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Saturday, October 16, 2021

17 years in the making, Washington County Heritage Center opens Saturday

It was just days away from the grand opening of the Washington County Heritage Center in Stillwater, and this week Brent Peterson followed up on the latest details and answered many questions.

Can he help lift the glass case at the John Rank exhibit? Have copies of the same audiovisual equipment been ordered specifically for the Royal Credit Union Education Center? Will the glass doors of the black baseball exhibit arrive in time?

“Yes. No, I don’t know,” Peterson, executive director of the Washington County Historical Society, said Tuesday as dozens of workers gathered around him to set objects, hang artwork and clean floors. “We have been working on this for 17 years. It’s amazing to see how it all comes together. “

The grand opening of the $ 5 million center at S. Greeley Street, 1862, will take place at 10 am on Saturday.

One of the first exhibits that people will see upon entering the center is John Rank: A Curious Mind. Rank, a legendary Stillwater photographer, has documented the city’s history throughout his life and amassed one of the largest individual collections of historical photographs in Minnesota.

Before dying in 1964 at the age of 86, Rank divided his collection and chambers between the Minnesota Historical Society, the Washington County Historical Society, and the Stillwater Public Library.

A camera on display at the John Rank exhibit at the Washington County Heritage Center. (John Auty / Pioneer Press)

Many of his cameras provided by the Minnesota Historical Society, including a box camera dating from 1895, are on display, according to Nancy O’Brien Wagner, a partner at BlueStem Heritage Group that designed the exhibit. “For the amateur photographer, this is heaven,” she said. “They are just beautiful. Some of them are in excellent condition. There is also a rubber bulb attached to it – this is 115 year old rubber – which is super unusual. If you know your cameras, that tells the whole story. “

Rank took thousands of photographs, Peterson said, capturing everything from prison life to the logging industry on the Santa Cruz River. Many of Rank’s photographs fill the walls, including those that Rank took of himself.

“He took a lot of selfies even before selfies were common,” Peterson said.

Visitors will be able to see Rank’s notebook; blue glass bottles in which he kept chemicals, a hat and a price list. Also on display: Kleantone Manufacturing Co., a record cleaner for Victrolas that Runk invented and patented, Peterson said.

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Adjacent to the Runk exhibition is an exhibition that compares and contrasts the fashions of the 1860s and 1960s. A blue silk brocade ball gown from the 1860s, once owned by Stillwater resident Eliza Purinton, is on display in the same exhibition as the 1960s dress, and the Civil War uniform is displayed alongside the Vietnam War uniform once worn by a retired US army. Colonel Buzz Krizel.

17 years in the making, Washington County Heritage Center opens Saturday
Part of the exhibition “From the Forest to the World”. (John Auty / Pioneer Press)

The largest exhibit, From Forest to World, details the state’s logging history, from the forests in the north to the Santa Cruz River, from where they were sent downstream to the mills at Marin in Santa Cruz and Stillwater. There they were sawed into logs and turned into lumber, and then “shipped all over the world,” Peterson said.

The idea for the Heritage Center was first expressed in 2005 during a strategic planning meeting with the historic society’s board of directors, staff and the organization’s key stakeholders, Peterson said. “This created the need to move forward as an organization and make the organization’s mission to collect, preserve and interpret the history of Washington County and Minnesota — the true focus of society,” Peterson said.

In 2013, the Historical Society acquired the former UFE building at 1862 S. Greeley Street. It later leased the building to the Minnesota Department of Transportation to build a bridge over the Santa Cruz River.

Peterson said the site was chosen because of its proximity to the Washington County Government Center and because it “was located in the center of the county to facilitate access for all Washington County residents and visitors.”


17 years in the making, Washington County Heritage Center opens Saturday
A sign at the front door greets people at the upcoming Washington County Heritage Center in Stillwater. (John Auty / Pioneer Press)

Inauguration of the Washington County Heritage Center, 1862 S. Greeley Street, Stillwater, Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm. Free admission. Special events include live music, ax throwing and felling from world tree champions Jim and Jamie Fischer.

Following the grand opening, the Heritage Center will be open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm; entrance fee for adults – $ 8; $ 3 for children 6-17 years old; and free for children under 5 years old. Members of the Washington County Historical Society receive free admission to all WCHS Historic Sites.

For more information, contact the Historical Society at 651-439-5956 or email [email protected]

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