Brainerd History Walk keeps going with tourists’ return

Visit Brainerd’s tours are available by advance reservation — online purchase or via phone. Tours are limited to 10 people. Tour durations last about 90 minutes and participants are advised to dress accordingly for the walking tours.

Brainerd History Walk Gallery (13).JPG
Local historian Carl Faust points out items of historic interest as he leads a tour group Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, during a Downtown Brainerd History Walk, which was part of Brainerd's sesquicentennial celebration week.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — All one needs to travel back in time is a good pair of walking shoes.

The Downtown Brainerd History Walk is designed to be informative, fun and walkable and is available again after it was last offered in September for the city’s sesquicentennial celebration.

“The original walk was set up in 2008 as a self-guided tour to help celebrate Minnesota’s sesquicentennial,” said Carl Faust, a local historian and frequent tour guide. “Booklets were made in 2011 and are still available at the (county history) museum or Brainerd Public Library.”

Brainerd Public Library
The Brainerd Public Library was established in 1904 and was a founding member of the Kitchigami Regional Library system in 1969. Originally housed in a Carnegie library, the current building was constructed in 1986.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Last year, the nonprofit Visit Brainerd began offering a walking tour of downtown Brainerd that starts and finishes at the marketing organization and visitor’s bureau office on Laurel Street.

“I would imagine though once we get into the summer season … we will just automatically have people that are interested,” said Holly Holm, a destination services specialist with Visit Brainerd, which represents the tourism and hospitality businesses of Baxter and Brainerd.


Visit Brainerd

Visit Brainerd’s walk is an abbreviated version of the more encompassing Downtown Brainerd History Walk, a self-guided tour created by Faust. Holm came up with the idea to focus solely on the 600 and 700 blocks between Front and Laurel streets.

“I think that when people participate in our tours with a guide, it becomes much more personable, and you will have the ability to ask any question that you want, and somebody is there to answer it for you,” Holm said.

The group tour includes brief sidewalk stops at historically relevant sites. Faust or the other tour guides will stop and talk about the significance of the buildings around town, the people who built them and the unique historical stories surrounding them, Holm said.

“This year, I did take some things out that were not terribly pertinent and added a few things,” Faust said. “Every year, we learn so much more, so I can envision if this continues it will be modified each spring.”

Signs posted in downtown Brainerd with early images of the buildings that were there help bring the past to life and allow people to compare the landscape of years past with today’s cityscape.

“I am constantly amazed at the durability of the buildings downtown,” Faust said. “Of course, most are made of brick, many from Brainerd bricks. Many building owners are restoring these buildings to look like they did when they were built, some back in the 1880s.”

Brainerd History Walk

Proceeds from the Downtown Brainerd History Walks help fund the Brainerd History Group’s legacy project of providing signage and historical markers. The tour fee is $10 per person and children are welcome to participate in the walking tour.

“More often when kids are there, they ask the questions that adults aren't necessarily thinking about, so I love it when kids go on the tour,” Holm said.


Faust said with amusement, “These little ones ask the best questions and are just amazed that back ‘in the olden days’ this little dinky downtown was the only place a person had to shop and with no Amazon or Walmart — how did they survive?”

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Local historian Carl Faust talks to a tour group Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, during a Downtown Brainerd History Walk, which was part of Brainerd's sesquicentennial celebration week.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Faust will often voluntarily offer trivia about his own historical interests as part of the tour, such as his fondness for bricks. Brainerd was home to at least three brick factories, as early as 1872, started by the Northern Pacific Railroad.

“Two made red brick that was more prone to absorbing moisture, and the other was a cream-colored brick that was more glass-like and held up much better, called Schwartz Milwaukee Cream Brick,” Faust said.

Holm said of Faust, “He never gives the same tour. It's always something different, especially when there's a different group and you get different questions. … But I could go on the same tour with Carl and I learned something new every single time.”

A Michigan resident with ties to the Brainerd lakes area kept his earlier promise to donate $2,500 to construct a roof over a locomotive engine at the Crow Wing County Fairgrounds because his relatives were employees of Northern Pacific Railway.

Faust said the six tour guides volunteering with Visit Brainerd will point out “how looking down, up and in the alleys” of downtown Brainerd will reveal things the casual passerby would miss.

“We are offering tours whenever, if we have a three-day notice or more for groups of five or more, we're more than happy to accommodate any group, to fit their schedule,” Holm said.

The next scheduled tour that will be offered will take place from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 17. The fee is $10 and participants will receive a complimentary pass for admittance to the Crow Wing County Historical Society Museum and Research Library in downtown Brainerd.

For more information or to make a reservation for the Downtown Brainerd History Walk, call 218-825-0410 or visit .


FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at . Follow him on Twitter at .

I cover arts and entertainment, and write feature stories, for the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper. As a professional journalist with years of experience, I have won awards for my fact-based reporting. And my articles have also appeared in other publications, including USA Today. 📰
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