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Red Wing was established at the site of a Dakota Indian village on the banks of the Mississippi River and named after the tribe’s legendary leader Chief Red Wing. The origin of the chiefs’ name is said to have come from the talisman of a red-dyed swan’s wing that he carried.


Downtown — Civic Pride and an Irish Jig

Red Wing is one of the most refreshing and quaint towns we have visited. The biggest surprise was discovering the extraordinary civic pride the residences have about their community. Although the downtown is vibrant, tidy and well preserved, the architecture is rather basic. Most buildings are constructed largely of red brick (one of Red Wing's early industries was brick manufacturing) and have little ornamentation.

With the support of the Red Wing Art Association and paint donated by local merchants, the Red Wing Sesquicentennial Mural was completed.


The Sheldon Theater is Red Wing’s crown jewel. The interior contains an abundance of ornate gilded plaster work. It’s easy to see why it is often described as a "jewel box". The remarkable civic pride of Red Wing residents is exemplified by the fact that the restoration of the Sheldon was financed exclusively by local donations and a bond issue.

It is not surprising that this beautiful peacock greets theatergoers as they enter the lobby … peacocks are known as a symbol of hospitality.

We felt lucky that we  able to obtain tickets to hear Irish jigs and Gallic ballads performed by the Boys of the Lough.  While we waited to be seated, Danny snapped a photo of the lobby’s original 1904 mosaic tile floor.

The old train depot has a lovely location looking out on the Mississippi River. The Classical style depot is constructed of two tints of pressed brick.

The large waiting room has been restored to accommodate not only Amtrak passengers, but also the Red Wings Visitor Center.

The Iron Works building is the city’s oldest industrial building. It once held a foundry business that was vital to the development of the city’s many industries.

Sherry loved the red wing doors on the Citizen’s Fund Mutual building. Built in the 1930’s, this WPA Moderne style building is now owned by Goodhue County. You can click here to view the entire door.


In comparison to many of the grand residential neighborhoods we have visited, the historic homes of Red Wing were a bit of a disappointment. Many of the larger residents were built in the 1800’s by businessmen who made huge profits from the lucrative wheat trade and successful manufacturing ventures. Below are a few homes we found to be truly noteworthy.

Philander Sprague founded the first terra cotta factory west of Chicago in Red Wing after the Civil War. Built in the French Second Empire style, his 1886 home incorporates terra cotta in the ornamental window moldings.

Built in 1913 this residence has the broad horizontal lines of the legendary Prairie School architects Purcell, Feick and Elmslie. We loved the bands of leaded glass windows and the sawed wood designs ornamenting the house.

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