Restoration & Preservation Timeline
1886-1945: State Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children
1945-1970: Orphanage phased out. Social change caused the orphanage to be phased out by 1945. For the next twenty-five years, the school provided academic and vocational training for the educable mentally disabled.
1974: After standing empty for four years, the City of Owatonna purchased the campus area to house administrative offices and related facilities.
Historical Restoration Begins
1992: The "State School Kids" Memorial, Museum, Cemetery Monument, and crosses placed on the children's graves, marked the beginning of State School restoration. The Museum continued to expand in the next years. New signage, lighting, and flowers were added to the grounds.
2000: The Museum became a non-profit 501.c.3 organization and elected a nine-person Board of Directors. The Board's mission is to preserve the history of the grounds and to remember the children. The West Hills Commission and City of Owatonna provide invaluable support to the Museum and its Board.
2002: After two years of production, the award-winning State School documentary video "The Children Remember" was completed, and the Root Cellar was re-faced.
2004: The Rock Garden was recreated and a new Flag Pole Plaza was erected honoring State School boys killed in World War II. Dedication of these two sites occurred during Owatonna's Sesquicentennial celebration.
2005: The City of Owatonna turned Henderson Hall (formerly Cottage 11) over to the Orphanage Museum for restoration.
2006: Four outdoor audio stations were installed to help visitors interpret the buildings and grounds as they existed during the orphanage era. This tour walks the visitor through the beautiful campus leading eventually to the Children's Cemetery.
2009: The Orphanage Museum unveils the long-anticipated Cottage 11 (C-11). C-11 is a unique site, which clearly reveals to the world how 6- to 13-year-old boys lived in a cottage. This site features a self-guided tour, gift shop, and displays designed to recreate aspects of the life and times which influenced these boys.
2010: May Day event, including an historic children's cemetery walk, special Tram Ride narrated by State School Ward Harvey Ronglien, Cottage 11 and Main Building Museum tours, family activities, and State School authors book signing.
The outdoor audio stations were expanded to six. Thanks to a Legacy Amendment Grant administered by the Minnesota Historical Society the original scripts were rewritten and two new scripts created. The first of the two new units is located on the east side of the campus, at the location of the 1898 School, later Cottage 16. The second of the stations is located at the Children's Cemetery. The State School Campus was selected for listing in the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service of the Unites States Department of the Interior.
2011: September 4, marked the 35th Anniversary of the first State School Reunion held in Minneapolis, MN. We invited all State School children and their families to visit the grounds this fall for one last reunion. Thirty State Schoolers and many family members and friends attended. The day included catching up with old friends, and hearing each State Schooler share a special memory or two from days gone by.
2012: On May 5, Harvey Ronglien, past State Schooler and museum co-founder, turned 85 and we threw a birthday party for him to celebrate and also kick off the fund drive for The Children Remembered - Orphanage Legacy Trust. The Trust was established to help preserve the legacy Harvey and Maxine Ronglien have created; to help ensure the grounds, buildings and stories of these children, this national treasure, may be enjoyed for generations to come. In the summer of 2012, past, local State Schoolers were invited to the grounds to capture full-length interviews thanks to a Minnesota Legacy Amendment Commission grant through the Minnesota Historical Society.
2013: On September 21, the First Annual Lighting the Path event fundraiser for The Children Remembered - Orphanage Legacy Trust was held. The community had an opportunity to purchase luminaries and candles; hear State Schooler songs; enjoy treats; tour Main Building Museum, take a historic luminary walk through six History Stops, partake in an honorary candle walk to remember the children, and take an evening tour of Cottage 11.
2014: Presented an original play based on oral histories entitled "We Were Called State Schoolers" in a Readers' Theater format on May 17. The Root Cellar being upgraded for showing during group tours.
2015: The CD Release Event of "When There's Good To Be Done" by award-winning duo Curtis & Loretta was held in November at the Owatonna Arts Center. The CD features two original songs about former State Schoolers, Harvey Ronglien and Peter Razor, who overcame great odds.