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The Harkin Store, a Minnesota historical site on the outskirts of New Ulm, is a nice diversion if you happen to be driving along the scenic Minnesota River Valley. It’s a picturesque remnant of a town that vanished around the turn of the twentieth century. When the railroad bypassed the community of West Newton, the Harkin family’s fortunes changed and eventually led to the closing of the general store in 1901.
It’s as though time stopped the day the Harkins’ daughter decided to close up shop. She left the merchandise on the shelves where it would sit until her own daughter re-opened the store as a museum in 1938. The Minnesota Historical Society was able to purchase the site in the 1970’s and restore the treasure with about 40% of its original stock intact.
Admission to view the Harkin Store and chat with its costumed guides is not steep. However, our kids were more interested in playing outside the shop (our son purchased a harmonica and spent the time trying to master it on the stoop while his sisters chased each other nearby) than immersing themselves in history. And for this reason, I find purchasing a historical society membership to be a sweet deal. We bought one last year and it paid for itself after 3 visits to area historic sites. (Find More Historic Sites here)
While the older kids amused themselves outside, us parents browsed the wares. We also warmed up at the wood stove and enjoyed the American Traditional music played live on fiddle, banjo, guitar and harmonica (and our son, backup harmonica on the front porch).
The Harkin Store offers programs throughout the summer and well into the fall to enhance your understanding of what life was like when the store was open for business.