Brainerd Downtown History Walk steps back in time
Reminiscent of simpler times, Brainerd's downtown architecture holds secrets to a past full of merchants, travel ways and folklore. Merely driving through, one would miss much of the rich history this town has to offer. Tour guide Carl Faust, lon...
Reminiscent of simpler times, Brainerd's downtown architecture holds secrets to a past full of merchants, travel ways and folklore.
Merely driving through, one would miss much of the rich history this town has to offer. Tour guide Carl Faust, long-time resident and self-proclaimed history buff, spoke of several interesting focal points that formed the communities' backbone for many years. Amongst a wealth of knowledge Faust provided, here are some of the highlights:
• Railways were essentially the foundation of a town. Brainerd's railway, the Northern Pacific Railroad established a settlement in 1870.
• The original Brainerd Post Office was built in 1910 at a cost of $50,000.
• There are 18 centennial markers and several historical marker plaques on buildings in the downtown area-but you really have to look for them.
• There have been multiple fires in the downtown area over the late 1800s through today. Some of the main causes of earlier fires were oil explosions, kerosene lamps, and faulty chimneys or stoves.
• The Elks Lodge and Hotel logo can still be seen on it's original building. There are many of these tell-tale signs on old buildings that note the former name, founder, and year built.
• A handful of the buildings were constructed with red or cream colored bricks that were made in the three brickyards Brainerd once housed. Many of those bricks are still visible in structures today.
• Years ago, street curbs in the downtown area were made of granite. Very few of these curbs remain but there are some on Fifth Street South mixed in with the regular cement curbs.
• Pay particular attention to a building's window openings, ornaments, facades, cornerstones, and brick colorations. These are all good indicators of changes made to the buildings original architecture.
• The original First National Bank was once robbed at gunpoint by a man known as Baby Face Nelson and his gang of outlaws in 1933.
• At least one building still holds a mounted ring on the side that was intended to tie horses to it. Faust swore the entire tour group to secrecy about its actual location. However, tour members verified it does exist.
• A two-way toboggan slide once existed on the corners of South Sixth and Front streets on what was then known as Hobo Park.
• The concrete water tower was erected in 1918 and holds 300,000 gallons of water. It was the first concrete water tower ever built in the United States. It has not held water since 1960.
• There are a few original storm grates that still exist throughout the town. Faust pointed out one near where the old Brainerd Foundry was located.
• The Last Turn Saloon holds many old photos of the Brainerd area in its backroom. It also contains an antique Black Walnut bar setting complete with stained glass. This location is also believed to be haunted.
There are many things that can be revealed about downtown Brainerd history. Clues to the past still exist if people take the time to slow down, look diligently, and share the information that is found.
TAMARA HORTON may be reached at 218-855-5882 or email@example.com .