Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The impressive Owatonna Power Plant building February 4, 2016

The Owatonna Power Plant building, photographed while waiting at a stoplight on Sunday evening.

The Owatonna Power Plant building, photographed while waiting at a stoplight on Sunday evening.

NO MATTER HOW OFTEN I TRAVEL through downtown Owatonna, I remain impressed by the massive and historic Owatonna Power Plant building hunkered along the banks of the Straight River.

LED technology replaced the original neon lighting in this iconic lettering.

LED technology replaced the original neon lighting in this iconic lettering.

Constructed of brick and with three silver smokestacks rising behind OWATONNA POWER PLANT signature red lettering, this place stands as a local landmark.

It’s a landmark Owatonna chose to renovate following a devastating 2010 flood that filled the plant’s lower level with 12 feet of water.

Under the direction of architect LEO A DALY, the building has been renovated and repurposed as headquarters for Owatonna Public Utilities. Locals recognized the value of this iconic structure. That seems to be a trend more and more, and one I hope continues.

Please share any examples/stories you have about aged buildings that have been saved and renovated/repurposed rather than destroyed.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The power of light in photography May 7, 2013

“WAIT. DON’T GO,” I requested as he was about to pull away from a stop sign in Owatonna.

Through the drizzled windshield, my eye caught a flash of red letters against the backdrop of a moody blue grey sky.

Shot Tuesday evening, April 30, in downtown Owatonna, Minnesota.

Shot Tuesday evening, April 30, in downtown Owatonna, Minnesota.

I wanted a photo of the dreamy scene—the bright signage atop the Owatonna Power Plant building, the warm glow of lantern street lights, flashes of taillights and headlights, the patch of light through a glass door, the reflection of light upon wet pavement.

In that precise moment, the frame unfolding before me was all about light, a gift to any photographer. There was no hesitating. Hesitation, for a photographer, equals regrets.

A closer shot of the 75-year-old signage.

A closer shot of the 75-year-old signage.

And so my husband, who understands, or at least pretends to understand, held foot to brake, flipped on the windshield wipers and allowed me to fire off several shots before continuing through the intersection.

Unexpected opportunities like this, to photograph an iconic landmark in remarkable light, are to be embraced.

FYI: The sign atop the Owatonna Power Plant recently underwent a transformation as the neon letters were replaced with LED technology. Also, as a result of damage caused by a September 2010 flood, the building has been repurposed into office space. The power plant has not been used as an energy source for years with Owatonna Public Utilities purchasing its electricity instead from Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling