RED WING -- A series of walking tours at the historic Tower View estate will debut June 27 with Mary Dupont – great-granddaughter of founder Alexander P. Anderson – sharing her memories and family stories.
The inaugural program in the Anderson Center’s Guided History Walking Tour Series will focus on the lives of Dupont’s grandparents Eugenie and John Anderson. Dupont is the author of “Mrs. Ambassador: The Life and Politics of Eugenie Anderson,” published last year by the Minnesota Historical Society Press.
The summer tours are a result of staff members brainstorming ways to reach out during the pandemic, according to Adam Wiltgen, who joined the Anderson Center in late March 2020 as the development director.
“We want to engage people about the history of Tower View,” he said, by exploring how it has functioned through the years. Tower View has evolved significantly since it began as the home and laboratory of the renowned inventor of puffed rice and puffed wheat cereal.
As a newcomer, Wiltgen said, “It’s been great learning the history.” Each tour will last about an hour and will be offered twice, at 11 a.m. and again at 1 p.m. Tour groups will be kept to about a dozen people to ensure physical distancing.
In planning the best way to share Tower View’s stories, the center decided to arrange tour guides with personal knowledge about the topic.
In addition to providing basic information, Wiltgen said, these guides will help visitors “go a little deeper.” And because groups will be small, participants will be able to ask questions and even add their own memories to the narrative.
The first three tours will focus on different eras in Tower View’s history. Dupont will tell the family story on June 27; educators Rich Huelskamp and Mark Ryan will talk about the Red Wing Energy Education Center on July 11; and manager Rob Weber will share the history of Central Research Laboratories on July 25. Additional tours are planned.
Dupont will share stories, anecdotes and memories of her grandparents. Eugenie Anderson made history when President Harry Truman appointed her the first woman ambassador for the United States in 1949. After serving in Denmark, she went on to serve as ambassador to Bulgaria, and later was a member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations.
Her husband, John P. Anderson, was an artist and photographer. He and Eugenie made their home in the east residence at Tower View starting in 1932, raising their family there.
Dupont, a writer and photographer who lives near St. Paul, specializes in Midwestern social and family history and photo preservation. On the tour, she will provide insight and commentary on the historic setting through the lens of her grandparents’ personal and public lives.
Huelskamp and Ryan will focus on the period from 1977 to 1988 when the Red Wing School District operated the Energy Education Center at Tower View. A.P. Anderson’s heirs had conveyed the estate to the Nature Conservancy in 1975, but in 1977 the Nature Conservancy turned it over to the school district for the pioneering venture.
The school district developed a vision for a comprehensive program that included applied research in energy efficiency, alternative energy systems, and continuing education for technicians and educators, plus post-secondary technical career programs.
The original laboratories were remodeled and a two-story classroom building was erected between the larger lab and the barn.
During the walking tour, Huelskamp and Ryan will offer first-hand insights and knowledge about this period of the estate’s history. “Despite its brief lifetime,” Anderson Center spokesmen said, “the program made an indelible mark on its students and a lasting legacy on sustainability efforts in Red Wing and the region.”
Huelskamp has been involved in the energy industry for more than 25 years, including educational programs for the state and the Energy Center. Ryan, a retired teacher and educational consultant, taught at the center and has been a consultant for the city’s Planning Commission Energy Committee.
Weber, currently manager of projects and proposals at Central Research Laboratories, will relate how the business was conceived, founded and developed. The equipment it created made it possible for scientists to perform critical research at the dawn of the cold war and the atomic age.
Founded in the fall of 1945 by three graduates of MIT -- Frank Chesley, Demetrius Jelatis and Gordon M. Lee -- Central Research was one of the country’s principal manufacturers of remote handling systems. It utilized the two lab buildings at Tower View until 1961, when it moved to a new plant across Highway 61.
Advance registration is required for the tours, which are intended for age 14 and older. To register go to the center’s website, www.andersoncenter.org, and click on “events” or call the center at 651-388-2009 and talk with Wiltgen or Laurie Andrews.
Admission is free for members and youths under 18. The cost is pay-what-you-can for the general public, thanks to a Minnesota State Arts Board grant. Proceeds will go to support work offering artistic programming in the Red Wing community.
Tour groups will meet in front of the Tower View barn 15 minutes before a tour begins. The use of face masks is strongly encouraged. The tour route will take participants off paved trails and across uneven ground. Tours will be canceled if there is heavy rain or severe weather.
Guides will use a portable voice amplifier. ASL interpretation is available by contacting Executive Director Stephanie Rogers at Stephanie@andersoncenter.org or calling the center at least two weeks in advance.