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The Pioneer Museum - Long Lake, MN

Dear Diary,
In the west metro of the Twin Cities stands a small town named for nearby Long Lake.

It's charming.

Located along the main road through town is The Pioneer Museum. Staffed and operated by volunteers, the museum is open to the public for 4 hours on Saturdays only.

The Old North School, 1858

The Telephone Room

(An old phone booth) 

The Military Room

I prefer self-guided tours, but I had the honor of hearing the stories of the exhibits told by an old man. He lived in the area all of his life, and his love for his home was apparent as he spoke.

This display of stars was haunting - each star represents each of the high school senior boys drafted into WWII. The gold ones, of course, are for those who were killed in action.

The drum is an artifact from the Civil War.

My guide told me that the museum once displayed a Civil War uniform of a Union soldier. One day three men entered the museum. Two of the men distracted the lone volunteer working there. The third walked off with the uniform, never to be seen again.

A 13-star American flag!

Antique Weaponry

Victorian-Era Medicine

Displays like these make me so grateful to live in a time with modern medical advancements, technology and true healing. The museum had glass display cabinets filled with snake oil concoctions, now-illegal drugs and random tonics. I imagine much of these items did nothing.

Funeral Dress

I admired the detail of this black dress, which I imagine to be a mourning gown.

Even creepier were the pair of mourning wreaths on display - they're made from the hair of the deceased, and hung in honor on the doors of the family homes. My guide said he's related to the woman whose hair made the wreath on the left!

Local Artifacts

This giant fish is known as the Long Lake Monster.

As families from Minneapolis traveled to the lakes by train for a relaxing weekend, men would hide along the rail lines and with a series of pulleys, make this sculpture come to life in the water as the train passed above. I can only imagine the stories that come from witnessing that!

They call this room the 'Genealogy Room' due to the many Victorian-era photographs that cover the walls. People can come to this room and trace their ancestry, and view the portraits of their long-deceased relatives. Then, central to the room and hanging from the ceiling, are local artifacts specific to the town.

Equipment to cut blocks of ice to sell to people for their iceboxes - today, our refrigerators talk to us.

A Victorian-era General Store, set up as historically accurate as possible - I smiled at the realization that I had just placed my grocery order online for home delivery.

This display depicts a legal office from the 1850s as evident by the Lincoln-Johnson campaign poster.

And the hide of a brown bear considered to be the pet of one of the local people. Legend has it the bear lived in a nearby cave, often visited by its "owner" (which is just crazy to me!)

This display was filled with antique typewriters and cameras - honestly the building housed the collection of oddities and artifacts of my dreams. It was all so intriguing made more so by the stories tied to each one.


These dolls are handmade and likely in need of an exorcism - so creepy!

The chains are also hand-made, and constructed out of WOOD.

This artifact is one of the museum's main attractions. It's a dugout canoe, which the University of Minnesota carbon-dated to be over a thousand years old. Discovered by the Gunnarson family in 1934 as they worked to extend their dock on North Arm Bay, this canoe is considered to be the oldest ever found in Minnesota.

Finally, someone played with that dollhouse.

And imagine packing your belongings into a steamer trunk for traveling. Things have come a long way, and it was interesting to see their humble beginnings.

This tour was a fascinating reminder to never pass over a small town museum in favor of a big city institution. The personal stories and local connections that are attached to each of these exhibits were as transformative as it was informative. You cannot help but feel a sense of pride.

The Pioneer Museum
1953 Wayzata Blvd., Long Lake
Open Saturdays 10-2
Free Admission

1 comment

  1. Thanks for great share about Pioneer Museum. Minnesota is a great place for living and working. More and more people going to buy a new house there. I am curious about what is it like to live in Edina, MN..some of my friends have plan to live in this city.