Remnants of Minnesota’s 19th Century

Hay Lake School
Hay Lake School – Scandia, MN circa 1898

One of my courses this semester centers on the evolution of American Architecture. Because the school I’m attending (online) is based out of Boston sometimes I feel like there is a bit of an East Coast emphasis. When the discussion is about American Architecture prior to 1800 or even 1850 it seems only natural that the emphasis would be placed on the East Coast, after all development elsewhere in the country had just started at that point. So, you can imagine my worry when I realized that my first paper for this course was to be about a local (to me) building that was built in either the 18th or 19th centuries. Frankly, I’m not aware of any buildings in Minnesota from the 18th century. If you’re reading this and you know of one, please comment because I would love to check it out!

So, I was on a search for an 18th century Minnesota building to write a paper about. My first thought was of rural Minnesota school houses – a Google search came up with the Hay Lake School in Scandia, Minnesota. After reading a little bit about this school I learned that the building, now owned by the Washington County Historical Society, is a museum and is operated jointly with a log house that was moved next to the school in 1974. The log house was built by a Swedish immigrant, Johannes Erickson, in 1968. The school was constructed in 1886.

Erickson Log HouseErickson Family in front of their log home

It’s quite interesting to think about Minnesota’s landscape in the 19th century. Writing this paper made me realize just how influential Swedish immigrants were on the formation of this state. Swedish immigration in Minnesota began around 1860. Many Swedish families established themselves as leaders in Minnesota’s growing agricultural industry as well as loggers and factory workers. Minneapolis quickly became a leading destination for Swedes, becoming the third largest Swedish city in the world by 1900. This statistic was staggering to me – to think that Minneapolis, at one time, was the 3rd largest Swedish city in the world, behind Sweden cities (duh) and Chicago, IL. Even in present day Minnesota has the second largest percent of Swedish decedents in the Nation.

Of course, after settling on writing about these buildings for my paper I discovered all kinds of homes and buildings that were constructed in the 19th Century. Stillwater is brimming with them – I’m hoping to go on a historic tour of Stillwater this summer and posting about it. If you’re reading this and are thinking of a 19th century Minnesota building, tell me about it! I’d love to find more; each one I find and read about gives me a clearer picture of what Minnesota must have looked like then.

Other than this paper, I’ve been working away at my job and it’s mid-term time for school so I’ve been pretty busy! Looking forward to celebrating with one of my best friends this weekend at her Bridal Shower – I’m in her wedding in April. My work with Preserve Minneapolis and the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota continues. I’m hoping to start blogging for PAM this summer in addition to this blog; I just can’t fit it in right now. Preserve Minneapolis is gearing up for another season of walking and biking tours. I’m excited for the new tours that will be offered this year, if you’re local and are interested in taking part in some of the tours stay tuned for details! That’s all for tonight, thanks for stopping by!



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