Last week I told you about the fun, active outdoor activities in Estherville, Iowa, just a few miles over the border from Southwestern Minnesota. Well, there are indoor experiences too, especially if you and your family are ready to activate your brains by exploring history! Here are a few of the fun things I found to do while visiting as a guest of Estherville Area Chamber of Commerce.
Estherville Meteorite Center
In what just might be the most exciting historical event to happen in Estherville, a meteor crash landed in 1879. To this day, it is still the largest witnessed meteorite in North America. (Which means the largest meteor that was actually seen by humans as it fell.) Just imagine what it would have been like as a 19th century rural American seeing or feeling that speeding toward and crashing into the Earth!
Pieces of the meteorite are now housed in museums around the world, including the Smithsonian, but the largest piece can be seen in Estherville at the Meteorite Center, which is in downtown Estherville, attached to the American Family Insurance office. The meteorite can be viewed any time of day through a viewing window facing the street, but you can stop in the insurance office during business hours and owner Bob Jensen will let you into the Meteorite Center.
Along with the meteorite itself, Bob has pieces of meteorite memorabilia and media mentions that he has been collecting over the last few decades. He’s very knowledgeable about everything surrounding the Estherville meteorite and answered our many questions on our visit. Thanks, Bob!
Outside the Meteorite Center is a monument dedicated to the meteorite. It was created in the 1980s and the piece as it is today is actually the artist’s sample of the creation he wanted to make that would have been over 79 feet tall and cost over $1000,000 to create.
Flanking the statue is the Estherville Meterorite sign and this is all housed in a small site with green space and walkways. The large sign makes it the perfect locale for memorable Estherville photos.
Emmet County Historical Museum
To fully dive into history, visit the Emmet County Historical Society Museum. You’ll want to plan a minimum of two hours to explore this complex of historical buildings and collections of historical artifacts that celebrate the history of Estherville, the surrounding Emmet County, and rural midwestern life in general.
Throughout the beautifully maintained museum grounds (all cared for by volunteers), you’ll find the H.G. Albee Memorial Museum, Bolstad School (a one-room schoolhouse), former Palestine Lutheran Church building, the Amundson House, the Huntington Post Office and Telephone Exchange Building, a log cabin, the Nels P. Peterson Blacksmith shop, rural farm windmill site,a Farm Heritage Building and the Bill Bryan Memorial Farm Display Building.
We only spent about 90 minutes at the museum during our visit and I feel like we only touched the tip of the iceberg. I’m ready to go back to dive in take a closer look at these fascinating collections and displays.
The museum is open from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm daily during the months of June, July and August. Admission is free. Special tours are available by calling 712-362-2750.
Estherville Public Library
The Estherville Public Library is a beautiful 1903 Carnegie building. In 1995, the library underwent a massive renovation and addition, which tripled its size and made it accessible to all. The original parts of the library have been restored to its former glory by renovations such as removing many layers of paint that had covered the original woodwork. (As a lucky turn of events during renovation, an HVAC malfunction caused the building to fill with steam and took off all the paint!)
Besides taking in the beauty and history of the library itself, it provides a wealth of information for digging into history. Many of these resources, such as the Estherville Public Library Community History Archive, are also available online.
After seeing all you can in the interior of the library, it’s a must to explore the grounds and take in the beautiful landscaping and admire the original library entrance facing Central Avenue. It’s quite spectacular!
I love small towns with interesting history like this! And, my family would love to visit the Estherville Meteorite Center. That is the sort of thing that my 10-year-old loves to “geek out” over!