If Walt Disney had been an iron miner instead of a cartoonist, Disneyland might have looked a little like Minnesota Discovery Center (801 SW Hwy. 169, 218/254-7959 or 800/372-6437, www.mndiscoverycenter.com, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Wed. and Fri.–Sun., 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Thurs., $8 adults). (Known as Ironworld to generations of Minnesota school children who have come here on field trips, the museum recently changed its name.)
Overlooking the massive Glen Mine, this is the best place to get the full story on the history and methods of mining in Minnesota—museum displays start at the geological formation of the state and proceed to the present—but the exhibits also look at the Iron Range’s rich ethnic heritage.
Costumed interpreters demonstrate bygone customs and traditions at a fur trapper’s cabin and traditional sod-roofed Sami home, and there are festivals throughout the year and daily music performances and craft demonstrations.
Also at the park you can research your roots in the Iron Range Research Center (open year-round), one of the Upper Midwest’s largest genealogical and local history collections; visit a well-done Civilian Conservation Corps museum; ride a genuine electric trolley; and finish the day off with a round at Pellet Pete’s 19-hole miniature golf course.
In late 2009 the Discovery Center closed due to budget difficulties and staff were working out the details of whether, when, and in what form to reopen.
The Mesabi Trail (www.mesabitrail.com) runs right by the Discovery Center, with a trailhead is accessible from the parking lot.
Across Highway 169 is the 81-foot Iron Man Statue, which is the third-largest freestanding statue in the nation, behind the St. Louis Arch and the Statue of Liberty. The miner, holding a pick and shovel, honors those who worked the Mesabi, Vermilion, and Cuyuna Ranges.
Often overlooked by visitors to Chisholm, and understandably so, is the Minnesota Museum of Mining (701 Lake St. W., 218/254-5543, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 1–5 p.m. Sun. summer, $4 adults), which doesn’t appear to have changed much since it opened in 1954. The small castle-like building houses most of the mining displays, while outside is a simulated underground mineshaft. The surrounding park is a mining graveyard of sorts, with all kinds of vehicles and implements lying about. There is also a collection of various historical items, from old farm tools to old fire engines. Fans of the artist Francis Lee Jacques will want to take a look at the model railroad diorama he designed.
As you approach or depart town from the east along Highway 169 look for the Bruce Mine Headframe, the last of its kind on the Mesabi Range. The rusting tower lowered and raised the cages that carried miners and ore from the 300-foot-deep mine.
The only hotel in town is the pleasant Chisholm Inn (501 Iron Dr., 218/254-2000 or 877/255-3156, www.chisholminn.com, $85) across from Minnesota Discovery Center. Extras include a pool, hot tub, sauna, bike rentals, and large breakfast buffet.
© Tim Bewer from Moon Minnesota, 3rd Edition