RED WING -- Todd Walsh was a senior at Red Wing High School when he first encountered the story of the Lutheran Ladies Seminary, a school for women that once flourished on College Hill near the present site of Red Wing Golf Course.
A disastrous fire on the eve of graduation brought an end to the school’s story 100 years ago. The school, a center for music, culture and higher education in Red Wing, was not rebuilt, but its history is not forgotten.
Walsh, who is now chaplain of Thorne Crest Senior Living Community in Albert Lea, Minn., will tell the school’s story and lead a walking tour of the grounds on Oct. 10. Because participation is limited to 10 people, there will be two sessions – at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. – and a digital option.
The “Walk into Local History” is presented by the Goodhue County Historical Society. It will begin and end at the History Center, 1166 Oak St.
It was during his final year at high school that Walsh’s parents, Ken and Jackie Walsh, decided to purchase the house at 1301 W. Sixth St. that had been home to three presidents of the Lutheran Ladies Seminary during its early years.
“Once I toured it, I got interested,” Todd Walsh said. He and began researching the story of the house and the school. The late Jean Chesley and Orville Olson at the nearby Goodhue County History Center found plenty of material in the museum’s records, he noted.
The Lutheran Ladies Seminary opened in November of 1894. It offered a unique program – a well-rounded education for women instead of a “finishing school.” The students learned business principles as well as homemaking skills, and the school became well known for its excellent music programs.
Originally the Christian boarding school had two buildings, the “Main” and the “South Wing” with cafeteria, Walsh said. Around 1908 the Music Hall was added.
All were destroyed in June 1920. “There was no evidence of arson,” Walsh said, but it appears that the fire started in one spot – the ceiling of a third-floor lavatory in Main. Fire spread through the attic and jumped to the roofs of the other buildings. The nearby presidents’ house was not involved in the fire.
Although he only lived in the house for a short time before heading off to college, his parents occupied it for about 40 years. The house, now known as the Walsh House, was purchased by Red Wing Golf Course and has reopened as an event space for that business.
Walsh never lost his fascination with the story of Lutheran Ladies Seminary. While he was a student at college, he built a large model replica of the LSS campus that he will bring to Red Wing for the Oct. 10 program.
He has conducted three previous tours of the grounds for visitors and local residents – including people with family connections and intriguing family stories to share.
The program will begin at the county museum with a 45-to-60-minute presentation by Walsh on the LSS history, with photos and a look at his model to help people get oriented.
The group will then walk to the site, where visible remnants of the Lutheran Ladies Seminary can be found.
The school was located to the right of the driveway that leads into the golf course. School buildings stood in what are now the back yards of adjacent houses.
“The foundations are still there,” he said, and the present owners kindly allow his tour groups to enter their yards to see the remnants. Some bricks were salvaged and reused.
Several other historic homes in the neighborhood also were associated with the school and its staff, Walsh said. One was the home of Susie Stageberg, wife of a LSS teacher and a local proponent of women’s suffrage and women’s rights.
Also nearby is the former location of Red Wing Seminary – the old Seminary Home property on the other side of what still is known as “College Hill.” Before the fire, there was talk of merging the two into a coed school, but that never happened.
Walsh hopes to share a living remnant of the Lutheran Ladies Seminary on Oct. 10.
A couple of years ago he noticed growth around the foundations of the original buildings and remembered that it was a tradition for graduating students to plant ivy at the base of the buildings.
“It’s hard to kill,” he said, but he still was surprised to see that ivy plants had survived the disaster and the years.
Walsh took some slips and has been attempting to get them to root. If he’s successful, he will share them with participants in the tour.
The program will take place regardless of weather conditions, but if it rains the walking portion may be done virtually, Walsh said.
Cost is $10, or $7 for historical society members. Masks and social distancing are required. For tickets, visit the museum or call 651-388-6024.
The program also is being offered digitally over the video conference app Zoom, according to Education and Outreach Coordinator Paul Hildebrandt. He can be reached at the museum or online at email@example.com.
If you go …
Who: Chaplain Todd Walsh
What: “Walk into Local History: Lutheran Ladies Seminary”
When: 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Oct. 10
Where: Goodhue County History Center/grounds or virtual
How much: $10, $7 for GCHS members
More info: 651-388-6024