Village of Yesteryear

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn 1962 the Society was offered the Saco Church located 7 miles southwest of Owatonna, and with the support of the Steele County Agricultural Society, the Society permanently leased a portion of the southeast section of the fairgrounds to begin a pioneer village.   The original layout was similar to the center of Owatonna and its Central Park, which was originally circular. Thus was established the Village of Yesteryear, which has grown in the years since through the additional move of historic structures, as well as museum buildings built on site.

Saco Church

Sponsored by Tri M Graphics


Built in 1891 in Lemond Township, the “Saco Church” is officially named the St.  Wenceslas Church of Moravia, the rural location’s original name. Moved from seven miles southwest of Owatonna, it contains all of the furnishings when closed in 1952, including an 1875 painting of St. Wencelaus, a 1910 altar, statues, and the original pump organ. Now climatized and available for weddings year-round, it was the first building moved to the Village of Yesteryear site in 1962. For more information, click here.

Two-Story Cabin

Sponsored by Learning ZoneXpress


Built in 1859, the 2-story cabin at one time was home for the Houdek family of 6, emigrants from Bohemia. It features squared mortise and tendon logs, a restored open-hearth fireplace, hide-a-crib, spinning wheel and upstairs loft with bed and play area. For more information, click here.


Bachelor Cabin

Sponsored by Express Personnel


Built in late 1800s nine miles northeast of Owatonna in Merton Township, this rough-hewn cabin served bachelor rural mail carrier William Lueck for many years. It features rope bed with straw mattress, winter coats of bear and buffalo hides, food safe, pelting board, and rugged bachelor style. Click here for more information.


District 14 School House

Sponsored by Wenger Corporation

IMG_2065One of 99 school districts in Steele County, District 14 was 3 miles southwest of Owatonna, built in 1856 by William Thompson so his neighbors’ children and his grandson wouldn’t have so far to walk to school. At the time, it was the fifth schoolhouse built in the county. Thompson’s grandson Luther White attended and later taught there. Made of logs, in 1903 it had wooden siding and a porch added. Moved to the Village in 1963, it is furnished authentically through the efforts of the Rural School Teachers’ Association. For more information, click here.

Bixby Depot


Built in 1899 to serve the Milwaukee Railroad, the depot, until 1952, served passenger and freight trains passing through Bixby, MN, a village on U.S. Highway 218 south of Owatonna. Brought to the Village in 1963, it houses telegraph station, model trains, and baggage area with emigrant trunks and baggage carts. The railroad semaphore from Claremont to signal open & closed tracks was added in 1965. For more information, click here.

General Store & Post Office

Sponsored by Randall’s License Bureau


Formerly rural school 2126 (57) 12 miles southeast of Owatonna, this General Store was large enough to showcase the many appliances, groceries, dresses, hats and all dry goods available in a one-stop shop at the turn of the 20th Century—all while you waited or ran other errands. Added in 1984, the post office from Meriden features the combination boxes and the story of Anna Drache, postmaster in her own home, for 28 years. For more information, click here.

Dunnell House

Sponsored by Federated Insurance

IMG_2060Built in 1868-69 by Mark Hill Dunnell, an emigrant from Maine, the Italianate- style 11-room house features a belvedere, often called a Widow’s Watch, from its common use on the east coast—wives could watch for their husband’s ship, a ship that often might not return. Congressman Dunnell served three years as Minnesota Superintendent of Schools and then 14 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, the only U.S. congressman from Owatonna. It has period furnishings throughout provided by residents of Steel County and reveals the story of a most influential Minnesota family. 

Fire Hall 

Sponsored by Legacy Signs


Built on site in 2000, it houses the three earliest motorized fire engines in the county, plus hand hose carts and vintage fire extinguishers from earliest bucket brigades to vintage back packs, and provides views of the still used 1906 Owatonna Fire Hall. Click here, for more information.

Farm Machinery Building

Sponsored by Gandy Company

Built in 1984 to resemble an early equipment dealership, the Farm Machinery Building exhibits a seasonal timeline of tools used in claiming the prairies for farming and early inventions to reduce labor in both fieldwork and household on the farm. Special items include patent models created by local inventors that impacted farm labor nationally and a vintage model of the McCormick Reaper. Click here for more information.

The Privy – “Outhouse”

Sponsored by Block Plumbing


A necessity on any farm or backyard in the early days, this 2-seat outhouse was the finest, with plaster and lathe interior, and no schoolboys will tip it over as it weighs at least 2,000 pounds. For more information, click here.

Museum of Professionals

Sponsored by Johnson & Doerhofer PA


District 62 School, built in 1887 was moved from 3-1/2 miles northwest of Owatonna to house equipment of many early service professions attending the populace of the county: Physicians, opthamologists, dentists, funeral directors, telephone operators, barbers & beauticians, and pharmacists Even today’s professionals sometimes wonder for what some of this equipment was used. Click here for more information.

Black Smith Shop

Sponsored by Hometown Motors


In operation by Frank Styndl from 1896 through the 1920s in Bixby, MN, the blacksmith shop graphically illustrates the essential role blacksmiths had in the county to keep machines repaired, horses shod and wagon rims rolling. It features the drive shaft and belts powering his machining tools, the forge, and items that were in the shop waiting for repair when Frank died in 1930 at age 73. Click here for more information.

Duluth Missabe & Iron Range Caboose


While cabooses have long been replaced by technology, this style crew car was the workroom for the rear trainman for more than a hundred years. This one served from 1920 into the 1970s for the Duluth Missabe & Iron Range line and was trucked to the Village in 1994. Its interior shows the lookout cupola to check for “hot boxes,” a typical train toilet and the rules of the track before radio communication took over. For more information, click here.

Town Hall

Sponsored by Mark Moonan Walbran


Built from some of the earliest timber in the area judging by its 1-inch thick, 20” boards, 12 or more feet long, this Town Hall served Owatonna Township from the late 1850s until moved from downtown to be converted into a private home which it was until 1998 when donated to the Society. It includes a diorama of downtown Owatonna in 1906, township voting booth, MN Senator John Hartle’s desk, and early township surveying tools and subsequent village development.


Among more than 600,000 windmills in the U.S. when at their peak use in 1930, this windmill was instrumental at all farms to produce enough water for livestock and household. This 18-vane model was among the most typical and is complemented with a locally made pump from the Owatonna Pump Co.  Added in 1999 , the windmill came from a rural farm, now incorporated within Owatonna’s northwestern city limits. 


IMG_1547To catch the summer breezes, gazebos served as cooling off placs and family gathering spots on hot summer days. This one was built in 2000 by the Rypka family honoring their father, Jerome, a dairy farmer and entrepreneur.

Beaver Lake Concession Stand IMG_1201

Sponsored by Spare Time Entertainment

Operated by the Burnes-Schmidt families throughout the 1950s, the Beaver Lake Concession Stand served the lake’s beach crowd who visited the spring-fed 98-acre lake in Berlin Township three miles northwest of Ellendale, MN.  Moved in 2010 to the Village of Yesteryear from the former Noel Thompson property, the stand continues its service as a source of old-fashioned soda and ice cream floats during summer events and the Steele County Free Fair.

Print Shop

Sponsored by JC Press


After serving as a shed on the Dunnell House on Main St. and as the first Fire Hall, the Print Shop was moved, extended and climatized to host the 1900 printing press donated by art instructors and shop owners Alice Ottinger and Jean Zamboni. It features working presses on which in-residence printers produce color note cards, postcards and mementos for visitors, many available in the History Center gift shop. It also features an engraver’s table used by a Jostens employee. For more information, click here.

Carriage House

IMG_2072Sponsored by Wenger Corporation

Although originally an 1880s horse barn for four teams of horses used by Standard Oil Company to deliver fuel oil, the Carriage House exhibits vintage carriages including doctor’s buggies, a 2-seat landau, a surrey, a cutter, a toboggan sleigh, and several early saddles, horse blankets and sleigh bells. Click here for more information.

Gus’s Station


Built in 1931 on Highway 65 in Ellendale, MN, to serve the burgeoning motor car market, Gus’ Station truly served its clientele. Gus would check the oil, the water level in the radiator, the tire pressure and wash your windshield. To school kids in Ellendale where it sat on the same block as the school, the station served candy and pop to delighted kids during recess and lunchtime even into the 1980s. Click here for more information.

History – Timeline Of Steele County

Click here to view the Steele County Historical Society Timeline of Steele County.