The town of Decorah, located in the Oneota River Valley of Winneshiek County, is home to several fantastic and unique museums. Three notable, not-to-be-missed stops here include Locust School, the Porter House Museum, and Vesterheim Museum.
- Locust School: Locust School was built in 1864. A couple of years afterward, the village of Locust was settled. For 160 years in this small community, students were educated in the one room schoolhouse. In 1965, the Locust School Society was founded to preserve the original limestone structure. The school has been listed with the National Register of Historic Places since 1978. Information about tours is available online.
- Porter House Museum: The grand Porter House was constructed in the style of an Italianate Villa for Dighton B. Ellsworth in 1867. This dry goods merchant from New York was very successful in Decorah. The house was purchased by Francis and Emma Young in 1898. Francis was prosperous from cattle ventures and selling farm machinery and hardware. The Young’s daughter, Grace, and her husband-- Adelbert Field Porter, inherited the home. In 1966, after Grace’s death, Bert deeded the home as a museum to the Winneshiek County Historical Society. A display of collected curiosities, Victorian furniture pieces, and creative artistry are exhibited for patrons to examine. The museum schedule is available online.
- Vesterheim, The National Norwegian-American Museum and Heritage Center: Over 24,000 artifacts located in 12 buildings comprise the Vesterheim National Norwegian-American Museum and Heritage Center. Museum patrons get a glimpse at Norweigian-American immigration through an extensive collection of objects. Researchers and student groups from Luther College began collecting and documenting Norwegian-American artifacts in 1877. Browse online for a calendar of tours, scheduled events and ticket information.
(Photo courtesy of “Painter-Bernatz Stone Mill,” by Jimmy Emerson at Flickr’s Creative Commons.)