Editor's note: This is the latest stop in the series 101 Things To Do. Each week through December 2020, we will select one place or activity around the region to highlight. The stories are compiled at www.rivertown101.com.
The old stone building had been Red Wing Waterworks from 1885-1962. Then the city used it for storage and a dog pound.
Mike Wilson often saw the building from his boat in the harbor and thought it would be interesting to do something with the building.
Harry Munson had collected boat motors manufactured by the Red Wing Motor Co. He had restored 30 motors, and decided he wanted to sell them.
Wilson wanted the motor collection, a piece of Red Wing history, to remain intact, so he bought the motors from Munson. With the financial help of area foundations and many local supporters, he leased and renovated the waterworks building, and the Red Wing Marine Museum was born.
The museum, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013 is near the water, so Wilson was concerned about what might happen in a flood. He installed an epoxy floor which wouldn't be damaged, but he added a nice touch, a map of the Mississippi River watershed.
"The map on the floor represents the Mississippi River from Lock and Dam No. 3 and shows some of the significant parts of the river until it flows into Lake Pepin," Wilson said.
Wilson set up the Red Wing Motor Co. collection on old boat trailer beds around the main room in the museum. Each motor has a display card which explains the model of the motor, its history, and significant details about the motor.
Then an interesting thing happened. People started donating other motors.
"Everybody had an old motor in their garage, from their grandfather, and didn't know what to do with it," Wilson said. "They didn't want to throw them away, so they started showing up here. We put them on display."
Wilson had extra space in the museum, so he has invited the Gandy Dancers Model Train Club to set up trains. Members of the club will volunteer at the museum, so Wilson hopes that might mean expanded hours when the museum can be open.
Gary Johnson, president of the Gandy Dancers Model Train Club, said people will be able to stop by the museum and see the model trains.
"Everybody, especially the kids, loves to see the model trains run," he said.
If you go...
Name: Red Wing Marine Museum
Address: 935 Levee Road, Red Wing, Minn.
Hours: Saturdays 1-5 p.m. from July-October on days when the American Queen is docked at Levee Park. See website for exact dates.
Admission: Free. Donations are accepted.