Sugar Loaf (Winona, Minnesota)

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Sugar Loaf
Sugar loaf bluff.jpg
Sugar Loaf in 2005
Location southwest of U.S. Hwy 61 at MN State Hwy 43
Nearest city Winona, Minnesota
Coordinates 44°1′42.03″N 91°37′36.45″W / 44.0283417°N 91.6267917°W / 44.0283417; -91.6267917Coordinates: 44°1′42.03″N 91°37′36.45″W / 44.0283417°N 91.6267917°W / 44.0283417; -91.6267917
NRHP Reference # 90001164
Added to NRHP August 3, 1990
Sugar Loaf in 1898.
Sugar Loaf Brewery below Sugar Loaf.

Sugar Loaf is a rocky pinnacle overlooking eastern Winona, Minnesota, in Winona County, Minnesota, United States, above the junction of U.S. Highway 61 and State Highway 43. It towers 500 feet (150 m) over Lake Winona (former part of the Mississippi River main channel) and more than 85 feet (26 m) above the remainder of the bluff. It resulted from the quarrying through most of the 1880s of the limestone which was then used for Winona’s sidewalks and brick buildings. The mining was done by two brothers, John and Stephen O'Dea. The use of limestone (Oneota dolomite - a sedimentary limestone composed mainly of calcium carbonate and magnesium) began with the need to improve city sidewalks, most of which were made of wood and burned in the 1862 fire that destroyed 90 percent of the downtown district. Many miles of this limestone were installed before the turn of the 20th century and met with such success that a city ordinance was passed in late 1890 specifying stone only for sidewalks. Buildings in the area also began to utilize the stone because of its texture. Quarry operations were shut down in 1887.

A rare event occurred in March 2004. Tons of limestone sheared off the northwest face of the landmark, leaving a dark trail of rock rubble in the snow, down a lower cliff face and onto the tree-covered slope below. The cascade stopped about 100 yards (91 m) short of the nearest house. The layers of stone came loose and fell because of the freezing and thawing action of water over time, especially from the unusually wet winter.

In its original configuration as a rounded dome with a fringe of evergreen on the crown, the bluff was well known to early explorers, traders, tourists, and river boat pilots. Indian legend has it that the mountain represented the cap of Chief Wa-pah-sha (Wabasha) transformed into stone. Another legend refers to a dispute at the site of Red Wing, Minnesota upriver from Winona in which a single bluff splits into Barn Bluff (which remained at Red Wing), and Sugar Loaf, which was moved downriver to its present site. The name "Sugar Loaf" refers to the former formation's resemblance to the conical loaves that sugar used to be packaged and sold in. There are many hills and mountains named "Sugar Loaf" in the United States. At least three other hills or bluffs bearing the name "Sugar Loaf" are located in or near the Mississippi River Valley in proximity to Winona.

More than a few local businesses that incorporate Sugar Loaf into their names have been built at the base of the bluff. The Sugar Loaf name is also given to a neighborhood (which shows as a city on some maps) south and east of the hill.

The former Sugar Loaf Brewery (Peter Bub's Brewery) building is nestled into the northeastern slope. It is in the National Register of Historic Places, as is the hill itself in a separate entry. The brewery operation extended caves into Sugar Loaf.

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