Named after legendary figure Winona, said to have been the first-born daughter of Chief Wapasha (Wabasha) III, the city of Winona in southeastern Minnesota, is located in picturesque bluff country on the Mississippi River. Its most noticeable physical landmark is Sugar Loaf Bluff (above), which sits inside of Garvin Heights City Park. Sugar Loaf’s distinctive pinnacle resulted from the quarrying the bluff’s limestone cap throughout most of the 1880s, which was used for the construction of the town’s sidewalks and stone buildings. The city originally began on the site of a Native American village known as Keoxa, that was home to a Mdewakanton band of the eastern Sioux. Non-native settlers, basically Yankee immigrants from New England, arrived beginning in 1851. The railroad and steamboat industries initially helped the city to grow before it later diversified into wheat milling and lumber production.

In 1858, Winona became the site of the first normal school west of the Mississippi with the establishment of Winona Normal School (now Winona State University). Previously a women’s seminary, the College of Saint Teresa was later created here in 1907, where it operated until its closure in 1989. Saint Mary’s College (now Saint Mary’s University) was also founded here in 1912 as an all-male private Catholic “Lasallian” school.

Originally dedicated in 1895, the Basilica of Saint Stanislaus Kostka (below) in downtown Winona was designated as a Minor Basilica in November 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI. This historic Roman Catholic church, designed in Polish Cathedral style, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. As a side note, the other one of Minnesota’s two Basilica churches is the Basilica of Saint Mary, located in downtown Minneapolis.

First opened for play in 1920, The Bridges Golf Course, located just southeast of Winona and set within the striking vistas of Pleasant Valley, offers 18 holes of golf on a course designed by Ben Knight, the club’s first golf professional. Collocated with the course is the Signatures Restaurant & Event Center, which is built with elegant, modern architecture and equipped with all of the facilities and technical accommodations necessary for successful meetings and events. The setting is further enhanced by an abundant display of perennial plants and trees that weave together the modern architecture with its natural surroundings. 

Winona’s Veterans Memorial Park, built strictly with donated funds as well as through the sale of memorial bricks and pavers, is located opposite Sugar Loaf within Lake Park, which borders Lake Winona (also above). Its marble monuments, engraved stones, and memorial bricks honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives in protecting our country during the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. There are also monuments dedicated in honor of Desert Storm, POWs, MIAs, and Gold Star Spouses and Parents.

Perhaps the town’s most notable person is actress Winona Ryder, who has confirmed that she was indeed born at the Winona hospital.

  • Lived: 1988-1992
  •  National Register of Historic Places: Basilica of Saint Stanislaus Kostka (1984); Sugar Loaf Bluff (1990) 

1 Comment

  1. What interesting history of one of my favorites MN. Towns, especially in it’s full brilliant color during the fall. That Veterans memorial is also really outstanding . I have enjoyed the annual Shakespeare festival in the summer at the Winona University. Very talented actors.

    Liked by 1 person

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