History - Greater Mankato (2024)

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The History of Greater Mankato

In 1880, Mankato was the fourth largest city in Minnesota with a population of 5,500. Today, more than 50,000 people call Mankato and North Mankato home. Mankato was originally named “Mahkato” (meaning greenish-blue earth) by its early inhabitants, the Dakota. Mankato is located at the confluence of the Minnesota and Blue Earth Rivers.

Today, many memorials and buildings exist to commemorate the diverse and important history that has shaped the Greater Mankato area. These historical attractions are must-sees for visitors! Customize your experience and explore the various historic sites.

More on our story:

In 1852, Parsons K. Johnson and Henry Jackson staked claims along these banks of the Minnesota River and founded the town of Mankato. The city was established on land purchased in the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux between the US government and the Dakota, breaking of this treaty by the government lead to the US-Dakota Conflict of 1862.

North Mankato, which sits just across the river, was established in 1898. The first bridge between North Mankato and Mankato was an iron truss bridge constructed in 1879. The bridge represented an interdependence and partnership between the cities that continues.

Greater Mankato on the Move Mobile History Tour

The Mankato Heritage Plaque program is a collaboration between the City of Mankato and the Blue Earth County Historical Society highlighting our community’s historic places. There are currently 18 heritage plaques installed around Greater Mankato at historic buildings, homes, and some of our city parks. Each Mobile History tour features stories not included on the plaque. Enjoy this tour as well as many others throughout the area.

Museums and Historical Sites

Discover vivid stories from days gone by. Learn more about the history of Greater Mankato and visit these locations below.

Historical Timeline

Our timeline features history specifically of interest to travelers like you.

1852

Mankato townsite surveyed and platted by S. P. Folsom of St. Paul.

1852

Parson King Johnson and Henry Jackson arrived at Sibley Mound on the banks of the Blue Earth River on Feb. 5.

1862

U.S.-Dakota Conflict (Aug. 17-Dec. 26, 1862). Hundreds of white settlers and Dakota lost their lives. The decision to have 38 of 303 Native Americans sentenced to death resulted in the nation’s largest mass execution.

1868

Mankato Normal School established and first classes were held in basem*nt of Methodist Episcopal Church by Professor George M. Gage. Building constructed in 1869 on Fifth Street. Now Minnesota State University, Mankato.

1868

The Minnesota Valley Railroad completed line to Mankato and first train arrived in Mankato.

1879

Iron truss bridge was first bridge across the Minnesota River between Mankato and North Mankato.

1880-85

First utilities established in Mankato – telephone line (1880), gas lines, streetlamps and water lines (1883), electricity (1885)

1887

Sibley Park, the first city park, was established. Over the years, the park has served as a destination for residents and visitors featuring a racetrack (1887-1915), a zoo (1907-1965), recreation facilities and today’s Sibley Farm petting zoo and Kiwanis Holiday Lights (2012-present).

1897

The Henrietta was the last excursion paddle wheeler to visit Mankato.

1910-11

Rapidan Dam constructed, with first power generated to Mankato.

History - Greater Mankato (6)

Tours & Landmarks

The Blue Earth County History Center includes a Gift Shop, Marian Anderson Art Gallery, Research Center and Museum. The Museum features hands-on history fun in the Discovery Lab, diorama of 1880s Mankato, treasures from local author Maud Hart Lovelace and interactive Pioneer Cabin and Barn. Admission charged. The History Center is open year-round; closed major holidays. Visit blueearthcountyhistory.com or call 507-345-5566.

Blue Earth County Historical Society Podcast

Listen and learn about the history of area parks, events and landmarks around the Greater Mankato region. Take a listen!

Maud Hart Lovelace wrote 13 Betsy-Tacy books from 1940 to 1955. The books were set in Mankato (Deep Valley) at the turn of the twentieth century and told the story of Lovelace (Betsy) and her best friend Frances ‘Bick’ Kenney (Tacy).

Julie Schrader, of Minnesota Heritage Publishing said “Maud Hart Lovelace is specifically important to Mankato because our history at the turn of the 20th century is recorded within the pages of the Betsy-Tacy books. The books are fiction based on fact. Maud did not rely only on her childhood memories, but was meticulous in her research for accuracy. Most all of the characters are based on real people Maud knew and all of the places were real places in Mankato.” She continued “Reading these books we can ‘feel’ what it was like to live in Mankato when the first automobile came to town and homes got their first telephone. These books are loved by people all over the country and the world, but Mankato has a special connection – because it is OUR history. How fortunate we are to have this period in our history recorded in this way.

A walking tour of the most significant landmarks mentioned in the Betsy-Tacy books written by local author Maud Hart Lovelace. A schedule of guided tours of The Betsy-Tacy houses is available here.

Take a journey down the roads and highways through river towns and cities following the Minnesota River. Explore the Minnesota River Valley’s stunning views in your own vehicle. The Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway has many suggestions for historical places to visit in the greater Mankato area.

From 1903-1977, the Carnegie Library served Mankato and surrounding area as a public library. Now the Carnegie Art Center serves the Southern Minnesota area as a space for visual art with two galleries and a gift shop area and rental of private studio space.

The building has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980 and was added to the Mankato’s Heritage Preservation Landmarks in 2018. The Carnegie also received in 2018 an Honor award from the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota. Learn more.

The Historic R. D. Hubbard House is one of the finest examples of the classic Victorian architecture in Minnesota. The Hubbard House survives in its original form, having been occupied by only the Hubbard family and the Blue Earth County Historical Society. Explore the 16-room mansion of local flour mill giant R.D. Hubbard and his family, completed in 1905. Guided one-hour tours; admission charged. The Hubbard House is open seasonally May-September. Learn more.

Built in 1916, the 10,000 square foot neoclassical building has expansive rooms, gorgeous detailing and a historic feel with modern updates. Most recently, the Historic Masonic Hall is Mankato’s newest wedding and event space. Learn more.

Realizing the need for a local source of flour, Louis Seppmann, a stone mason by trade, began construction of this wind mill in 1862. The 32-foot-high stone flour mill was completed in 1864, and on days with a favorable wind, Louis Seppmann could transform about 150 bushels of wheat a day into fairly good flour. In 1873, lightning struck the mill, knocking off two of the arms and sails. These were replaced and operation continued until 1880, when a tornado again tore off two arms. These were not replaced, but operation continued until 1890, when another storm finally damaged the structure beyond repair. By the time Minneopa State Park was established in 1905, only the foundation of the granary remained. In 1970, the granary was completely rebuilt to its original dimensions with new materials. A decade later, the door and windows were replaced, and the cap-like roof was reshingled. Learn more.

Moulin Rouge House, originally known as the historic Hunt House, was purchased in 2018 by owners, Chris Crowell and Kristin Fisher with the intention of restoring the home to its original Queen Anne style beauty. Both Crowell and Fisher have a passion for hospitality, creating beautiful spaces and preserving history and the Hunt House provided the opportunity to create a place for all three! Named after the Moulin Rouge Beauty Shop, located in the home’s parlor from 1940-2015, the home was originally built in 1886 by the owner of the Mankato Free Press, Lewis and Lisbeth Hunt. Features of the home caught Crowell’s attention, such as the spiral staircase inside the turret, decorative inlaid wood floors, stamped metal ceiling tiles, stained-glass windows, leaded glass bay window and the beautiful curb appeal of this unique Victorian beauty. The artistry that can be found in the walls of the Moulin Rouge House is something that cannot be replicated. The couple restored the home for 3 years before opening the Bed & Breakfast, doing much of the work themselves with the support of local community members. It was an architectural treasure hunt worth preserving. They view the home as a large piece of artwork worthy of preserving and the restoration process included many components completed “piece by piece.” Learn more.

In 2020, The Blue Earth County Historical Society began a podcast with KTOE, a Radio station based out of Mankato, Minnesota. Surround yourself with Mankato’s rich history and listen to audio tours of the incredible landmarks in Greater Mankato.

Listen Now

More on our story

In 1852, Parsons K. Johnson and Henry Jackson staked claims along these banks of the Minnesota River and founded the town of Mankato. The city was established on land purchased in the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux between the US government and the Dakota, breaking of this treaty by the government lead to the US-Dakota Conflict of 1862.

North Mankato, which sits just across the river, was established in 1898. The first bridge between North Mankato and Mankato was an iron truss bridge constructed in 1879. The bridge represented an interdependence and partnership between the cities that continues.

Museums and historical sites encourage you to discover vivid stories from days gone by.

Parson King Johnson and Henry Jackson arrived at Sibley Mound on the banks of the Blue Earth River on Feb. 5.

Mankato townsite surveyed and platted by S. P. Folsom of St. Paul.

U.S.-Dakota Conflict (Aug. 17-Dec. 26, 1862). Hundreds of white settlers and Dakota lost their lives. The decision to have 38 of 303 Native Americans sentenced to death resulted in the nation’s largest mass execution.

More about the U.S.-Dakota War [LINK].

Mankato Normal School established and first classes were held in basem*nt of Methodist Episcopal Church by Professor George M. Gage. Building constructed in 1869 on Fifth Street. Now Minnesota State University, Mankato.

The Minnesota Valley Railroad completed line to Mankato and first train arrived in Mankato.

Iron truss bridge was first bridge across the Minnesota River between Mankato and North Mankato.

First utilities established in Mankato – telephone line (1880), gas lines, street lamps and water lines (1883), electricity (1885)

Sibley Park, the first city park, was established. Over the years, the park has served as a destination for residents and visitors featuring a racetrack (1887-1915), a zoo (1907-1965), recreation facilities and today’s Sibley Farm petting zoo and Kiwanis Holiday Lights (2012-present).

TheHenriettawas the last excursion paddle wheeler to visit Mankato. (See photo above.)

Rapidan Dam constructed, with first power generated to Mankato.

Sinclair Lewis wrote a portion of his novel “Main Street” in Mankato.

Mankato’s first airport was located near today’s Minnesota State University, Mankato. The airport moved to its current location in 1970.

Ski Haven opened for downhill skiing by Harvey Anderson. In 1977, it became known as Mount Kato.

First area radio station, KYSM, began broadcasting.

Maud Hart Lovelace, born and raised in Mankato, publishes first book in Betsy-Tacy series. More about Betsy-Tacy. [LINK]

Mankato Area Vocational-Technical Institute approved as first in Minnesota. Now South Central College.

William Carlson established Carlson Letter Service in the basem*nt of his home in North Mankato. Became Carlson Craft in 1974.

KEYC-TV began broadcasting. Bandwagon first aired in 1961.

Minnesota Vikings held its first training camp in Mankato.

Madison East Mall, Mankato’s first mall/shopping complex, opened on Mankato’s hilltop.

Dakota community returned to Mankato after a century for the first Wacipi (pow wow) to “honor” the 38 Dakota Warriors executed in 1862.

Urban Renewal began, closing two blocks of Front Street in the heart of Mankato’s shopping district. Mankato Mall constructed.

Brett’s Department Store closed after 124 years in retail. George E. Brett established the Empire Store in 1868 on Front Street in Mankato. A few years later the name was changed to Brett’s Dry Goods Store.

The first Mankato Marathon was held with more than 2,000 runners.

History - Greater Mankato (2024)
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