Downtown Rochester

Learn the history of Rochester

Downtown Rochester

Rochester, Minnesota 55902, United States

Created By: History Center of Olmsted County

Tour Information

A walking tour featuring 18 historic sites located in downtown Rochester, MN. Learn the history of the earliest settlers and the founding of the world famous Mayo Clinic. The tour takes about an hour to complete. This tour was created by the History Center of Olmsted County. Please vist us at or 1195 W Circle Dr Sw Rochester, MN 55902.

Tour Map

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What You'll See on the Tour

Dr. William and Dr. Charles Mayo considered Dr. Henry Plummer to be a diversified genius.  Recruited by Dr. Will, Henry was hired in 1902 for his knowledge of blood.  Soon, his other skills and interests came to light.  As an inventor an... Read more
The Central School, referred to as “Old Central School,” was a beloved building to early residents. The five-story structure, complete with an impressive bell tower, was a source of pride, a symbol of the city’s commitment to public e... Read more
By 1911, Drs. Will and Charlie Mayo’s medical practice had outgrown its rental location in the Masonic Temple. The Drs. Mayo and their partners needed a new building. Dr. Henry Plummer teamed with St. Paul’s Ellerbe & Rounds to desi... Read more
  Rochester’s first Kahler Hotel was created out of the lovely Victorian home of Elliott Ainsworth and Ella Rebecca (Blake) Knowlton. Purchased in 1889 from J.D. Blake, Ella’s brother and Elliott’s business partner, the three-story b... Read more
The reputation of the Doctors Mayo and the success of their new group practice were creating problems in Rochester.  Between 1908 and 1912, Mayo Clinic registrations increased 300 percent and those folks needed a place to stay. In 1915, Ar... Read more
  In 1954, a sign went up in a window of the Botsford Lumber Co., which had been located for decades at the corner of Center Street and First Avenue Southwest. The sign, visible in this photo, informs customers that Botsford had moved to i... Read more
The 772-seat Empress Theater opened on Broadway Avenue on October 5, 1914. Business entrepreneur J.E. Reid was the mastermind behind the venue, which hosted both vaudeville shows and films. The new theater made quite the buzz around town an... Read more
  You are now standing next to a site once occupied by the Metropolitan Opera House. It was a major icon of the late 19th and early 20th century. From 1902 and until it closed in 1931, it was the center of culture in Rochester. At the time... Read more
  Rochester entrepreneur J.E. Reid’s vision for a vaudeville playhouse became a reality after he bought a vacated building and remodeled it into the Majestic Theater. The Majestic had only 200 seats at original location, but its tiny sta... Read more
  For nearly 100 years, a shopping mecca was located at the northwest corner of Broadway and Second Street Southwest. It had a couple of different names before becoming E.A. Knowlton & Co., which reigned for decades as Rochester’s la... Read more
  Built in 1969 by John R. Cook, the Cook Hotel was a majestic four-story structure at the corner of Broadway Avenue and Zumbro Street. Cook’s First National Bank occupied the northeast corner of the first floor with an entrance onto Bro... Read more
  This building is probably most familiar as a restaurant, which it has been since 1983. But it started out as Union National Bank, which was founded in 1868 as Union Savings Bank. The bank took its name from the Union Block building in wh... Read more
  The morning paper, fresh donuts, coffee and conversation were part of the daily routine for decades at Huey’s Cigar Store, 330 S. Broadway. The Huey’s building was constructed in 1858 and is thought to be the oldest business structur... Read more
  At the dawn of the automobile age in Rochester, the 300 block of South Main Street, today’s First Avenue SW, had great significance.  Newspapers of the day referred to the 300 block as Automobile Row because of the businesses that sta... Read more
  Col. Dennis H. Williams came to Rochester in 1868 after serving in the Civil War.  He partnered with J. Franklin VanDooser in an agricultural machinery business and together they constructed a new building on the corner of West Third an... Read more
  Martin C. Lawler spared no expense in building his new B.B. Theatre show house in downtown Rochester, and took pride in declaring that the $50,000-theater was entirely fire proof. But the theater, which opened in 1916 and was soon rename... Read more
  Mr. Huber Bastian, a longtime citizen of Rochester, had died.  In his will was a bequest of $5,000 for the construction of a library building.  As a result of his gift and to comply with state law, the Rochester Public Library was lega... Read more
When it opened in 1912 and for several years afterward, the Hotel Zumbro, the tallest building in Rochester at the time, was declared by local boosters to be the finest lodging establishment in the state outside of the Twin Cities. The 122 ... Read more
  When the 100 First Avenue building was completed, it was said to be the most modern office building in the Upper Midwest. The office and shopping complex, built by the Mayo Foundation, had 44 tenants when the doors opened in May 1940.  ... Read more
Shortly after the close of the Civil War, Rochester pioneer William Dodge opened a lumber business on the eventual site of this theatre.  Over the next 60 years, the city eventually surrounded the lumber yard.  With expansion now impossib... Read more


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