

  1. Kiandra Judge Says:

    I love seeing these pictures of Northfield. We just moved here a year ago this month and it’s been such a great town for us. A warm and welcoming town. It’s suiting us well and I’m excited for our life to be here.

    • Kiandra, I’m so glad you feel at home in Northfield. It’s a lovely community in so many ways. Had house prices been lower, we would have bought a home here in 1984. But housing prices then were considerably lower in Faribault, so we bought here. Randy works in Northfield, a 22-minute commute.

      • Kiandra Judge Says:

        It is a good community! Supportive and warm. Glad are near to it though! An easy drive

  2. Ruth Says:

    Poetry stamped in sidewalks? How wonderful !!!

  3. Liz W Says:

    You show a lovely portrait of Northfield, and it is that in many ways. However, like any town there are challenges too. I’m sorry you and Randy weren’t able to buy here, as I think you would have been a good fit, and Northfield would have been lucky to have your talents.
    Stay well.

  4. I think I need to explore this little town, not too far from me!

  5. valeriebollinger Says:

    Thank you for highlighting Northfield. I do love living here!

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