Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Exploring Red Wing Part III: Down by the river August 28, 2018

RED WING IS ABOUT POTTERY and shoes and history. But it’s also about the river. The Mighty Mississippi.

 

A view of Red Wing from the Bay Point Park area shows Barn Bluff and the bridge connecting Minnesota and Wisconsin.

A view of Red Wing from the Bay Point Park area shows Barn Bluff and the bridge connecting Minnesota and Wisconsin.

 

A brief visit to this southeastern Minnesota river town in the fall of 2014 led me to the water, to Bay Point Park, a lovely riverside respite. Here, on an afternoon when the autumn wind blew brisk with cold, I photographed boats, bluff, bridge, bins and boat houses.

 

Recreation (boats) and commerce (grain elevator and bins) mingle here.

Recreation (boats) and commerce (grain elevator and bins) mingle along the Mississippi.

 

Red Wing is one of those naturally beautiful communities where the muse of the river lures you in. Water does that. Here, standing in the park, I could see the commerce, the recreation, the history, the appeal and importance the Mississippi River holds in Red Wing.

 

Another view from the Bay Point Park area.

Another view from the Bay Point Park area.

 

And I considered then what power this waterway possesses, flowing 2,350 miles from Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota, through towns like Red Wing, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

 

BONUS PHOTOS:

 

The historic Boat House Village draws lots of interest.

The historic Boat House Village draws lots of interest.

 

sculpture

This sculpture of a young Charles Lindbergh, famous aviator born in Little Falls, MN., stands in Bay Point Park.

 

Lots and lots of boats.

Lots and lots of boats. The city of Red Wing operates the Ole Miss Marina, in two locations in the city.

 

Trains run along the river by the grain elevators.

Trains run along the river by the grain elevators.

 

The side tourists don't always see, or photograph.

The side tourists don’t always see, or photograph.

 

The iconic Red Wing logo graces a grain elevator.

The iconic Red Wing logo graces a grain elevator.

 

FYI: Click here and here to read my previous posts on Red Wing.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Exploring Red Wing, Part II: Red Wing Shoes August 27, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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MY HUSBAND IS A HARDWORKING automotive machinist, on his feet all day resurfacing heads, turning brake rotors, rebuilding engines and more. His work is always in demand because so few do what he does and he’s good at what he does. Really good.

 

Step inside the Red Wing Shoe Store

Step inside the Red Wing Shoe Store in downtown Red Wing and this gigantic 20-foot long by 16-foot high, 2,300 pound replica Red Wing work boot grabs your attention. It’s in the 2005 Guinness Book of World Records.

 

He needs sturdy work boots that offer comfort and support and protection from grease, oil and dirt. Sometimes he’s worn Red Wing boots, sometimes boots from Mason Shoes across the border in Wisconsin.

 

Night-time outside the Red Wing Shoe Store.

Darkness descends outside the Red Wing Shoe Store.

 

On a 2014 visit to Red Wing, the Red Wing Shoe Store and its on-site second floor museum were on our must-stop list. Randy was having problems with a pair of Red Wing boots not fitting properly. He’d tried to get the issue resolved at our local Red Wing shoe provider. But still, the problem persisted. Go straight to the source, he decided.

 

Randy stepped onto a machine which determined pressure points on this feet and projected the results onto a screen.

Randy stepped onto a machine which determined pressure points on his feet and projected the results onto a screen.

 

The search began for the right boots.

The search began for the right boots.

 

Randy received great one-on-one attentive customer service.

Randy received great one-on-one attentive customer service.

 

That was the right decision. While Randy’s feet were measured and checked for pressure points and he tried on numerous boots, I meandered. Through the outlet store, through the museum. Eventually Randy found boots and the old ones were determined defective, just as he thought all along. We spent a lot of time at the store, but left satisfied customers.

 

The iconic Red Wing shoe logo.

The iconic Red Wing Shoes logo.

 

Since 1905, when Red Wing Shoes was founded in this Mississippi River town in eastern Minnesota, this shoe company has been crafting shoes for hardworking people like my husband. Footwear in the company’s Heritage Collection is made just as it was originally, handcrafted from premium leather.

 

A museum map

A museum map shows Red Wing’s global market.

 

But, I discovered, not all Red Wing shoes are made in Minnesota. Those new boots Randy got, well, they are made in China, says so on the label inside the tongue. To be honest, we both felt a bit betrayed, thinking he’d gotten American-made boots. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised.

 

Rows of boots line a wall leading to the second floor museum.

Rows of boots line a wall leading to the second floor museum.

 

Even given that discovery, my husband remains loyal to the Red Wing brand. He likes his new boots, which I convinced him not to wear to work. He looks really good in his 435 Men’s 6-inch boots. They’re much sexier than sloppy tennis shoes. That left him without work boots. So he ordered a pair from across the border.

 

Even Hollywood chooses Red Wing shoes, according to this info in the museum.

Even Hollywood chooses Red Wing shoes, according to this info in the museum.

 

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. So much for customer loyalty. His new boots from Wisconsin aren’t fitting all that well. Maybe he should have gone Red Wing again, stuck to the iconic workhorse boots which sometimes, and sometimes not, are made in a Minnesota river town.

 

BONUS PHOTOS:

Red Wing boot sculptures can be seen in downtown Red Wing.

Red Wing boot sculptures can be seen in downtown Red Wing.

 

A letter is posted in the museum from a long ago customer.

A letter is posted in the museum from a long ago customer attesting to the quality of the shoes.

 

I slipped into a Red Wing boot in the dress-up section of the museum.

I slipped into a Red Wing boot in the kids’ dress-up section of the museum. Kids are encouraged to try on an outfit and Red Wing shoes.

 

envelopne

In 1912, The Red Wing Shoe Company began using the “Chief” logo to promote a new line of “Chief” products. Inspiration for the “Chief” graphic came from an employee’s childhood photo collection. The logo was used until 1928, when it was replaced with the red wing logo design.

 

In the gift shop, I spotted this beautiful Red Wing Pottery bowl.

In the gift shop, I spotted this beautiful Red Wing Pottery bowl.

 

A lovely old door in the shoe store.

A lovely old door in the shoe store.

 

FYI: Click here to read the first in my series of stories from Red Wing.

© Copyright 2015 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

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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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.

 

Discovering Vasa, an historic Swedish settlement in Minnesota March 25, 2013

Driving into Vasa, established in 1868, according to a the historical marker, right.

Driving into Vasa, established in 1868, according to a the historical marker, right.

IT DOESN’T TAKE MUCH to draw me off the appointed route.

Recently, a sign for a church soup luncheon caused my husband and me to veer off Minnesota Highway 19 near Red Wing into historic Vasa, established in 1868.

We opted not to partake of the soup, although that was a tough call given my love of soup and church dinners. But we were under a time crunch with limited hours to get to Red Wing and back.

So Randy and I did a quick drive through Vasa, named in honor of King Gustav Vasa, Swedish ruler from 1523-1560. Hans Mattson encouraged Swedish immigrants to settle here in this place originally known as Mattson’s Settlement.

Several of Vasa's old buildings.

Several of Vasa’s old buildings.

From an outsider’s perspective, there’s not much to the several blocks long Vasa—some houses, an abandoned creamery, by the looks of it a former schoolhouse or town hall, then Vasa Lutheran Church atop the hill with the Lutheran Center across the road.

Vasa Lutheran Church, the congregation which started Lutheran Social Services, originally Vasa Children's Home.

Vasa Lutheran Church, the congregation which started Lutheran Social Services, originally Vasa Children’s Home. Construction on this church building began in 1867 with dedication in 1870.

Turns out, though, as I would later learn, that this seemingly obscure town along the highway is “the most intact and unchanged of the original Swedish colonies of Minnesota.” Vasa is designated on the National Historic Register as the Vasa Historic District with 19 structures of historical significance. I should have done my homework before we headed into Goodhue County.

This street sign led me to investigate and learn about the Vasa Children's Home.

This street sign led me to investigate and learn about the Vasa Children’s Home.

While in Vasa, I spotted an OLD CHILDRENS HOME RD street sign by the church. When Randy turned the car onto that road, he should have kept going. My instincts told me a story awaited us. Instead, we turned into a drive leading around the church. Had we continued along Old Children’s Home Road, we would have discovered the former Vasa Children’s Home built in 1899 and today a private residence. The home opened in 1865 in the Vasa church basement when four orphans arrived in town. This is considered the birthplace of Lutheran Social Services.

See what you learn when you detour off the planned route.

FYI: To learn more about the history of the Vasa Children’s Home, click here.

To learn more about Vasa Lutheran Church, click here.

For historic info on Vasa, click here. Also click on the highlighted phrases within the post for additional information.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Finding spring in Minnesota in the midst of winter March 9, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:49 AM
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WINTER GETTING TOO long for you?

Uh, huh. I hear you. I’m feeling winter weary, too, my spirits quelled by the recent 10-inch snowfall in Faribault.

I long for warmth and sunshine, for bursts of color and blooming flowers. Just give me spring, will you?

Well, readers, I quite unexpectedly walked into spring, in Red Wing, Minnesota, of all places. Who would have thought? Certainly not me.

But look, spring…

Tulips, among the first flowers of spring.

Tulips, among the first flowers of spring.

More tulips in bloom.

More tulips in bloom.

This scene just makes me happy.

This colorful scene simply makes me happy, just like spring.

So many flowers in bloom.

So many flowers in bloom.

The pretty pastels of Easter and of spring.

The pretty pastels of Easter and of spring.

Pretty, pretty floral plates.

Pretty, pretty florals.

Exactly what I needed to see on a winter day: jolts of color.

Exactly what I needed to see on a winter day: jolts of color and flowers in bloom.

Pottery Place in Red Wing

Pottery Place Historic Center in Red Wing, site of antique and specialty shops, eateries and the Red Wing Pottery Museum.

…inside two antique shops at Pottery Place Historic Center, 2000 West Main Street, Red Wing.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling