Our American Cousin

Lincoln PosterWe are planning a journey back in time on, April 14, 2014 at the Grand Event Center. We will take you to Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C. to witness the events on that evening that changed the course of history forever.

On April 14 1865 President Abraham Lincoln arrived late to the play, but was in good spirits. Midway through the act, John Wilks Booth shoots President Lincoln in the back of the head, he then stabs Henry Rathbone who was seated next to the President. After booth jumps from the box to the stage, shouts “Sic semper tyrannis!” (“Thus ever to tyrants!”–the Virginia state motto)”, he breaks his leg but manages to escape the theater and Washington D.C.

We are going to recreate a portion of the play, Our American Cousin, in which President Abraham Lincoln was shot. Jim Stark will start off the evening with a summary of the events that lead John Wilks Booth assassinating the 16th President of the United States. You will then witness a portion of the play and the assassination. Afterwards, St. Olaf Professor Michael Fitzgerald will give a summary of how the country reacted to the assassination.

Tickets are $20.00 in advance and $30.00 at the door. There is assigned seating and no spot is guaranteed the day of the event. Doors open at 6:30 with the program starting at 7:00 0.m.

Buy Tickets online at:

Eventbrite - Our American Cousin

NHS Annual Meeting

Mark PetersonOur 2015 Annual Meeting will be the kickoff event for our 40th anniversary. This year’s annual meeting will be on March 28 at the Grand Event Center in historic downtown Northfield. The keynote speaker will be the Executive Director of the Winona County Historical Society Mark Peterson. Mark was born and raised in Mankato and graduated from Mankato State with degrees in History and Geography. He earned an M.A. in History from Portland (OR) State University. He was the Museum Director for 4 years at the Aurora Colony Historical Society, Aurora, Oregon before moving to Winona 32 years ago for the Executive Director job at the Winona County Historical Society. Peterson has served as mayor of Winona for the past two years.

In addition to Mark, Susan Garwood of the Rice County Historical Society will speak on her time at NHS and how she has seen the organization grow over the past 25 years. Sue grew up in the Twin Cities and received her BA in American Studies with a Heritage Preservation Emphasis from St. Cloud State University. With a passion for local history and interest in people’s stories, she began her career at the Northfield Historical Society as their Interim Director in 1988. Within the next 18 months she would go from Interim Director to Assistant Director, and the Executive Director in 1990. In 2000 she accepted a 3-year temporary position as the Archives Manager at Carleton College and in 2003 she became the Executive Director of the Rice County Historical Society. In 2013 she completed her MLIS (Masters in Information and Library Science) with an Archives Concentration from University of Wisconsin. She considers herself fortunate to have spent the last 26 years as a student of Rice County’s rich history.

We are also honoring longtime NHS member and volunteer Bob Phelps, for not only his dedication but his late wife, Thora’s work at NHS.

There will be a cash bar and light hors d’oeuveres.

Doors Open at 6:00 with the Annual Meeting starting at 7:00 p.m.


Floor Repair

The  bank raid exhibit will close March 10 at 1:00 p.m. for floor repairs. It will also be closed on March 11.

The Museum Store will be open normal hours.

Sorry for any inconvenience.

Northfield’s Armory

NFLD Armory

A postcard of the Northhfield Armory.
Circa 1920.

A few weeks ago, the City of Northfield was informed that its 1915 Armory might be for sale soon. I thought it was time to do a little research on the building and here is some of what I found.

The Northfield Armory was built in 1915 after a long campaign by the local community. The building is a Gothic Revival brick and stone building. The building sits just outside of Northfield’s Nationally Registered Historic District.

Building Architecture
It is a two-story building with a three bay garage addition off its southern corner. The building has a concrete foundation and brick masonry walls. The building has a three bay symmetrical face that features rectangular corner towers flanking the central entry way. Above the central entrance there is a name plate with the word “ARMORY” inscribed on it.

According to a Minnesota Historical Society historic architecture inventory, the significance of the building is:
The physical fabric of the Northfield Armory remains faithful to its original design. It is perhaps the plainest of the Early Period armories constructed between 1911 and 1917 and reflects a restrained, three bay castellated design that became typical of Minnesota armories constructed during the 1920s.
According to the inventory, the building is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places Registry.

Building Origination/Dedication
According to a Jan. 15, 1915 Northfield News article, the City will have a fine new armory that it has been searching for. The Northfield business community had raised $2,435.50 towards bringing the new Armory to Northfield. The Armory was to be the home to Company D of the National Guard. Many service clubs held fundraisers to help raise the additional money needed. It was also noted that many of the citizens had hoped for a public restroom in the building, but because of budget restrictions this was not going to happen. However, at the same time plans for a public restroom in the YMCA (currently home of the Northfield Arts Guild) were being developed.

Armory Inside

Inside the Northfield Armory during the 1915 Rice County Fair.

The City of Northfield was to have no obligation for maintenance of the building. But if the City Council were to pass a resolution for maintenance the state would match pledge up to $250. The remaining balance for the maintenance would come from rentals of the building for public events.

In May of 1915 it was reported that the excavation for the foundation had begun and that the dirt had been hauled to the Rice County Fairgrounds, which at the time was held in Northfield. The plan was to have the building constructed by October, but the contractor was hoping to have the building finished much earlier. He must of succeed because by the Rice County Fair in 1915 (September 23-25) they had housed their exhibits in the newly finished armory.

The finished building consisted of a, company library and reading room, ladies retiring room when the hall is rented—with a toilet, and check room, ticket office and an officer’s room. The basement was to be divided up into quartermaster’s room, locker room, shower baths, a kitchen and dining room, indoor riffle range and a bowling alley. The bowling alley was never built.

When the building was dedicated on December 3, 1915, Minnesota Governor Winfield S. Hammond was the keynote presenter, along with other local politicians, and members of the state militia were also present.

Many of the people in attendance admired the outside of the building. However, the indoor riffle range drew the most attention. It was a 50 foot range, rather than the typical 200 foot range most armories had. But users of the range would get the same quality as the 200 foot range by using smaller bullets.

The Northfield Armory was built to fulfill a need in the community it has a long history in Northfield. Image the stories it could tell about the development of Northfield.

Southern independence ends at Appomattox Courthouse

Civil War PCDThe Northfield Historical Society is pleased to offer “Southern independence ends at Appomattox Courthouse,” a presentation by Jim Stark on Thursday, February 19, 6:30 p.m. at the Northfield Historical Society in downtown Northfield. The event is free and open to the public.

Stark, a former president of the Northfield and Rice County historical societies, will cover Grant’s laying siege to Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Petersburg, Virginia, in 1864-65. He will also explore Gen. Sherman’s March to the Sea and his movements north into South Carolina and into the birthplace of secession.

With the Confederate government fleeing south to North Carolina, the south was desperately searching for a miracle to avoid being remembered as a proverbial “Lost Cause.” Stark also will discuss how Confederate President Davis tried to lift the declining morale of the southern people during the final stages of the war.

One week left!

DiaryYou have one week left to view the exhibit In their Own Words; Diaries from the Collection. It will be taken down on February 13th, while NHS staff prepares for the upcoming reconfigure of the bank raid exhibit and the new rotating exhibit, 40/40.  The 40/40 exhibit will showcase items from the NHS collection that have not been on display previously.

Hops Grapes and History

JaredThe Grand Event Center and the Northfield Historical Society will host its third annual Hops, Grapes, and History fundraiser March 7 at 7 p.m. at the Grand. The event will feature award-winning illusionist and entertainer Jared Sherlock.

Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door.

The evening will begin with a beer and wine tasting until 8:00 p.m. The tasting will feature a hand-selected variety of Minnesota craft beers and wines. A special bonus this year will be a whiskey tasting by Northfield distillery Loon Liquors.

A raffle will give attendees the opportunity to win multiple prizes.

The evening culminates with a blend of modern magic with comedy and friendly audience interaction by illusionist Jared Sherlock.

“Feedback from past years indicates that the tastings have run a bit long, so we’ve shortened that part,” says Hayes Scriven, executive director of NHS. “We also are very excited to have Loon Liquors at the tasting. They are developing a great product and this is an ideal way to add another local connection to the event.

Scriven also notes the difference in entertainment. “In Northfield you can hear great music almost every night, but how often can you see a great variety act?” he asks. “Jared is funny, engaging, and fits the bill perfectly.”

Doors open at 7:00 p.m. tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door.  Tickets can be purchased online at www.northfieldhistory.org/hops-grapes-and-history/