“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Owatonna in Steele County, Minnesota — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)

History of the State School Root Cellar

History of the State School Root Cellar Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Connor Olson, May 29, 2020
1. History of the State School Root Cellar Marker
Inscription.  This root cellar is a historic treasure. Vegetables grown in the large garden were stored until prepared for consumption by the children and staff.

The north half was constructed in 1898. Craftsmen meticulously lined the inside walls and arched ceilings with cut fieldstone. Small wooden shims were added for balance and support. The ceiling is self-supporting without beams. Concrete squares cover the floor.

The south half was added in 1922 at the cost of $3,600. The ceiling and walls were built more simply and the floor was all poured concrete.

Each half is approximately 11 feet high, 58 feet long, and 16 feet wide. Three feet of soil and grass cover the top of the structure.

Year-round, the inside temperature remains at an almost constant 42 degrees. However, during extremely long cold spells, the temperature can lower. During State School days, a kerosene heater was brought in to prevent freezing.

Bins and pull-out drawers lined the inside walls to separate the carrots, onions, turnips, beets, pumpkins, and squash. Potatoes were unloaded through trapdoors on the outside top of the cellar. The potatoes

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fell directly into the bins below. A daily routine was checking the bins and drawers for any spoilage.

Perishable vegetables, such as green beans, peas, and tomatoes were canned (in tin cans) and later stored in the cool cellar. The State School's large apple crop was also stored here.

In the 1930s-40s, the food in the root cellar went a long way toward feeding the nearly constant population of 400-500 children and 100 staff three meals a day, seven days a week.

The City of Owatonna purchased the property from the State of Minnesota in 1974. For a time, the root cellar was used each spring for storage of bare root trees for planting. The City refaced the cement front and replaced the doors in 2002. In 2014, the inside was upgraded for showing during group tours.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Charity & Public Work. A significant historical year for this entry is 1898.
Location. 44° 5.324′ N, 93° 14.441′ W. Marker is in Owatonna, Minnesota, in Steele County. Marker is on Ronglien Lane, 0.1 miles east of Florence Avenue, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Owatonna MN 55060, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. History of the State Public School Children’s Cemetery (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); State Public School for Dependent & Neglected Children 1886 - 1945 (about 700 feet

State School Root Cellar image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Connor Olson, May 29, 2020
2. State School Root Cellar
away); State School Buildings and Grounds (about 700 feet away); There Were Many...I Was But One (about 700 feet away); Main Building (about 700 feet away); Minnesota State Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children (approx. 0.2 miles away); State Schoolers U.S. Military Memorial (approx. 0.2 miles away); History of State School Rock Garden (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Owatonna.
Credits. This page was last revised on March 7, 2021. It was originally submitted on March 6, 2021, by Connor Olson of Kewaskum, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 116 times since then and 21 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on March 6, 2021, by Connor Olson of Kewaskum, Wisconsin. • Mark Hilton was the editor who published this page.

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May. 30, 2023