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Owatonna State Public School, Owatonna, Minnesota (1885-1947)

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Owatonna State Public School

Main building 1895
Cottage 5, circa 1900
City/locality-
State/province
Owatonna, Minnesota
County-
State/province:
Steele County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year Established: 1885
Year Ended: 1947
Founded by: Minnesota state legislature
Historic Function: Institution, Orphanage

Owatonna Steele

The Beginning According to the first Biennial report of the Board for the Owatonna State Public School, published in 1886, a legislative act of 1885 called for the creation of a public institution for dependent and neglected children between the ages of 3 and 14 (Laws 1885 c146). The goals were to educate the students under its jurisdiction, find adoptive families for them and enable the student to be self-supporting upon their discharge. Applications for the site location were accepted by the Board from communities across the state, with the Board looking for a minimum donation of 80 acres of land. While many communities applied the city of Owatonna in Steele County, who offered 160 acres of prime farmland, was selected for two reasons. First, the Board felt the location was the closest to the center of the oldest and most densely populated portion of the state, and thus would provide for better opportunities to place children with well-to-do families for adoption. Second, the Owatonna location provided for easy accessibility to railroad lines.

Institutional Design According the 1886 Biennial Report of the Board of the Owatonna State Public School, the design for the new institution was to be modeled on Michigan's "exemplary" state public school, located in Coldwater, Michigan. The plans called for one main or administrative building; eight or nine "cottages" that would each hold 25-30 children; a school building; a hospital building; an engine, boiler and pump house and barns and stables for the planned self-sustaining farm operations.

AS the original appropriation for establishing the state school was $20,000.00, the Board decided to erect three cottages first. One of these orginal cottages would be used as the main building until further construction could continue. Construction began in the fall of 1885 with the goal of opening in October of 1886. Three brick two-storey structures, 30' x 40' in size with basements, garrets and slate roofs were raised. On December 2, 1886 the first three children were received at the Owatonna State Public School.

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