Wagon Tours of Historic Downtown Chaska
A few times a year, downtown Chaska shifts back in time to when horse-drawn vehicles were the way people and materials moved through our streets. Julie Wiese, a Chaska History Center volunteer, has been part of a team conducting tours pointing out the old buildings around the blocks near City Square for several years. With the help of teamster Matt Fahey from Belle Plaine, hired by the Downtown Business Council, Julie and other volunteers describe the history of many of the homes and businesses in existence over 100 years ago. Providing details of life and conditions from four generations ago, the narration energizes the imagination of those riding in the horse-drawn wagon.
The Percheron draft horses are an integral part of the experience -- offering the opportunity for children as well as adults to connect with one of the largest breeds of horses. Matt also shows his horse teams at the Minnesota State Fair, and we are lucky that he shares them with us during these tours.
Volunteers like Julie prepare for their narration and for questions from their passengers. Key references include Chaska: A Minnesota River City, Prehistory to 1950, ChaskAlphabet, past issues of the Chaska Herald, and oral histories provided by long-time residents who remember the days before traffic lights and drive-through donut shops.
Some of the buildings usually included in the narration are the C.P. Klein Mansion at 4th and Walnut (pictured), the Mieseler house and nearby Faber commercial buildings on the corner of Walnut and 2nd, and the oldest brick house in Chaska on Oak and 3rd Street. As the tour passes by the City Square, it touches upon the history of the first people to live in this area. Even long-time residents learn details about the protected Native American mounds within the Square.
People can learn even more about the houses in Chaska that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and other buildings that have had an impact on those growing up in our town at the Chaska History Center.
By Neil Wingert for the Chaska Historical Society