“We’re not that old as a city, technically,” says Alan Madsen, president of the Maple Grove Historic Preservation Society. Originally home to the Ojibwe tribe, then the Winnebago tribe, after their relocation by the U.S. Federal Government, the area of Maple Grove developed as a township after the settlement of explorers Pierre Bottineau and Louis Gervais in 1851. In 1954, it became a village and, 20 years later, Maple Grove officially became a city.
Since the city’s inception, community members have accumulated items of historical interest, sometimes passed down one generation to the next. However, when it’s time to start downsizing, many choose to contact the Maple Grove Historic Preservation Society to see if any items are of interest.
“Most of [the collection] has been from people donating to us,” Madsen says. “What happens is either mom and pop are aging, and looking to divest of all their belongings, and so they contact us or the kids themselves contact us to see if we would accept the donation of whatever the item was.” The society, which was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) in 1994, keeps its collection closely related to Maple Grove or Osseo and often rotates their historical displays to reflect the ever-expanding collection.
Madsen’s favorite pieces? “We’ve got two 1880 buggies, [in] very, very good shape,” he says, noting they were donated by a gentleman who lives in Brooklyn Park. “We have a very old sleigh from the late 1800s. We have a 1909 piano ... a person could still play it. We’ve got a 100-year-old roll-top desk.” Of its wide range of historical artifacts, Madsen says most of the society’s items are over 50 years old, and many are from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
If you’re looking to see these items in person, Madsen says there’s an open house the second Sunday of every month. The society also contributes to Maple Grove Days and sets up shop in the garage space of the old public works building. “One of the highlights will be a display of wedding gowns that date way back,” he says. “We’ll also have an individual coming in to do a demonstration on wood carving and woodworking.”