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Exploring the History of Your College Town


December 5, 2011
by Katie Askew

Recently, a few friends and I took advantage of some rare balmy Midwest weather and went on a historical adventure. We didn’t have money or a plan, but we stumbled upon a little piece of Minnesota history right in downtown Minneapolis!

Recently, a few friends and I took advantage of some rare balmy Midwest weather and went on a historical adventure. We didn’t have money or a plan, but we stumbled upon a little piece of Minnesota history right in downtown Minneapolis!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a famous American poet, lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts but in 1885, a Minneapolis fish market owner named Robert Jones built a 2/3-scale replica of Longfellow’s home in Minneapolis. Longfellow never lived in the house because he died in 1882 but the city of Minneapolis now owns the house and after years of being used as a haunted mansion, it’s now basically a museum and information center. For an English major like me, this was a fantasy!

This is just one of the many historical sites and national parks in Minnesota and it’s pretty easy to find many types of free museums, historical locations and ancient legends right in your college’s town as well. You can use the National Parks Service’s National Register of Historic Places to find sites like this in your area and most states also have a Historical Society that boasts free or inexpensive history-centered events near you. Even better, check out your dream school’s personal history! It’s always interesting to find out who the buildings are named after or other random facts your campus tour guide can’t tell you. (For example, the University of Minnesota has a heritage trail with markers that describe everything from the history of the campus architecture to university icons and famous alumni.)

Learning about the history of your city not only helps you to feel connected to the past but also helps you to be better informed about interesting occurrences that happened where you live, work, study and play. History is everywhere – you just have to actively seek it out!

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.

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