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

 

Honoring Faribault’s history in a functional, public way July 28, 2020

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This shows a portion of Central Avenue, in Faribault’s historic downtown. Historic-themed benches now grace street corners.

 

MY COMMUNITY OF FARIBAULT is proud of its rich history, reflected most noticeably in our downtown historic district of primarily well-kept aged buildings. It is one of the aspects I most love and appreciate about this southeastern Minnesota city where I’ve lived since 1982.

 

This bench, on the south end of Central Avenue, is themed “Central Avenue, Heart of the City.”

 

 

The Central Avenue focused bench features a photo of a parade welcoming home WW I veterans.

 

Now another dimension has been added to the downtown with the street corner placement of park style cast iron benches that feature stories and photos on local history. Functional, educational and lovely.

 

A bench on the corner of Central and Minnesota State Highway 60/Fourth Street highlights government in Faribault, the county seat of Rice County, Minnesota.

 

Diagonally across the street, a bench focuses on milling in Faribault.

 

A close-up on the milling bench shows a flour mill that once operated here.

 

Sunday morning Randy and I walked along Central Avenue, pausing at each bench to read the brief text and view the accompanying images.

 

The Tilt-A-Whirl amusement ride was invented in Faribault and themes one bench. Two refurbished vintage Tilt-A-Whirls located downtown also provide photo ops for locals and visitors.

 

Details on the Sellner Manufacturing/Tilt-A-Whirl bench.

 

The restored Tilt-A-Whirl and themed bench are located by Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, a third-general family-owned shoe store, which includes a repair shop.

 

A project of the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism and Faribault Main Street, the business-sponsored benches provide a quick lesson in Faribault’s history. I was curious to see what topics would be highlighted. None surprised me.

 

Peony farms are an important part of Faribault’s history.

 

Likewise, Farmer Seed & Nursery, a long-standing business icon now closed, focuses a bench.

 

The “Famous People of Faribault” themed bench includes Heisman Trophy winner Bruce Smith, Red Jackson and Marlo Brandon (who attended Shattuck-St. Mary’s School). The local athletic field is named after Smith.

 

From milling to manufacturing (of the Tilt-A-Whirl), from education to floriculture, from famous people to noted buildings and much more, Faribault’s history is well-covered. I noted, though, that the fur trade, brewing history and Women’s Air Force Service Pilot Liz Wall Strohfus (after whom our airport is named) missing. But benches are in the works for those.

 

A broader view of Central Avenue, where the benches are located. This one is of Bishop Henry Whipple and Shattuck-St. Mary’s School.

 

This bench honors Bishop Whipple, important in founding Shattuck-St. Mary’s School and construction of The Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour.

 

Thomas and Anna Buckham gifted a library to the city.

 

For anyone new to or visiting Faribault or even those who grew up here or have lived here for a long time (like me), I’d recommend a stroll along several blocks of Central Avenue to view these 12 benches. History is such an important part of a community in defining its identity. Past and present link. And sometimes it’s good to review that history, to understand and appreciate a place.

 

The restored Security State Bank clock is also an important part of Faribault’s preservation efforts.

 

This local graciously moved so we could look at the WPA bench.

 

Works Progress Administration projects in Faribault highlight this bench. Those include noted local landmarks like the Faribault waterworks, the viaduct and the Rice County Courthouse.

 

Parents, grandparents, educators, take the kids downtown Faribault for a walk and a quick history lesson. Along the way, notice businesses and how diverse our community.

 

Faribault’s newest mural, left, honors Bishop Henry Benjamin Whipple. The one to the right features the Faribault Pet Parade and was placed on the Central Park Bandshell several years ago. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

This banner hangs in downtown Faribault as part of a branding campaign defining areas of our city. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Buckham Memorial Library. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Reflect on the stories you read on these benches and perhaps plan additional side trips to take in places highlighted. Also seek out the many historically-themed murals in our downtown core.

 

The talented artisans bench honors Grace McKinstry,internationally-known portrait painter, and woodcarvers Ivan Whillock and Marvin Kaisersatt.

 

Quarrying of limestone was once a major industry in Faribault and is evidenced in the many historic limestone buildings..

 

The WPA bench sits outside the local pawn shop.

 

I am grateful to those in our community who continue to preserve and showcase Faribault’s past. This bench project is just another example of how history is valued locally. History is, and always will be, an important part of our identity.

 

Several benches are currently unadorned, awaiting final art.

 

And today, the people who live and work here continue to write history for future generations as Faribault grows and changes.

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FUN FOLLOW-UP FACTS:

  • Local and regional businesses crafted the benches, including Jeff Jarvis of West Cedar Studio, Morristown, leading the art work; MRG Tool & Die, Faribault, crafting the steel seats; Mercury Minnesota, Faribault, painting and assembling, Alliant Castings, Winona, creating the bench ends; and Sakatah Carvers, Signs and Creations, Faribault, ordering and applying the decals.
  • The bench end design is based on a set of antique bench ends.
  • Faribault’s identifying brand symbol, the fleur de lis, is custom reverse engineered into the bench ends.
  • A ribbon cutting and history walk around the benches is planned once the project is completed.

Facts source: Kelly Nygaard, Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Updated at 7:40 am July 29, 2020