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

 

A photographic farewell to the Red Wing Pottery salesroom December 1, 2015

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Red Wing Pottery and Stoneware is closing its salesroom. According to a news release posted last week on the company’s website, owners Bruce and Irene Johnson are shuttering the store due to stress and pressure related to a lawsuit; threats against them, their family and the business; and more. You can read the complete statement by clicking here.

While the salesroom will remain open only through December 24, the company will continue to produce a limited number of Red Wing Pottery and Red Wing Stoneware pieces at the Stoneware facility. Those products will be available for purchase online.

I visited the store in October 2014 and drafted the following post in May 2015, planning to publish it as part of a series on Red Wing. I still intend to publish that series. Eventually. For now, this post stands alone:

A sign in The Pottery Store summarize

A sign in Red Wing Pottery summarizes the company’s history.

RED WING AND POTTERY. The two are synonymous in the Mississippi River town of Red Wing in southeastern Minnesota.

As far back as 1861, when German immigrant farmer John Paul created the first piece of stoneware from clay found on area land he intended to farm, pottery has been a part of Red Wing’s story.

Potter Mark Connolly

Potter Mark Connolly

Today potters still shape clay into practical and beautiful works of art at Red Wing Stoneware & Pottery. Crocks, pitchers, mugs, bowls, commemorative pieces and much more are created by the hands of those devoted to this craft.

A large jug inside the pottery store lists chapters of the Red Wing Collectors Society.

A large jug inside the pottery store lists chapters of the Red Wing Collectors Society.

Signature Red Wing pottery has a passionate following with chapters of the Red Wing Collectors Society scattered throughout the country. They hold conventions and are serious about this Minnesota pottery. Check out the Society’s website, where experts will even answer your questions about Red Wing pottery for free.

This river town also boasts a new Pottery Museum of Red Wing and plenty of antique stores with Red Wing pottery.

Visiting potters Paul and Denise Morris of Morris Pottery in Ogilvie created Minnesota-shaped pottery for the Red Wing company.

Visiting potters Paul and Denise Morris of Morris Pottery in Ogilvie created Minnesota-shaped pottery for the Red Wing company.

I love this Minnesota-made pottery. I’m not a collector, although I have a few pieces. There’s something about owning an aged crock or an artsy piece of Red Wing pottery that connects me to that German immigrant farmer, to this river town, to the land.

Red Wing Pottery on Old West Main.

Red Wing Pottery on West Main Street.

Join me now on a photographic walk through Red Wing Pottery on West Main Street. The company has a second location, Red Wing Stoneware, along U.S. Highway 61.

Potters were on their lunch breaks when I visited the store.

Potters were on their lunch breaks when I visited the store.

Water and clay.

Water and clay.

Classic Red Wing.

Classic Red Wing with the company’s signature logo.

My husband peruses pottery in the "seconds" section of the store.

My husband peruses pottery in the “seconds” section of the store.

Commemorative items in the "seconds" area.

Commemorative items customized for customers.

More Morris Pottery art.

More Morris Pottery art.

More commemorative merchandise.

More commemorative merchandise.

Beautiful pottery.

Beautiful pottery.

In the "seconds" section.

In the “seconds” section.

Graceful with the signature Red Wing logo.

Graceful with the signature Red Wing logo.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Two “Minnesota Market Warriors” scout out antiques in Red Wing May 21, 2013

Part of an edited painting depicting Red Wing inside Pottery Place.

Part of an edited painting depicting Red Wing, inside Pottery Place.

RED WING, MINNESOTA. It’s a Mississippi River town synonymous with shoes and pottery. And antiques.

The sprawling Pottery Place complex.

The sprawling Pottery Place complex.

On a day trip here this past winter, my husband and I shopped at Pottery Place Historic Center, the old Red Wing Pottery factory which today houses antiques and specialty shops, eateries and a pottery museum.

An antique store display of Red Wing pottery, I assume. It was too high to reach.

An antique store display of Red Wing pottery, I assume. It was too high to reach.

Because we were only in town for a few hours, part of that time at a park watching for eagles, we toured just a minuscule section of Pottery Place. You could easily spend half a day here. Truly. Randy and I didn’t even get downtown except to drive through on our way to Covill Park.

One of our more unique finds, a souvenir Minnesota-shaped ashtray.

One of my more unique finds, a souvenir Minnesota-shaped ashtray displayed on a plate.

Now we don’t necessarily buy a lot of antiques or collectibles at antique stores, preferring to find ours at garage and yard sales or thrift stores. But that doesn’t stop us from window shopping, or scouting for others.

I had no clue what this was, but Randy identified it as an egg scale.

I had no clue what this was, but Randy identified it as an egg scale. If I would have looked a little closer…

You might call us “Minnesota Market Warriors,” referencing the public television show by that name, minus the “Minnesota.” The five cast members search for merchandise at flea markets with those items then sold at auction. It’s a competition. But, for the viewer, the show also presents history and market lessons.

On this particular Saturday, Randy would have won the competition. He found a Watt Ware pitcher stamped REDWOOD COUNTY, Farm Bureau Service Co., WABASSO, MINNESOTA. Score. Several extended family members collect Watt Ware from Redwood County, my home county.

The Watt ware pitcher from Wabasso which we purchased on behalf of extended family.

The Watt Ware pitcher from Wabasso which we purchased on behalf of extended family.

Not being able to afford this pitcher ourselves, we called the potential buyers and were given the go ahead to purchase the piece, marked 20 percent off if paid for via cash or a check. After locating an ATM, the purchase was made.

Now, if we had been thinking, we would have auctioned off the pitcher to the highest bidder or charged a finder’s fee. But turns out one of the family members owns the exact same pitcher, gifted to her by our mother.

Jokingly, I told her, “OK, then, $XXX will be deducted from your inheritance.”

Yeah, just call me Miller Gaffney, the persistent Market Warriors Southerner who always haggles for a bargain and holds her purse strings tight.

#

BONUS PHOTOS from Pottery Place:

The sign which adorns this historic building.

Love this Pottery Place sign.

A hallway inside Pottery Place.

A hallway on the first floor of Pottery Place.

One of the first things I spotted inside an entry, this lovely water feature around the corner from the Red Wing cityscape painting above.

One of the first things I spotted inside an entry, this lovely water feature around the corner from the Red Wing cityscape painting above.

Lovely spice jars and salt-and-pepper shakers all neat and tidy in rows.

Lovely spice jars and salt-and-pepper shakers all neat and tidy in rows in an antique shop.

The two antique shops we visited, Pottery Place Antiques and 3rd Floor Antiques, were on the second and third floors.

The two antique shops we visited, Pottery Place Antiques and 3rd Floor Antiques, were on the second and third floors, up that stairway.

I was a little freaked when I encountered this fur among the vintage hats.

I was a little freaked when I encountered this fur among the vintage hats.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

All of the above images have been edited, some with a “cartoon” application to create a yesteryear appearance.