Just a short 35 minute drive north of the MTI plant lies the beautiful little village of Lanesboro, MN. It is the perfect example of community recycling, and I’m not talking about paper, cans and bottles (although that goes on their, too). About thirty years ago, Lanesboro was given up for dead. Most businesses had closed and main street (Hwy. 250 or Parkway) contained mostly empty, dilapidated buildings. But then the Root River Trail came to town. Begun in the early 1980s, the paved bike trail infused new life into all the communities along the Root River in Southeast Minnesota, but Lanesboro, in my opinion, benefited the most.
Lanesboro is a small community of less than a 1,000 permanent residents tucked into a valley cut by the Root River and surrounded by 300 foot Limestone bluffs. The trail, considered by many to be one of the premiere bike trails in the U.S. and the natural scenic beauty bring thousands of visitors to town during the warm weather months. Outside Magazine named Lanesboro, “One of the 20 best places to live and play.” Visitors can canoe, tube and kayak the river while cyclists, runners and hikers enjoy nearly 60 miles of paved trails. There are many premiere trout streams nearby and Lanesboro offers exceptional live theater at the Commonweal as well as art galleries, Amish goods, and lots of unique shops.
This infusion of tourism dollars has resulted in the preservation of most of the buildings (both commercial and residential) in town. Lanesboro was originally started as a tourist destination back in the 1800s and many beautiful Victorian homes and elegant buildings dotted the landscape. (View Early History) Now, many of the early buildings and homes have been restored. Rather than tearing down the old, most of the current buildings have been rehabbed, restored or repurposed and many have a century or more of history to tell. It is a great town for an architectural hike, especially if you enjoy Victorian architecture. I am including a few photos here, but you can visit MTI’s Facebook page for an entire gallery of downtown businesses. Lanesboro takes the conservation issue up one more notch as it generates its electricity via hydroelectric power. (See photo of dam in background) I will do another article on Lanesboro homes in the near future. (Learn more about Lanesboro.)