Downtown Owatonna
Downtown Owatonna
Location of Owatonna within Steele County and state of Minnesota
Location of Owatonna
within Steele County and state of Minnesota
Coordinates: 44°5′14″N 93°13′28″W / 44.08722°N 93.22444°W / 44.08722; -93.22444Coordinates: 44°5′14″N 93°13′28″W / 44.08722°N 93.22444°W / 44.08722; -93.22444
CountryUnited States
Incorporated as townAugust 9, 1858
Named forStraight River
 • TypeRepresentative council
 • MayorThomas A, Kuntz
 • Total15.20 sq mi (39.36 km2)
 • Land15.11 sq mi (39.14 km2)
 • Water0.09 sq mi (0.22 km2)
1,152 ft (351 m)
 • Total26,420
 • Density1,748.16/sq mi (674.98/km2)
Time zoneUTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code507
FIPS code27-49300
GNIS feature ID0649095[2]

Owatonna (/ˌwəˈtɒnə/) is a city in Steele County, Minnesota, United States. The population was 25,599 at the 2010 census.[3] It is the county seat of Steele County. Owatonna is home to the Steele County Fairgrounds, which hosts the Steele County Free Fair in August.

Interstate 35 and U.S. Highways 14, and 218 are three of the main routes in the city.


Mineral Springs Park, Owatonna, MN
Mineral Springs Park, Owatonna, MN

Owatonna was first settled in 1853 around the Straight River. The community was named after the Straight River,[4] which in the Dakota language is Wakpá Owóthaŋna. A popular, but apocryphal, story is that the town is named after "Princess Owatonna", the daughter of local Native American Chief Wadena who was supposedly healed by a nearby spring's magic waters,[5] which were said to be rich in iron and sulfur.[6] The earliest the Owatonna area was settled was in 1854. It was platted in September 1855, incorporated as a town on August 9, 1858, and as a city on February 23, 1865.[4]

In 1856, Josef Karel Kaplan emigrated from the village of Dlouhá Třebová, southeast of Prague, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), and selected a quarter section [160 acres (65 ha)] of land near the town of Owatonna. Kaplan described Owatonna as having just 50 small homes, but predicted 100 within a year, along with a railroad. With just four stores and a pharmacy, Owatonna quickly prospered and grew to 1,500 inhabitants in just 5 years. Kaplan wrote about the Owatonna area in letters donated to the Minnesota Historical Society. In them, he described often seeing the indigenous people with "tough constitutions...brown skin and good dispositions", adding: "When you read about battles between whites and Indians, it is the whites who are to blame." In 1866, Kaplan helped organize the Catholic cemetery, and a year later, the Bohemian National Cemetery of Owatonna.[7]

Kaplan's Woods is part of the land originally owned by Josef Kaplan, and later Victor and Anna Kaplan. The State of Minnesota created Kaplan's Wood State Park, which was later transferred to the City of Owatonna.[8] The Kaplan's Woods Parkway contains over 6 miles (10 km) of hiking and cross country skiing trails, and nearly 2 miles (3 km) of hard-surfaced, handicapped-accessible trail. The parkway includes Lake Kohlmier, a 35-acre (14 ha) lake.[9]

The Minnesota State Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children was built in 1886. The school took in orphans from around the state and taught them "the value of drill, discipline, and labor." The children who died in the institution were interred in the Children's Cemetery behind the school. In 1945, the orphanage closed and in 1947 the State Public School was officially abolished and all its lands, buildings, property, and funds were transferred to the newly established the Owatonna State School,[10] which provided academic and vocational training for the developmentally disabled. The Owatonna State School was closed June 30, 1970.[11] In 1974, the City purchased the compound for its office space. Renamed "West Hills," it continues to serve as the City's administration complex and home to many nonprofit civic organizations including a senior activity center, the Owatonna Arts Center, two nonprofit daycare centers, a chemical dependency halfway house, and Big Brothers/Big Sisters, among others.[citation needed]

In July 2008, a Raytheon Hawker 800 corporate jet crashed near Owatonna, resulting in eight deaths.[12]

On October 31, 2010, Owl City's Adam Young held a hometown concert in the Owatonna Senior High School gym.[13]

On November 3, 2015, the Owatonna Public School District passed a bond referendum to fund school facilities improvements focusing on deferred maintenance, safety, and Elementary school crowding. As a result, the school district received $77.9 million to repair all buildings, replace out-of-date equipment, update security in all seven public school buildings, switch the use for two school buildings, and reconfigure grades from K-5, 6, 7-8, 9-12 to K-5, 6-8, 9-12. All facility changes and projects were completed by September 2018.[14]

The Steele County Historical Society "preserves Steele County's past, shares the county's stories, and connects people with history in meaningful ways, for today and for tomorrow." Established in 1949 to preserve the history of Steele County, it has become one of the largest and most prestigious historical societies in the state. In 1962, the Society permanently leased part of the southeast section of the fairgrounds to begin a pioneer village, the Village of Yesteryear, which has grown in the years since through the additional move of historic structures, as well as museum buildings built on site.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has an area of 14.62 square miles (37.87 km2); 14.53 square miles (37.63 km2) is land and 0.09 square miles (0.23 km2) is water.[15] The oldest part of the city (including the downtown area) is on a low-lying area on the eastern bank of the Straight River, extending towards the south from Maple Creek. The city has grown in all directions, and now lies on both sides of the river, as well as above the ridge north of Maple Creek. Significant growth in recent years has occurred to the northeast, where homes have been built along the ravine of Maple Creek as well as alongside Brooktree Golf Course, to the north, and to the southeast. Geographical landmarks of note include Kaplan's Woods, a hardwood nature preserve on the southern border of the city; Cinder Hill, a steep 60-foot hill on Linn Avenue overlooking downtown that local athletes use for training; the Straight River dam, originally used to power a mill and now reconstructed to include a fish ladder; and the Forest Hill Cemetery, an old wooded cemetery on the ridge north of Maple Creek that marks the boundary between the oldest parts of the city and more recent developments.

Record rainfall events from September 22 to 24, 2010, caused flooding of the Straight River and Maple Creek in and near Owatonna, with developments in the floodplains of both streams completely inundated.[16][17][18]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[19]
2018 Estimate[20]

2010 census

As of the census[21] of 2010, 25,599 people, 10,068 households, and 6,737 families resided in the city. The population density was 1,761.8 inhabitants per square mile (680.2/km2). There were 10,724 housing units at an average density of 738.1 per square mile (285.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 91.2% White, 3.8% African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.9% Asian, 2.2% from other races, and 1.5% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 7.3% of the population.

There were 10,068 households, of which 34.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.9% were married couples living together, 10.0% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 33.1% were non-families. 27.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 3.05.

The median age in the city was 37.2 years. 26.9% of residents were under the age of 18; 7.3% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 26.3% were from 25 to 44; 25.5% were from 45 to 64; and 13.8% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.8% male and 51.2% female.

2000 census

As of the census of 2000, 22,434 people, 8,704 households, and 5,936 families resided in the city. The population density was 1,779.9 inhabitants per square mile (687.2/km2). There were 8,940 housing units at an average density of 709.3 per square mile (273.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 94.09% White, 1.56% African American, 0.13% Native American, 0.99% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 1.92% from other races, and 1.27% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.31% of the population.

There were 8,704 households, of which 35.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.5% were married couples living together, 8.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.8% were non-families. 26.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 3.08.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 28.1% under the age of 18, 8.4% from 18 to 24, 29.8% from 25 to 44, 20.8% from 45 to 64, and 12.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35. For every 100 females, there were 95.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $45,660, and the median income for a family was $54,883. Males had a median income of $37,691 versus $25,511 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,513. About 4.3% of families and 6.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.9% of those under 18 and 6.9% of those 65 or over.


Owatonna is an economic center of Southern Minnesota, with diverse industries. Federated Insurance is the largest employer, with 1,521 employees, followed by an expanding Viracon, which has 1,434 employees.[22] Both have their corporate headquarters in Owatonna. Other large employers in the community are Bosch, Jostens, Gopher Sport, Brunswick Corporation (Cybex International), Daikin Industries, Owatonna Public Utilities, AmesburyTruth, ISD 761, Wenger Corporation,[23] Owatonna Clinic - Mayo Health System, and Owatonna Hospital - Allina Hospitals & Clinics.[citation needed]

Arts and culture

In 1974, the City of Owatonna purchased the campus of the former Minnesota State Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children, which had been in operation from 1886 until 1945. The site was renamed West Hills, and now serves as an administrative center for the City of Owatonna, as well as housing several nonprofit organizations in the various historic buildings, including the Owatonna Arts Center.[24]

The ongoing practical joke Pesky Pants took place in Owatonna between 1965 and 1989

Sites of interest

National Farmers Bank

Owatonna's classic bank
Owatonna's classic bank

In the middle of Owatonna's downtown is the National Farmer's Bank, widely recognized as one of the premier examples of the Prairie School of architecture in America. Designed by Louis Sullivan, the building was finished in 1908 and features gold leaf arches, stained-glass windows, and nouveau Baroque art designs, all still in pristine condition. It is a national landmark on the National Register of Historic Places and functions as a branch of Wells Fargo Bank.[25][6][26]

State School Museum

The State School Museum[27] is at West Hills on the grounds of the former Minnesota State School for Dependent and Neglected Children.


The Steele County Blades is a junior hockey team that plays at Four Seasons Center and is a member of the MN Junior Hockey League. Although having a similar name and logo, this team is unrelated to the former Southern Minnesota Express, which relocated to Michigan to become the Motor City Machine. The Express began play in the 2008-2009 season,[28] and completed its final season in March 2011.


Owatonna is governed by a mayor and city council.City Council of Owatonna, MN

City council

The city is in Minnesota's 24th Senate District, represented by John Jasinski, a Republican. District 24 includes portions of Steele, Rice and Waseca and Dodge counties in the southeastern part of the state. Owatonna is in House District 24A, represented by State Representative John Petersburg, a Republican, since 2012.

Owatonna is in Minnesota's 1st congressional district, represented by Brad Finstad, a Republican.[29]


Public schools

Public education is provided by Independent School District No. 761

Elementary schools

Middle school

High school

Private schools

Higher education

Past schools

Owatonna Art Education Project

In Owatonna was the Owatonna Art Education Project.[when?]


AM radio

AM radio stations
Frequency Call sign Name Format Owner
920 KDHL The Mighty 920 Classic Country Townsquare Media
1170 KFOW News/Talk Linder Radio Group
1390 KRFO Oldies Townsquare Media

FM Radio

FM radio stations
Frequency Call sign Name Format Owner
92.1 KRUE KRUE Country 92.1 Country Linder Radio Group
93.5 K228DR
(KJLY Translator)
Christian Minn-Iowa Christian Broadcasting
100.9 KOWZ Adult Contemporary Linder Radio Group
103.9 K280EC
(KNGA Translator)
MPR News NPR Minnesota Public Radio
104.9 KRFO Country Townsquare Media
105.7 K289AE
(KGAC Translator)
Classical MPR Classical Minnesota Public Radio
106.3 K292GU
(KFOW Translator)
Classic hits Linder Radio Group
107.5 KBGY
(KLCI Simulcast)
BOB-FM Classic country Milestone Radio II, LLC

Film location

Parts of the 1995 movie Angus were filmed in and around Owatonna, including Owatonna Senior High School, its football team, and marching band.[34]

Much of the 2014 silent film The Root of Evil was shot on location in Owatonna, most notably at the Owatonna Senior High School and the Gainey Center. Produced by a cast and crew of over 60 Owatonna High School students, the film has received 10 awards at over eight film festivals on the international circuit.[35] Memorabilia from the film is set[when?] to be on display in the high school museum.

Notable people

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  1. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 24, 2022.
  2. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. October 25, 2007. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  3. ^ "2010 Census Redistricting Data (Public Law 94-171) Summary File". American FactFinder. United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 27 April 2011.[dead link]
  4. ^ a b Upham, Warren (reprint, 2001). Minnesota Place Names: A Geographical Encyclopedia
  5. ^ The Legend of Princess Owatonna, Visit Owatonna
  6. ^ a b WPA Guide to Minnesota. Saint Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society. 1985 [1938]. p. 399. ISBN 0873517121.
  7. ^ Letters to Bohemia: A Czech Settler Writes from Owatonna, 1856–1858
  8. ^ "Trail Information | City of Owatonna". Archived from the original on 2012-06-22. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
  9. ^ "Owatonna Chamber of Commerce - Tourism Bureau". Archived from the original on 2012-08-26. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
  10. ^ "Owatonna State School - Asylum Projects".
  11. ^ http://mn.gov/mnddc/past/pdf/60s/69/69-COS-AMW.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  12. ^ (AP via Google News) Archived August 19, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Owl City goes back to school for Halloween". Star Tribune.
  14. ^ "Referendum - Owatonna Public Schools ISD761". Archived from the original on 2015-11-21. Retrieved 2015-11-05.
  15. ^ "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2012-01-25. Retrieved 2012-11-13.
  16. ^ "Floods of September 2010 in Southern Minnesota" (PDF). US Geological Survey Scientific Investigations. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2013-06-30.
  17. ^ "Heavy Rainfall - September 22-23, 2010". MN Department of Natural Resources.
  18. ^ "Summary of September 22-24, 2010 Extreme Southern MN Flooding". National Weather Service.
  19. ^ United States Census Bureau. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  20. ^ "Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 14, 2019.
  21. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
  22. ^ http://www.owatonna.org/prosper/profile/employers.php Archived 2007-08-19 at the Wayback Machine Owatonna employer profile
  23. ^ https://www.wengercorp.com/ Wenger Corporation
  24. ^ "Owatonna Arts Center". Archived from the original on 2006-02-21. Retrieved 2006-03-20.
  25. ^ "Why a Minnesota bank building ranks among the nation’s most significant architecture", PBS NewsHour, June 15, 2022.
  26. ^ Morrison, Hugh (1962) [June 1, 1962]. Louis Sullivan Prophet of Modern Architecture. New York City: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0393001164.
  27. ^ "MINNESOTA STATE PUBLIC SCHOOL FOR DEPENDENT AND NEGLECTED CHILDREN: Museum". Archived from the original on 2006-03-29. Retrieved 2006-03-20.
  28. ^ NAHL.com, 15 May 2008
  29. ^ "Republican Rep. Brad Finstad sworn in to finish Hagedorn's House term". 12 August 2022.
  30. ^ "Lincoln Elementary". Archived from the original on 2008-10-22. Retrieved 2010-12-13.
  31. ^ "McKinley Elementary". Archived from the original on 2011-01-22. Retrieved 2010-12-13.
  32. ^ "Washington Elementary". Archived from the original on 2011-02-27. Retrieved 2010-12-13.
  33. ^ "Wilson Elementary". Archived from the original on 2011-01-24. Retrieved 2010-12-13.
  34. ^ IMDB, Angus
  35. ^ "Owatonna graduates' black-and-white film receives national recognitions".
  36. ^ Minnesota Legislators Past & Present-Harold S. Nelson
  37. ^ Minnesota Legislators: Past & Present-Tom j. Shea
  38. ^ Minnesota Legislators: Past & Present-Clifford C. Sommer
  39. ^ Minnesota Legislators: Past & Present-William C. Zamboni