History Museums and Sights
The Winona County Historical Museum (160 Johnson St., 507/454-2723, www.winonahistory.org, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri., noon–4 p.m. Sat.–Sun., weekdays only Jan.–Feb., $5 adults) is one of the state’s most interesting local history museums. Most impressive are the lumber mill diorama and the balcony-level timeline beginning during the Ice Age and ending in the 1960s. Children can explore replicas of a cave, tepee, and steamboat pilothouse. In 2009 the museum broke ground on an addition that nearly doubled their space for exhibits and educational programs.
The historical society also maintains two sites outside of downtown. The Bunnell House (10 a.m.–5 p.m. Wed.–Sat., 1–5 p.m. Sun. summer, $5 adults) is five miles south of town, just off Highway 61 in the hamlet of Homer. Willard Bunnell, a trader who supplied lumber to passing steamboats, was Winona County’s first permanent white settler. He built this Rural Gothic wood-frame house in the early 1850s, making it one of the oldest surviving houses in the state. From the outside it looks like a movie-set haunted house, and inside it is furnished as it might have been in the mid-1800s.
Nine miles west on Hwy. 14, between Stockton and Lewiston, is the Arches Museum of Pioneer Life (507/523-2111, www.winonahistory.org, 1–5 p.m. Wed.–Sun. June–Aug., free admission). Folk artist Walter Rahn created working models of farm machinery and displayed them here for years in his private roadside museum. You’ll also find a one-room schoolhouse, log home, and a few pieces of farm equipment, as well as a lovely picnic spot.
During the last half of the 19th century, several thousand Polish immigrants settled in Winona’s east end, and today the city has the nation’s largest concentration of Poles from the Kashubian region. The little Polish Cultural Institute of Winona (102 Liberty St., 507/454-3431, 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Mon.–Sat. May–Oct., limited hours rest of year, $2 adults) makes an effort to both tell and preserve their history.
One block over on East 3rd Street is the Watkins Heritage Museum (150 Liberty St., entrance on 3rd St., 507/457-6095, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Sat., free admission). Displays cover the entire history of the company, from the days of peddling Dr. Ward’s Vegetable Anodyne Liniment, “good for man or beast,” via horse-drawn wagon in 1868 to its current line of nearly 400 products sold by 80,000 North American salespeople. Though primarily just a collection of old bottles, boxes, and tins, it is far more interesting than you would expect.
Though many historic buildings have been lost over the years, downtown Winona is still the most architecturally interesting city between St. Paul and Galena, and over 100 structures are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Explore Historic Downtown Winona map, available at the visitors center and Historical Museum, details about two dozen of them, most dating from the last half of the 19th century. They also offer a driving tour ($4) on cassette.
The banks designed by prominent Prairie School architects are the most noteworthy edifices. The 1912 Merchants National Bank (102 3rd St. E., 507/457-1100, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Fri.), designed by William Purcell and George Elmslie, has an intricate terra-cotta arch over the front door and amazing stained-glass windows that are even beautiful from the outside.
The 1914 George Maher–designed Winona National and Savings Bank (204 Main St., 507/454-8800, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 8 a.m.–noon Sat.) creatively combines Egyptian Revival with the classic Prairie School style. An odd little museum on the second floor has a couple of placards on the bank’s history, a wall full of antique guns, and dozens of trophies from African safaris, including various hippo, baboon, wildebeest, and elephant body parts.
Many of the city’s fanciest Victorian homes surround Windom Park, which is bounded by Harriet Street and West Broadway. The bronze statue in the center of the fountain is of the city’s namesake, a Sioux maiden who, according to legend, threw herself off a Mississippi bluff rather than marry a man she did not love.
Also, don’t miss the impressive Church of Saint Stanislaus Kostka (625 E. 4th St., 507/452-5430). Topped by a towering, silver dome, the 1894 church combines a Greek cross plan with Romanesque and Baroque elements.
Art Museums and Sights
It all started with a single painting. Businessman Bob Kierlin and his wife Mary Burrichter needed a very large painting to hang on a particularly hard-to-decorate spot in their home. The painting of sailing ships at sea pleased them so much that they started to collect other pieces of marine art and eventually had so many they decided to share them with the world.
Their collection became the Minnesota Marine Art Museum (800 Riverview Dr., 507/474-6626, www.minnesotamarineart.org, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Sat., 11–5 p.m. Sun., $9 adults). The permanent collection in this remarkable building on the river—newly built, but reminiscent of dockside warehouses—is a surprising gem. An entire hall is dedicated to Impressionist and Hudson River School paintings, with Monets, Renoirs, Homers, and others in the mix.
The greatest reminders of Winona’s past wealth are its stained-glass windows, many made by Tiffany and other famous studios. These fabulous works of art adorn churches and other buildings all over town. The aforementioned banks and Church of Saint Stanislaus Kostka are three of the most spectacular examples.
The Watkins Company headquarters (150 Liberty St., 507/457-3300) and Winona County Courthouse (171 3rd St. W., 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Mon.–Fri.) are also worth a look. Though less easy to visit, the First Baptist Church (368 Broadway St. W., 507/452-9133), Central United Methodist Church (114 Broadway St. W., 507/452-6783), and First Congregational Church (161 Broadway St. W., 507/452-4829) are also impressive.
The Winona County Historical Museum (160 Johnson St., 507/454-2723, www.winonahistory.org, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri., noon–4 p.m. Sat.–Sun., weekdays only Jan.–Feb., $5 adults) has displays about stained glass, as well as a large window of its own. It’s not just the number of stained-glass windows that lead some to call Winona the “Stained Glass Capital” of the United States. Winona is also home to seven studios that make, restore, and repair windows worldwide. A couple of them give tours to large groups. Cathedral Crafts (730 54th Ave., 507/454-4079, www.cathedralcrafts.org) welcomes visitors in its showroom and might allow you to watch the artists in action if they’re not too busy.
© Tim Bewer from Moon Minnesota, 3rd Edition