Winona, Minnesota has become a hot spot for visitors, and a great way to learn more about this unique island city along the beautiful banks of the Mississippi River is to explore the Winona County Historical Society’s three amazing museums this summer!
The award-winning Winona County History Center is located in historic downtown Winona, just a few blocks from the Mississippi River. The History Center is made up of Winona’s 1915 National Guard Armory and the 2010 Laird Norton Addition, designed by Joan Soranno of HGA. Inside find three floors of engaging exhibits, including the favorite annual exhibition, The Art of Fine Furniture on exhibit now through August 10. Families will have fun exploring a reproduction cave with cave paintings by early peoples of the area, a tipi, and steamboat pilothouse. Other exhibits take a look at the famous Watkins Company and family, Dakota heritage, stained glass artistry, and much more.
A few artifacts to visit include the first bottling machine used by J.R. Watkins when he started the now international company in 1868 within his kitchen. Also see the Light of Learning Mural Studies, by Kenyon Cox from 1910. Another favorite is the racecar that set world speed records. One if the engine hoods was made from a Wenonah canoe!
The Historic Bunnell House is located just south of Winona in Homer, Minnesota. Willard Bunnell built the home, as his family joined him and his brother, Lafayette, on their journey west. Willard was a trader, and his wife Matilda spoke several languages, including Dakota. They were the first permanent Euro-American settlers in Winona County. The Bunnells’ unique, gothic, home was built in the early 1850s and is open for tours through August.
Will you find the silver coins? Originally it was thought Willard and Matilda Bunnell moved their family to the Minnesota territory because of their health. Both had tuberculosis, which eventually claimed their lives, but after digging deeper, the museum found that Willard was a bit of a handful. He ran away twice in his youth and his name appears on a court record associated with some missing silver coins just as he went west looking for a “healthier climate.”
The Winona County Historical Society’s newest museum opened in 2017. The Rural Heritage Museum features exhibits documenting the pioneer life of early Winona County and its agricultural heritage. Along with the museum, visitors can step back in time with the Gainey-McCarthy one room schoolhouse, the Hill sister’s log house, and a log barn. The Rural Heritage Museum is on the Winona County Fairgrounds in St. Charles, Minnesota and is open for the Winona County Fair and St. Charles’ Gladiolus Days.
Children love the annual day camps at the Rural Heritage Museum each summer. Pioneer School has been a summer staple for over 30 years. Students in 1st-8th grade are immersed in pioneer life for two days by having classes, playing games, learning pioneer skills, creating crafts, and more.
Explore all the fun that Winona has to offer this summer!