Village of Yesteryear
In 1962 the Society was offered the Saco Church located 7 miles southwest of Owatonna, and with the support of the Steele County Agricultural Society, the Society permanently leased a portion of the southeast section of the fairgrounds to begin a pioneer village. The original layout was similar to the center of Owatonna and its Central Park, which was originally circular. Thus was established the Village of Yesteryear, which has grown in the years since through the additional move of historic structures, as well as museum buildings built on site.
Built in 1868-69 by Mark Hill Dunnell, an emigrant from Maine, the Italianate- style 11-room house features a belvedere, often called a Widow’s Watch, from its common use on the east coast—wives could watch for their husband’s ship, a ship that often might not return. Congressman Dunnell served three years as Minnesota Superintendent of Schools and then 14 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, the only U.S. congressman from Owatonna. It has period furnishings throughout provided by residents of Steel County and reveals the story of a most influential Minnesota family.