Owatonna is Home to One of the Only Orphanage Museums in the Country
An orphanage museum in Owatonna, Minnesota is one of the only museums of its kind in the entire country. It's called the Minnesota State Public School Orphanage Museum and it tells the history of the Minnesota State Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children.
Many people in the Owatonna and southern Minnesota area are probably familiar with this museum. I've heard that it's a really sad place to visit. I've never been but people who have been there tell me that there are some terrible stories that you learn about while visiting the museum. It sounds like it wasn't a good place.
The History of the Orphanage
The orphanage was open from 1886-1945. Their website says this orphanage was the third largest of its kind in the entire country. They even mention that some children viewed this place as "a circle of hell", which goes back to what I mentioned early, about the terrible stories you learn about while at the museum. Other children, they say, viewed the place as "a save haven".
What Happened Once the Orphanage Shut Down?
After the orphanage shut down in 1945, the massive campus became a school that "provided academic and vocational training for the educable mentally disabled." This was in operation from 1945-1970. Then, in 1974 the city of Owatonna purchased the campus. Some of the buildings were turned into administrative offices. Other buildings were worked on to turn them into the museum it is today.
When You Can Visit the Museum
The museum is open for self-guided tours Monday-Friday 8 AM-5 PM, Saturday-Sunday 1-5 PM. Cottage 11, which was restored to depict what life was like living in one of these cottages on campus, is open now through Labor Day 1-4 PM. It's open other times in the year too, go HERE to check out the hours. The campus is open for self-guided audio tours from May 1 - November 1. If you'd like, there are group tours available for groups of 10 or more. You can learn more about those HERE.