Downtown International Falls

Walking Tour of downtown International Falls, MN

Downtown International Falls

International Falls, Minnesota 56649, United States

Created By: Koochiching County Historical Society

Tour Information

Created by the Koochiching County Historical Society and Museums, this walking tour will take you up and down 3rd Street, which is the heart of downtown International Falls, and the important buildings around it. On this tour you will see buildings as they are now, and through pictures, how those buildings once looked; even the empty lots in International Falls hold important pieces of history.

Even though the history of International Falls is relatively new, the land itself has been inhabited by humans for centuries. Prehistorically, people settled on the banks of Rainy River. Eventually, a permanent settlement was founded along the river, known as Koochiching Village. Koochiching Village was in the perfect position to become a trade hub. As a trading center, it was popular among the Native people and trading companies. Koochiching Village was a stopping point on the "Voyageur Highway." Voyageurs were rugged men employed by trading companies to haul goods up and down rivers and across large expanses of land. For 200 years, these Voyageurs were the lifeline to the outside world for the people living in Koochiching Village.

In 1870, a Scottish prospector by the name of Alexander Baker, was the first to settle in what was to become Koochiching Village after paddling from Lake Superior. His nephew, Joseph Baker, arrived in 1881 and became the first postmaster, bandmaster, and Justice of the Peace for Koochiching. In 1892, Alexander Baker sold all of his land, except for one acre (now known as Baker's Acre), to C.J. Lockwood from Minneapolis.

After the fur trade ended and the excitement from the short lived gold rush on Rainy Lake died away, a man named E.W. Backus came to town in 1900 with the vision to turn Koochiching Village (soon to be named International Falls in 1903) into a sprawling city that would rival Minneapolis. Backus bought the land Lockwood got from Baker and started the necessary construction to establish a massive paper mill. In 1905, construction started on the dam needed to power the mill. Building the dam meant that the Koochiching Falls, after which the town was named, were destroyed. When the dam was completed in 1909, Backus could finally begin building his paper mill. A sister mill was also built by Backus across the river in Fort Frances, Ontario, Canada. Even though the devastation brought on by the Great Depression prevented Backus from creating his dream city before his death, his mill did bring a new life to the area.

This tour takes you down 3rd Street, which has been the downtown business section of International Falls since 1902. Prior to 1902, the downtown business district was located on 2nd Street. On June 15, 1902, a fire that nearly destroyed the village prompted the move of downtown from 2nd Street to 3rd Street.

With this tour, you will be able to experience International Falls up-close and personal, and see it through the eyes of all the people who made it the great community it is today.

If you take pictures or selfies during the tour, be sure to use our hashtag #koochmuseums to show your support!

Museums Hours:

Summer: 9-5, Sunday-Saturday

Winter: 9-5, Monday-Friday

Tour Map

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What You'll See on the Tour

The Koochiching Historical Museum was built in 1966, and expanded in 1976, as a result of the efforts of the historical society and the Old Settlers Association for the Bicentennial. The Broko Nagurski Museum was added on in 1993, in honor ... Read more
E.W. Backus was one of the last Minnesota timber barons and was one of the few men daring enough to push into the wilderness around Koochiching Village. Backus saw great potential in the almost untouched woods along Rainy River and most imp... Read more
Scotty's Standard Service, operated on this spot for many years by J.J. "Scotty" Preece, became Gray's Amoco Station and is now Randy's Tire and Auto.
Back in 1909, the corner of this lot was sold to Henry Ash who built a small frame building that was the first home of the public library in 1911. The second lot was occupied by John Berg's old store which he moved there in 1910. The Parlo... Read more
Coffee Landing is in the building that was once Rauscher's Grocery Store. It was the first grocery store in town and deliveries used to be made by hand cart and then eventually a horse-drawn cart. The building was built in 1913 by Emil Ols... Read more
This building was constructed in 1912 to house the Empress Theatre. It opened on June 1st, showing movies and vaudeville every night. The theatre was managed by W.M. Fancher. Later, F.B. Green operated Green's 5 & 10 store at this locat... Read more
The old Green Hardware store use to occupy this vacant lot. In May 1906, the back part of original building was moved from the old town site and the Green family continued to operate their hardware storein it. Later, it was moved to the bac... Read more
The current building sits on two lots whose original buildings have been demolished. The left side use to have a building that most notably housed the Log Cabin in for many years. The original building was built by O.J. Masters of Northom... Read more
This building sits on two lots whose originally buildings have been demolished. The right side of the lot began as the Gish Jewelry and Music Store. The original building was built on the lot after the fire of 1902 and downtown was moved to... Read more
Built by C.W. Stanton, one of the first businesses to occupy this building was the New Flour and Feed Store operated by Johnson and Lundeen. In 1913, a new front was installed and the building remodeled for the New City Meat Market owned by... Read more
In June of 1938, Oscar Pearson, owner of Pearson's Bakery and Confectionery, began construction of a modern brick building on this site. The bakery and cafe occupied the first floor and the second floor was made into apartments. Pearson and... Read more
On April 6, 1914, Ferguson and Peterson opened the Viking Theatre on this site. It was an impressive looking building of Renaissance architecture with white marble and handmade art glass around the entrance. The upper floors were for office... Read more
F.G. Nelson bought this lot from Koochiching Realty for $1,800 in April 1909 and ran a jewelry store there until 1924. It was then that the Winter brothers purchased the building and rented it to several different tenants including W.B. Arc... Read more
The building that use to stand here was built in 1910 by W.J. Paulman to house the Unique Theater. Two men, named Mahan and Angell, leased the building and installed fixtures. About a week before the opening, some of the machinery was set u... Read more
In 1906, W.J. Paulman moved this building from the old town, added a second story and opened the Unique Buffet. In 1907, he sold to the Marchineaus, but got the business back, remodeled, and called it the Midway Buffet. Still later, it was ... Read more
This lot was purchased by John J. Stone in January 1906 from the Koochiching realty Company for $2,400. Stone built a two story building, 85 feet long, on the south end of the property. On the rear end of the lot, he moved the dining room ... Read more
This building was the old City Hall and Jail. It was built in 1905 at a cost of $6,000. At the time, it housed the offices of city clerk, municipal court, council chambers, and the fire hall with quarters for the team of horses (all on the ... Read more
In 1906, the B.P. Schutz Bakery and Calwell Confectionery, run by Dan Holler, were moved here from the old townsite. P.H. Wilson leased a lot for his steam laundry and C.H. Nelson bought the Fred Heineman building and moved it onto the prop... Read more
In 1906, G.A. Oveson, the "popman" from Badger, MN, concluded a deal with the townsite company and became owner of 50 feet on Second Street and 92 feet on Fourth Avenue. He later bought two more lots, giving him 100 feet on Second Street.... Read more
This empty lot is where G.A. Oveson, the "popman" of Badger, MN, built his resident and frame building in 1906 to house the bottling machinery for his pop factory. 
The mill office was built in 1910, and has changed very little over the years. Its unique architecture includes iconic rounded windows on the either side of the building. In its early years, it shared space with hotels and laundry services.... Read more
The International State Bank received a state charter in 1908 and operated in temporary quarters until 1910 when their building was completed on this lot. Architect J.W. Ross of Grand Forks drew the plans for the State Bank building and the... Read more
Architect J.W. Ross, of Grand Forks, drew the plans for the State Bank building and the John Berg store. Mr Berg moved the front section of his former store to his lot on Third Street west of Fifth Avenue and the rear section to the back of... Read more
In September 1935, James Pagedas began work on a $10,000 two-story brick building to house Rainy Lake Confectionery on the first floor and offices and apartments on the second floor (the old building that had been there before was moved to ... Read more
Carl Kahle moved this building from the old town site in about 1907. He had lost his first hotel in the fire that destroyed the town in 1902. The City Hotel changed hands several times throughout the years. Arrowhead Fuel had offices in th... Read more
Built by Duluth Brewing and Malting Company, this two-story brick building was sold by John Harrison to brothers James and Christ Sedaris, Greek immigrants, to house their Chicago Cafe in 1925. It has been occupied by Roger Mercier's Sa... Read more
In 1907, Roger Mercier bought this property and built a saloon which he operated for a number of years. It was occupied by a pool hall and smoke shop until 1927 when the Sedaris brothers bought it from Barney Burton to have for rental. In 1... Read more
In 1917, A.L. Bernard Clothing occupied this building followed by the Consumer Shoe Company managed by R. Latz. In 1930, Al Schneider had the Guarantee Shoe Store until 1940 when he sold to Jerry and John Lang of St. Cloud. The next owner w... Read more
In 1907, John A. Holler purchased this lot and built a 24x60 foot building for a confectionery store. The Holler family operated the Holler Confectionery until 1922 when Bo McCormick took over the building for his Quality Shop. At that time... Read more
The space now covered by City Drug was the site of numerous businesses throughout the years. On the east side had been the Dumas Candy Kitchen and the Boston Lunch, operated by Louis Tipple and later by James Pagedas. In 1936, Gus Spath ope... Read more
The building that was here originally was built by J.J. Stone in 1908. Jake Greengard, formerly a clerk at Burton's store, and his brother Sam had their clothing store here for several years. In 1917, they sold to Markowitz and Sumerfield w... Read more
M.F. Murphy purchased this lot from J.J. Stone in 1909 for $1,200. Geo. Clark's saloon from the old town site was moved onto the property. In 1914, it was the George Elliott Saloon and in 1917 it was called the Elliott Hotel. In March 1919,... Read more
Borderland Insurance was once the Pure Oil gas station owned by Bronko Nagurski from 1960-1969. Bronko, who has a museum in his honor at the Koochiching County Historical Society, was a larger than life figure in International Falls, both... Read more
The lot where the Chamber of Commerce now stands was once the location of the train depot. In 1906, the Big Fork and International Falls Railroad Company (with the same officers as Minnesota and International (M & I) railroad), with it... Read more
This building use to house the Falls Theatre, one of the last operating theatres in the Falls. 
The lot that is now partially occupied by Sammy's Pizza is where the magnificent Rex Hotel once stood. Originally, the Duluth Brewing Company built the Rex in 1911 with a grand public opening on New Year's Day of 1912. At the time it was th... Read more
This was once Woolworth's and later the 5&10 store. People who remember these old businesses think fondly on its soda fountain and snack bar which were in the back of the building. 
The J.C. Penney department store was located in this building. A fire ravaged J.C Penney and the offices and apartments above it in 1966; thankfully no one was killed. Wolf Hardware and Don Franklin's store also occupied this lot. 
Burton's Clothing, a very well-known clothing store in the early days occupied the old building that use to be on this lot. Burton's had operated at a location near City Dock before the business district and main street were moved to Third... Read more
The Salty Jester, formally the Dressy Moose Emporium, is a lounge and dinner theatre.
Mason's on Main is a clothing store catering to both men and women.
The Iltis building, prior to the brick one that stands today, was one of the three original buildings brought across from the old Rainy Lake City. The brick Iltis building, which still has "Iltis" engraved on the top, was where the First N... Read more
This lot was once was the home of the Koochiching Hotel and the ACE Hardware store. The Koochiching Hotel (or Hotel Koochiching) was opened in October of 1909. Before the Koochiching Hotel was built, the town lacked a comfortable and modern... Read more
The First National Bank was located in this building for a period of time after moving out of the Iltis building. E.E. Peterson & Co. Store and Quality was also located here. 
This building use to be the location of Rexall Drug.
The Border Theater use to stand here until it was demolished in the 2000s
This building was built to be a theater and was originally called the Grand Theatre. It opened in 1918 and was one of the most innovative theaters in town and managed to survive by bringing in acts like the "Frisco Frolics," featuring four ... Read more
Smokey Bear was constructed in 1954. The 26 foot tall, 82 ton statue was designed by Norman Anderson and was commissioned by the "Keep Minnesota Green Committee." In September of 1970 Smokey Bear was the victim of vandalism when his rear w... Read more


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