Owatonna, Minnesota

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Owatonna, Minnesota
City
Downtown Owatonna
Downtown Owatonna
Location of Owatonnawithin Steele County and state of Minnesota
Location of Owatonna
within Steele County and state of Minnesota
Coordinates: 44°5′14″N 93°13′28″W / 44.08722°N 93.22444°W / 44.08722; -93.22444
Country United States
State Minnesota
County Steele
Area[1]
 • Total 14.62 sq mi (37.87 km2)
 • Land 14.53 sq mi (37.63 km2)
 • Water 0.09 sq mi (0.23 km2)
Elevation 1,152 ft (351 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total 25,599
 • Estimate (2013)[3] 25,546
 • Density 1,761.8/sq mi (680.2/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 55060
Area code(s) 507
FIPS code 27-49300
GNIS feature ID 0649095[4]
Website City of Owatonna

Owatonna is a city in Steele County, Minnesota, United States. The population was 25,599 at the 2010 census.[5] It is the county seat of Steele County. Owatonna is home to the Steele County Fairgrounds, which hosts the Steele County Free Fair in August.

Interstate 35 and U.S. Highways 14, and 218 are three of the main routes in the city.

History[edit]

Mineral Springs Park, Owatonna, MN

Owatonna was first settled in 1853 around the Straight River. The community was named after the Straight River,[6] which in the Dakota language is Wakpá Owóthaŋna. The earliest the Owatonna area was settled was in 1854 and platted in September 1855, but it was incorporated as a town August 9, 1858, then as a city on February 23, 1865.[6]

The name Owatonna is from a legend; Chief Wabena heard of the curing waters called minnewaucan. His daughter, Princess Owatonna, was very frail so he moved his tribe to the site of the natural springs on the banks of Maple Creek. Princess Owatonna drank from the springs daily and recovered her health. Her kindly spirit hovers near the bubbling waters and beckons weary travelers to pause in the beautiful valley and drink of the magic waters. It is actually true that for hundreds of years before the arrival of the first white settlers, Native Americans camped on the banks of a river they called "Ouitunya," which means "straight" and is today the name of the major river in Steele County. Mineral Springs Park is now on this site and contains a statue of the Princess Owatonna and visitors can see the springs and drink the water that saved Princess Owatonna.[7]

In 1856, Josef Karel Kaplan emigrated from a village southwest of Prague Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) and selected a quarter section (160 acres (65 ha)) of land near the town of Owatonna. Kaplan described Owatonna as having just 50 small homes, but predicted 100 within a year, along with a railroad. With just four stores and a pharmacy, Owatonna quickly prospered and grew to 1500 inhabitants in just 5 years. Kaplan wrote about the Owatonna area in letters donated to the Minnesota Historical Society.[8] He described often seeing Indians – people with "tough constitutions...brown skin and good dispositions", explaining: "When you read about battles between whites and Indians, it is the whites who are to blame." In 1866, Kaplan helped organize the Catholic Cemetery, and a year later, the National Bohemian Cemetery of Owatonna.[citation needed]

Kaplan's Woods is part of the land originally owned by Josef Kaplan, and later Victor and Anna Kaplan. The State of Minnesota created[when?] Kaplan's Wood State Park, which was later transferred to the City of Owatonna.[9] The Kaplan's Woods Parkway contains over 6 miles (10 km) of hiking and cross country skiing trails, and nearly 2 miles (3 km) of hard—surfaced, handicapped—accessible trail. The parkway includes Lake Kohlmier, a 35-acre (14 ha) lake. Maps of the parkway are available at the Park and Recreation office.[10]

The Minnesota State School for Dependent and Neglected Children was built in 1886. The school took in orphans from around the state and taught them "the value of drill, discipline, and labor". The children who died in the institution were interred in the graveyard behind the school. In 1945, the orphanage was closed and the facility began to serve handicapped children. In 1974, the City purchased the compound for its office space. Renamed "West Hills", it continues to serve as the city's administration complex and home to many nonprofit civic organizations including a senior activity center, the Owatonna Arts Center, two nonprofit day care centers, a chemical dependency halfway house, and Big Brothers/Big Sisters, among others.[citation needed]

In 1995, the film Angus (1995), whose cast included Ariana Richards and James Van Der Beek, was filmed on location in Owatonna, mostly at Owatonna Senior High School.[11]

In July 2008, a Raytheon Hawker 800 corporate jet crashed near Owatonna, resulting in eight deaths.[12]

Economy[edit]

The Owatonna Power Plant is a city landmark.[citation needed]

Owatonna is an economic center of Southern Minnesota, with diverse industries. Federated Insurance is the largest employer with 1521 employees, followed by an expanding Viracon which has 1434 employees.[13] Both have their headquarters in Owatonna. Other large employers in the community are Bosch, Jostens, Cabela's, Truth Hardware, ISD 761, Wenger Corporation, Owatonna Clinic - Mayo Health System, and Owatonna Hospital - Allina Hospitals & Clinics.[citation needed]

Government[edit]

Owatonna is governed by a Mayor and City Council. As of December 2009, its mayor was Thomas Kuntz.[14][15]

The city is located in Minnesota's 26th District, represented by Mike Parry, Republican. District 26 includes portions of Rice, Steele, and Waseca counties in the southeastern part of the state. Owatonna also lies in House District 26A, represented by State Representative Kory Kath, a Democrat. He was first elected to that office in 2008, and was reelected to a second term in 2010.[16]

Owatonna is located in Minnesota's 1st congressional district, represented by Mankato educator Tim Walz, a Democrat.[17]

Education[edit]