The Kanabec History Center opened at its present location in 1978, on 37 acres bordering the Snake River donated by the McVay family. The complex is a member owned 501(c)(3) non-profit. The governing organization is the Kanabec Historical Society. Main funding sources are membership dues and private donations, without this support the Kanabec History Center would not exist.
The main facility contains an exhibition hall, climate controlled storage areas, reference library, newspaper archives from 1884 to present, searchable on microfilm, a conference room/gallery available for meetings and private parties with a full kitchen, the museum gift shop and antique nook, plus the main office.
Karen Keifer (Painter) and Dee Kotaska (Photographer) at Karen’s Art Installation
Three historic Kanabec county buildings have been moved to the Kanabec History Center grounds. The 1889 Webster School, a chamfer and notch log building, the 1904 Whittier School and the 1898 Coin School which is also available for meetings and private parties.
The Kanabec History Center also owns the Grass Lake church building. This is the last existing building of the town of Grass Lake. The once thriving community had several businesses, two churches, a school, black smith shop, sorghum mill, dance hall, saw mill, half way house (Inn), a general store and a post office. The church was built in 1898 and was in service as a Swedish Mission Church, until the early 1960’s. The building had fallen into disrepair until it was donated to the Kanabec History Center. A non-profit group, The Friends of the Grass Lake Church were formed to work on restoring the building. This building is available for weddings and meetings. It has been restored to its early 1920’s condition, with the exception of base board electric heat. The building doesn’t have plumbing, but does have the 1920’s era electric light fixtures. The original pews, piano and lectern are still in the building. It is located on 133rd street off of county road 43.
The grounds also has a full size replica of Mora’s first fire hall which was originally built in 1904. The replica building now houses one of the original hose carts, that the original building housed. Other History Center features include 3/4 mile hiking trail along the Snake River, picnic tables, the farm machinery covered exhibit, the pole building with an exhibit of potato farming (this building also houses some of the larger artifacts. There is also a fire truck and the 1950s caboose which is open for viewing during regular History Center hours. The caboose has exhibits about the caboose, the rail road in Kanabec county and Mora’s depots.
The History Center archives include many thousands of photographs, documents and items that all have a direct connection to Kanabec County. Less than 10% of the collection is on display at any given time. Exhibits are designed around different themes or events and artifacts that fit into that theme are brought out on display to help tell a story.
New exhibits this spring were: “If They Could Talk” which features some of Mora’s oldest buildings. Zetterbergs, the Connor Block, the Eaton or Boston Block and the Williams Block. Zetterbergs was recently torn down but you would know the others as Mora Mini Mall and Made in Mora, Zimmerman’s and the Union Grill (which is now closed).
Other new exhibit features wash day in the early 1900’s and the Kitchen exhibit was changed to show wash day activity including ironing (with flat irons) and mending (with a treadle sewing machine). See the goat treadmill for doing laundry.
We also have two semi-permanent exhibits: The 1/2 size wig wam, built with materials collected on the History Center grounds and our logging exhibit. Logging was the industry that brought the first people to the county and opened up the land for the farmers who were to follow.
The Center sponsors many events, programs and workshops throughout the year. We just finished a 3 part series by Minnesota photographer Doug Ohman of his kayak trip down the Mississippi from Itasca to the Iowa border. Upcoming events include our 15th Annual Tour of Gardens on July 19, 2014. We are working on a new event for Sat. Aug. 16, 2014, “History Fun Round-up” which will feature western themed games for the kids, horse shoes for adults and kids, demos and food. We are inviting all of the organizations who meet here at the History Center to have an information booth.
The Kanabec History Center is open year round Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. We are located at 805 West Forest Avenue in Mora. Admission is $3 for adults and $1 for children k thru 12 grade. Free admission for all Kanabec History Center members. Members also receive the quarterly newsletter and get 10% off museum gift shop and antique nook purchases.
For more information visit our web page: www.kanabechistory.org or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us at 320-679-1665, or snail mail us at PO Box 113, Mora, MN 55051. We invite you to visit soon.