Brainerd Amateur Historians

Welcome to Brainerd Amateur Historians!

This website is for anyone interested in the history (or future history) of the city of Brainerd, MN. Here we will focus on the "building of buildings", right from the first tent pitched by the present-day Dairy Queen, to the last major building of the downtown area. It will also include such structures as rail lines, bridges, and water towers, yet some non-man-made things like rivers and creeks.

8/9/2008: Since starting this website, my focus has changed a bit, but briefly this is my mission:

-Relate my own personal experiences in Brainerd.

-Provide an online, searchable quick-reference location on Brainerd, MN history, by topic.

-Provide a place for people to place their personal memories and thoughts on our town.

Please feel free to use this site for your own research...there's a LOT here!

Major landmarks will be identified, whether still standing, or vacant, or currently occupied by another building. This will be a hands-on site, meaning we could be out searching for remnants of old buildings, finding clues in the city streets, and talking to senior residents who still remember the early days of Brainerd.

Every attempt will be made to provide accurate information, and I have made every attempt to be just that. I have been finding though that history is not always accurate just because it was printed in a book, and we have discovered some inaccuracies in printings thought reliable for over 60 years. If you find a boo-boo, please let me know! I'd like to bring the exciting history of our city's heritage to life by revealing little-known facts, some of which can be discovered as we go! Hopefully this site can help reinforce in some of us one of my favorite sayings*: "You can't know where you're going until you know where you've been". For references you might say "the book has already been written", and can be found in several publications made over the years. I cannot nor will attempt to out-do these wonderful efforts, but try to make them just plain more fun. You might say I'd like to get history out of the book and in to the street. I would like to dedicate this site to my major source of information, Dr. Carl Zapffe, Sr., who truly has already "written the book", back in 1946, and with no computer or internet, and did it in 3 months! He wrote the "Brainerd Bible" as I call it, entitled "Brainerd 75". It is a true work of art.

Further, this site will be ever-changing, and likely at no time be finished nor totally accurate I suspect. I will start out with an "off the top of my head" version from just what I have picked up over the years since I've been here for 50 something, and lay out a basic format. Then as more facts come in from anyone who would like to contribute, we'll update and add...likely making retractions and corrections as we go.

Photos will come later, after I document all of the buildings in chronological order of their construction date. Besides, I think I will hit the storage capacity of this site's server with just text! In the mean time, check the PICTURES section at the left where I'll list some places where you can find pictures displayed around the area.

Please join in on the fun! Nothing to "join" other than this site itself if you'd like, and you can do that right from the link on the left, and keep tabs on where we're at. If you'd like to help, just e-mail me (if linky no worky, try this:

Webmaster/Brainerd Amateur Historians

Some of us may never meet except through this "virtual" medium, as no formal meetings are planned, and others may be wading through swamps together looking for a property marker.

Why on-line? Well, there's two main reasons. Firstly, I've been combing the woods, Historical Society, library, and streets since 1995 collecting information for this project, and until this dandy website format came up, it's all been just laying in file folders and boxes. Now, little by little, I'm getting it organized! I finally have a "landing strip", and can add information as I find it. Secondly, I can think of no better way to get help on the thing, finding more people with the same interest, and at relative lightning speed. The wonder of the Net! My original goal was to have this project done for Brainerd's 125th. anniversary in 1996, giving me a whole year to complete. When I realized it was not going to happen, plus the Dispatch did such a wonderful job digging in to the archives throughout the year, and then came the Millennium piece they did...WOW. So, now I figure I have until our 150th. in 2021...20 whole years to get it done, but I'm not sure I'll last that long. Enter the Internet!

Admittedly, this site is a reflection of my own perspective of Brainerd, since I've been here so long. I welcome letters for inclusion here of your own! Since I started this, I am expanding my research beyond buildings, to the PEOPLE that built the buildings. The Pioneers, or "Movers and Shakers" of the early years built the foundation of the community as they lay the foundations of the buildings. For that reason I am adding a section called Pioneers, which will later be moved to a separate genealogical site. If you have a family member that was here in the early years and need some history on them, send me the information you have. I will research them in my many city directories and history books, compile what I can and put it on the site, and email you back with the same info. The best place to find what you want on this site is on the links to the left, Blocks, Buildings and Parks, and also Timeline. If you can't find what you want here, check the links section. If that won't lead you to what you need, email me and I will check my records here. I have an extensive library at an arm's reach. Just give me a person's name, or a building, block, date or address. For a list of the materials I use see ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS.

If your group would like to link from this site, or have a page added here, just give me a holler. Perhaps the CWCHS would like to have a page to list upcoming events and activities planned, or the new downtown restoration/preservation group can post their minutes of meetings, and the latest ideas they have come up with. Parks & Rec.? City of Brainerd? This is a COMMUNITY site!

The weather in our fine town:


-CWCHS=Crow Wing County Historical Society
-RIVER= Mississippi
-TBA= To Be Announced (finished).
-[.....]=Source material used, or editors notation. See the ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS page to the left.
-[+X]= There are more sub-pages under this parent page.

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Or get here quicker this way:

If it's Brainerd history on the Web you're looking for, here's some good places to start:

Brainerd Amateur Historians:
[A perspective on Brainerd from a lifelong resident, with snippets from other residents, and somewhat of a searchable database by category.]

-Brainerd Parks & Recreation:
[See all that they do here, from the wonderful Memorial Bench and Tree programs, to maps of all parks.]

-Brainerd History dot Com:
[Photo-rich content directly from the pages of past Brainerd Daily Dispatch issues.]

-Brainerd History Group:
[The activities of the local research and project group.]

-Brainerd History Walk:
[A place to find the making of several "walks" set up in a directional form to see the main historical sites around town.]

-Brainerd Northside Neighborhood Association:
[Check out the activities of this very active and productive neighborhood group.]

-Crow Wing County Historical Society:
[County-wide history on their brand new site!]

-Minnesota Historical Society:
[Search state information from genealogy to photos here!]

In March 2009 I found a Forum started for general Brainerd history on the Brainerd Dispatch's Forums site. You will need to first register (separately from the Dispatch login). Find it under Forums>Extras>DownTime>Brainerd Lakes Area History. Be sure to to use the "Show all threads" selection on that page to see all the threads. Check it out!;f=37

Site born-on date: Sometime in late 2000, I think