Driving down Second Street in Chaska, you may feel like you are in another time. In sight will be brick buildings, some over 160 years old, that have been ravaged by fire and invaded by flood waters yet are still standing. For its annual exhibit, the Chaska History Center will honor our first “downtown district”. Stories and photos will tell the tales of the shoemaker, a butcher, a TV repairman, the “candy lady”, the newspapermen of the Chaska Herald and the buildings where they worked.
Hundreds of hours of research have been spent sifting through book, photos and the internet to provide windows into Chaska’s past that open up as visitors look through the displays. Infrastructure details explain how the town operated – behind the beautiful buildings and the people inside.
Topics include: the impact of the railroads and steamboats, how electricity came into place, how water was delivered, and how refuse was taken away. Natural gas provided lighting before electricity, and telephones weren’t always quickly available. The streets and sidewalks arrived and brought a look and a sense of the modern times. Religion was a major influence in the spiritual and social aspects of lives, and the building (and re-building) of churches was evidence of the commitment by the congregations. Similarly, the disasters of fire, flood and tornados that befell the citizens were taken in stride after the dust settled and river receded.
Present-day and vintage photos allow us to imagine the working lives and economies of business that rose and fell like the waters of the Minnesota River. Restaurants, hotels, auto garages, livery stables, general stores, and buildings that came to known by the name of their original owner, and the ever-present influence of the Herald newspaper are all showcased.