Owatonna Landmark Listed on NRHP

On December 28, 2010, the buildings and grounds of the former Minnesota State Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children, located in Owatonna Minnesota, was selected for listing in the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service of the United States Department of the Interior.

This property was awarded the highest possible level of significance, meaning this institution held influence on a national – international level. This post-Civil War public institution played a central role in the development of Child welfare policies. Considered a state-of-the-art facility, operating from 1886 – 1945, it was created to mitigate poor conditions of almshouses and children’s exposure to criminal, mentally ill and physically ill adults.

There were 10,635 of them between 1886 and 1945. Kids orphaned or abandoned or abused and sent to Owatonna, Minnesota, home of the Minnesota State Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children. For some, it was a circle of hell; for others, a safe haven. The Minnesota State Public School Orphanage Museum was founded to Remember the Children.

Today this location is known as the West Hills Complex, housing City Government and numerous not-for-profit organizations. One of these, the Orphanage Museum, is maintained in the City Administration Building. This museum gives an extensive look back into the history of the State School and the lives of the children who lived this history. Visitors may also learn more about the State School by visiting Cottage 11 (a restored boys’ dormitory), following the six-station Outdoor Audio Tour, and paying homage to the 198 orphans buried in the Children’s Cemetery. Group tours of the Museum include a presentation by Harvey Ronglien (ward of the state from 1932 – 1943), a Museum visit, tour of Cottage 11 where Harvey lived as a boy and viewing of the 1930s video.

All sites are handicap accessible, admission is free, and the Museum is a member of Blue Star Museums.

For more information: contact the Orphanage Museum at 540 West Hills Circle, Owatonna, MN 55060 || 507-774-7369 || museum@ci.owatonna.mn.us || www.orphanagemuseum.com.

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