Driving south on I-35, most cars will simply pass by the green sign marked “Exit 69.” For them, this exit in Southeast Minnesota is just the space between the Twin Cities and some other “point B.” If we take this exit, slow down, and look at the landscape around us, however, the place comes alive with stories. People and nature have shaped the land and its history. Putting the interstate to our back, a view of the St. Olaf College wind turbine begins to loom above the horizon. As we enter Northfield, a smell reminiscent of freshly-baked cookies wafts through the air. The gridded streets at the center of town now hug the rushing Cannon River, where once stood the Big Woods and prairie. In the halls of Northfield’s two colleges, in the city parks, in the agricultural fields and nature areas outside of town are written the story of people’s relationship to the environment around them. Every place holds stories if we stop and pay attention.
The essays housed on this site are the final projects of students in St. Olaf’s History 275: American Environmental History, Spring 2013. These students researched the environmental history of places in and around Northfield, Minnesota, using published and archival research, interviews, and by “reading” the landscape. Explore these places and their stories through the images on the homepage, the map page, or the keywords and list of places on the sidebar to the right.
Visiting Assistant Professor
St. Olaf College