Scandia Heritage Alliance (SHA) envisions bringing back the historic Water Tower Barn (dismantled in 2014) as an Arts & Heritage Center and telling the important story of its role in our early 20th century economy. The state’s only remaining tankhouse, this unique barn stood behind the Scandia Mercantile and provided water to early businesses and residents.
In addition to museum exhibits that showcase the story of Scandia's evolution from Native American lands, to a site of Swedish immigration, to agrarian farm community to a small center of commerce, we envision recreating the operational tankhouse – including the elevated wood water tank and windmill. Stepping back in time, visitors will fill their water jugs using a historic hand pump outside the barn. Additionally, the water focus will provide an opportunity to educate visitors on the importance of our local wetlands, lakes, streams, aquifers, and the St. Croix River – vital features of our beautiful city.
And what about the “Arts” in “Arts & Heritage”? Living in the St. Croix River Valley, we are surrounded by an amazing arts community that is not currently showcased in Scandia. The Water Tower Barn and an outdoor amphitheater will feature local and regional art shows, history exhibits, art classes, music productions, and film – plus events in partnership with nearby community theaters and other cultural organizations. Plans also include a children’s water play area and a summer outdoor café featuring traditional Swedish fare.
The Immigrant Story: A Shared History
Scandia has a tale to tell—a story of inspired immigrants looking for a better life. Today we are telling only part of the story of Minnesota’s first Swedish settlement—that of early immigrants. But what are the success stories from the next generation? And how can their rich sagas educate Minnesotans about our immigrant roots and the similar experiences our ancestors share with today’s new Americans? We believe our common backgrounds can help create cohesive communities in divided times – and simultaneously inspire and bring hope to new immigrants seeking the American dream.
Like many of today’s immigrants, Scandia’s Swedish ancestors moved from an impoverished nation seeking a better life for their children and grandchildren. They faced extreme hardship and prejudice in the New World, but their offspring thrived. Their tales can create understanding of how similar we all are.
A Community Treasure with Regional Focus
The Arts & Heritage Center will complement our neighboring Gammelgården Museum – a treasured gem in Scandia -- which tells the story of Minnesota's first Swedish immigrants. Additionally, it will serve as a beautiful indoor/outdoor gathering place for residents and visitors … and a perfect stopping point for bikers on the future Gateway Trail extension connecting William O’Brien State Park to the Scandia Village Center. With the National Park Service moving closer towards designating the St. Croix River Valley as a National Heritage Area, the Water Tower Barn - Scandia Arts & Heritage Center will be a draw for tourism in the Valley..
The Arts & Heritage Center will provide programming that is attractive to young families, such as summer day camps for children focused on the arts and the environment, family-oriented movie events, and summer theater classes. Attracting young families to Scandia – and providing programs that serve the community – will help ensure the future viability of our treasured Scandia Elementary school.
If you are interested in making a charitable contribution to this project, please visit our GoFundMe page. Even small contributions are meaningful as they showcase community support to the foundations and government organizations to whom we are seeking large capital contributions. Before construction can commence, funding is needed to complete the architectural plans, construction documents, and site engineering plans. Thank you for your support!
The second project in development is a Scandia Heritage Trail that will link historic sites and tell the story of Scandia’s history.
Scandia Heritage Alliance was awarded a $10,000 Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant from the Minnesota Historical Society in 2020 to “Research the History of Scandia and its Important Sites,” the first step in developing the Scandia Heritage Trail. The first phase of research is complete, and the Alliance will be applying for a second grant to begin development of museum displays for the first selection of sites.
The concept of this project is to provide outdoor interpretive displays at identified sites and provide a map for biking or driving the trail. The Alliance will by applying for a series of Historical and Cultural Heritage Grants to develop the trail.