Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Exploring Red Wing, Part I: In the heart of downtown August 22, 2018

Crossing the Mississippi River bridge from Wisconsin into Red Wing, Minnesota.

Crossing the Mississippi River bridge from Wisconsin into Red Wing, Minnesota.

 

RED WING. What do those two words evoke? Images of pottery? Boots upon your feet? Historic buildings? All three define this Mississippi River town in southeastern Minnesota.

 

Boot sculptures scattered throughout the downtown honor Red Wing shoes.

Boot sculptures scattered throughout the downtown honor Red Wing shoes.

 

My husband and I visited in late 2014, walking and dining downtown and then touring the then new Pottery Museum of Red Wing, the Red Wing Pottery Salesroom, the Red Wing Shoe Store and the Red Wing Shoe Company Museum. We packed a lot into our brief tour of this community, which is deserving of more time than we gave it.

 

Flowers, grasses and other plants grace a park in the heart of the downtown.

Flowers, grasses and other plants grace a park in the heart of the downtown.

 

Through a series of photo essays, I’ll present my photographic perspective of portions of Red Wing. Remember, I pulled these images from an October 2014 visit to this city. Some scenes may be different four years later.

 

Driving through historic downtown Red Wing.

Driving through historic downtown Red Wing.

 

We begin our visit with photos from downtown Red Wing:

 

The historic St. James Hotel is a popular dining and overnight destination.

The historic St. James Hotel is a popular dining and overnight destination.

 

The community definitely has an artsy vibe. I spotted this sculpture on a downtown building.

The community definitely has an artsy vibe. I spotted this sculpture on a downtown building. Red Wing is home to the Sheldon Theatre and many other arts venues.

 

Like a throw-back in time.

Like a throw-back in time.

 

This plaque honors Benjamin Briggs Herbert, a Red Wing newspaper editor who started the National Newspaper Association, conceiving of the idea in 1882. The association serves as the voice and vehicle of grassroots journalism.

This plaque honors Benjamin Briggs Herbert, a Red Wing newspaper editor who started the National Newspaper Association, conceiving of the idea in 1882. The association serves as the voice and vehicle of grassroots journalism.

 

That blue magic store tucked between old buildings caught my eye.

That blue hue of The Magic Code tucked between aged buildings caught my eye.

 

I assume these doors once opened to an Ehlers Department Store.

I assume these doors once opened to an Ehlers Department Store.

 

Another colorful business that I noticed.

Another colorful business that I noticed.

 

There are lots of shops in downtown Red Wing, including this Uffa Shop.

There are lots of shops in downtown Red Wing, including this Uffa Shop. We arrived at a time when most were closed.

 

This sprawling downtown mural honors Red Wing's location on the Mississippi River.

This sprawling downtown mural honors Red Wing’s location and travel on the Mississippi River.

 

A sports club and bar.

A sports club and bar.

 

There's nothing quite as quaint and nostalgic as barbershop poles.

There’s nothing quite as quaint and nostalgic as a hometown barbershop.

 

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Discovering Osceola October 28, 2014

An artist's rendition of Chief Osceola, after whom Osceola, Wisconsin, is named, stands near the stairway leading to Cascade Falls.

An artist’s rendition of Chief Osceola, after whom Osceola, Wisconsin, is named, stands near the stairway leading to Cascade Falls.

I ALMOST DIDN’T DESCEND the stairs to Cascade Falls in Osceola, an historic community of some 2,600 located along the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway in Polk County, Wisconsin, just an hour from the Twin Cities.

Many are drawn to the natural beauty of Cascade Falls in downtown Osceola.

Many are drawn to the natural beauty of Cascade Falls in downtown Osceola.

Peering over the edge at the labyrinth stairway to the falls, I hesitated. First, my fear of heights caused me to pause until I realized the stairs simply hugged the side of the Osceola Creek gorge. Then concern about ascending the 156 steps kicked in. In the end, down I went.

The falls through the trees.

The falls through the trees.

Sunlight peeked into portions of the gorge, highlighting the mist spraying from the falls.

Sunlight peeks into portions of the gorge, highlighting the mist spraying from the falls.

A shot of Osceola Creek, which rushes into the St. Croix River.

A shot of Osceola Creek, bordered by sunlit and shaded woods. The creek rushes into the St. Croix River.

Detailed autumn beauty on the path to the falls.

Detailed autumn beauty on the path to the falls.

A little history of the falls.

A little history of the falls.

And it was worth the laborious climb back up to listen to the rush of water over rock, to stand mesmerized by the falls, to imagine the history this place holds of mill and brewery. The falls were the reason this river town was founded in 1844.

Downtown Osceola from near the falls. Route 35 runs right through the heart of this town.

Downtown Osceola from near the falls. Route 35 runs right through the heart of this community.

To find a waterfalls in the heart of a downtown, along a state highway (35) is a bit of a surprise. I expect if my husband and I had explored more of this downtown, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, we would have discovered more surprises.

A close-up of the Chief Osceola statue, a beautiful piece of art.

A close-up of the Chief Osceola statue, a beautiful work of art.

Especially impressive are the huge pots overflowing with flowers in the downtown.

Especially impressive are the huge pots overflowing with flowers.

This attractive signage hangs outside Osceola Antiques, which bills itself as the largest antique mall in northwestern Wisconsin with 11,000 square feet.

This attractive signage hangs outside Osceola Antiques, which bills itself as the largest antique mall in northwestern Wisconsin with 11,000 square feet.

Osceola Antiques also includes a place to get coffee,espresso drinks, candy and ice cream.

Osceola Antiques also includes a place to get coffee, espresso drinks, candy and ice cream.

However, after delighting in the waterfall, photographing a folk art version of Seminole Chief Osceola after whom the town is named, and perusing the cavernous Osceola Antiques, we headed to the next river town.

A local watering hole.

A local watering hole and eatery.

What now, I wonder, was our hurry on that Wednesday afternoon?

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling