Houston County: Apple Museum

County By County

In our County by County series of Houston County, we travel to the apple capital of Minnesota, La Crescent.

First News at Nine’s Zach Prelutsky brings us to the apple museum and explains how the city has become synonymous with the industry.

In 2002, the city of La Crescent copyrighted the title of apple capital of Minnesota.

But the city’s roots were grown around the fruit only five years after it was founded.

“John S. Harris was truly a pioneer.  He came from Ohio to La Crescent in 1851 and started an apple orchard, he felt he could grow apples. There were people already growing fruit, but he wanted to expand that,” said Mary McLaughlin, La Crescent Area Historical Society Archivist.

Harris would start what has become the dominant industry in the city and one that has helped put them on the map

In the 1940’s, La Crescent had grown to have around 40 small orchards in and around the city. Soon after, the annual Applefest, La Crescent’s biggest celebration of the year, would start

“La crescent really stands out as an apple capital not just currently but in its history.  So Applefest is a great way to celebrate that,” said McLaughlin.

Thousands spend the September weekend in the city enjoying music, arts, and of course, apples!

“It brought people to this area, because the community started to thrive. People moved here, you know the beauty of the area, the orchards on the hillsides, it was stunning,” said McLaughlin.

At the La Crescent Area Historical Society, the history of the apple industry is on display at the apple museum which was created by local apple grower Frank Van Lin.

But they also feature around 10,000 items on display that are connected to the city.

“Simple documents like old birth certificates and graduation certificates,” McLaughlin said. “We want to collect those things so future generations will understand more about the people and the businesses and the organizations that thrived here.”

Starting in 1990, the society has been run by an all-volunteer group and has been dedicated to displaying the history of the city, as well as helping visitors connect with their past.

“I think that’s an appealing thing, I think that’s one of the things that our volunteers and our members talk about frequently, the fact that so many people have deep roots here and that sense of family which extends into family as community,” McLaughlin said.

The historical society museum is open to the public from Memorial Day to Labor Day and during Applefest or by appointment.

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