Whether you’ve got a slight interest or you’re a hardcore history buff, dive deep into Douglas County’s history. Our museums and other historical attractions give visitors the perfect mix of fun and learning.
Built in 1890 as the family residence of Martin and Grace Pattison and their six children, this Victorian House Museum recalls the gilded age of wealthy industrialists in American history. Martin Pattison made his fortune in the mining and lumber industry. He served three terms as Mayor of Superior and was considered a generous philanthropist in the community.
In 1920, after Martin’s death, Grace donated Fairlawn to the Superior Children’s Home and Refuge Society. The mansion served the next 42 years as a place of shelter and care for disadvantaged children and young women, making Fairlawn’s history unique among house museums.
Open to the public since 1964, Fairlawn’s main floor and exterior were restored in 1999. Guided tours of the mansion include 14 of the original 42 rooms. The main floor living area and select bedrooms on the second floor are elegantly appointed in the Victorian style, with several original pieces donated from the Pattison family. The large ballroom on the third floor now features two exhibits showcasing the Children’s Home era, and presenting significant steps in the restoration of the mansion.
Today, Fairlawn also serves as host to favorite community events such as the Ice Cream Social and Holiday Sampler & Wine Tasting. The site is also available for private rental, hosting weddings, anniversary and birthday parties, dinners, luncheons, teas, murder mysteries and much more.
S.S. Meteor Maritime Museum
The S.S. Meteor, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is the last remaining of the innovative ships (called whalebacks for their rounded hulls) designed by Captain Alexander McDougall. Launched from Superior in 1896, she carried a variety of cargos on the Great Lakes, including iron ore, grain, cars, and oil. In 1972, she was brought home to Superior and is now permanently berthed on Barkers Island. Hear the ship’s whistle and see the original 1896 steam engine as you tour from pilothouse to cargo holds. The Museum also features exhibits on the Twin Ports shipbuilding history and Great Lakes shipwrecks. Open seasonally.
A World of Accordions Museum and Harrington ARTS Center
If you think “polka” when you hear the word accordion, you are in for a surprise! Housed in a stately old church of majestic brick and stained-glass windows is the internationally renowned A World of Accordions Museum. One-of-a-kind in the United States, and perhaps the world’s largest, the Museum boasts a unique collection of more than 1,200 accordions, concertinas, button boxes and other accordion family instruments—from the most rudimentary antique instruments to the most intricately designed instruments from all over the world. The museum also features technicians’ training, research libraries, world-culture displays and performances by world-class artists in its 800-person concert hall.
Douglas County Historical Society
Tracing its organization’s roots back to 1854, the Douglas County Historical Society serves as guardian to the history of immigration, industry and daily life in Superior and Douglas County. DCHS resides in the historic Swedish Vasa Hall and continues to provide education to Douglas County residents through its archival research, community programs and history-based theatre on its renovated stage.
The Old Firehouse & Police Museum
Built in 1898, the Old Firehouse originally housed five horse-drawn rigs, including the City’s first steamer. Home of Wisconsin’s Police & Fire Hall of Fame, the museum offers a unique look at historic and present day firefighting equipment, a toy fire engine collection and police memorabilia. Each year the Hall of Fame honors Wisconsin police officers and firefighters for outstanding acts of bravery and community service. Open seasonally. Free admission.
Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center
Named for America’s Ace of Aces, the Veterans Historical Center honors the men and women whose service and sacrifice have ensured our freedoms. Exhibits include a rare P-38 Lightning World War II fighter, military vehicles and other extraordinary artifacts that provide insights into the experiences of our veterans. The Center is conveniently located on US Highways 2 and 53 along the Superior Bay, a short drive to accommodations and other area attractions. Group tours welcome.
Glensheen Mansion, perched on the north shore of Lake Superior in Duluth, is the most visited historic home in Minnesota. The 7-acre estate features gardens, bridges, and the famous 39-room mansion built with remarkable 20th century craftsmanship, telling the story of the Duluth Region.
Gawboy Murals at the Superior Public Library
Thirty-five colorful murals by talented Anishinaabe artist Carl Gawboy, a member of the Bois Fort Band of the Minnesota Ojibwe, depict Douglas County’s history beginning with the Ojibwe Nation’s Story of Creation and spanning the next 150 years of development.
Gordon-Wascott Historical Museum & Depot
Explore our area and its ties with the railroad, lumber era and early settlers. Originally a storehouse for the supplies and furs of trader Antoine Gordon, founder of the Town of Gordon, the museum displays the collections of the Historical Society of photos, government records, personal narratives and items from the area’s past. The town’s Soo Line Depot built in 1912 was moved to a site across from the Museum. Open Friday - Monday, Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Solon Springs Historical Museum
Moved from the country to its current site, the John Beck Log Home has been restored with turn-of-the-century furnishings and houses old ledgers and maps, photos of Solon Springs (ca. 1900), logging photos, family photos and other artifacts. Open weekends, Memorial Day – Labor Day.
The Davidson Windmill and The Eskolin Log House
Completed in 1904, Jacob Davidson had hand-hewn all the gears, shafts, building frame and shingles for a windmill from the local woods. The rumble of the grinding stones is permanently silent, but the windmill still stands to remind us of the lives lived closer to the earth and to one another. The Eskolin Finnish Log House represents the region’s early Finnish construction with its complex, dovetailed joints. Tours available through the Old-Brule Heritage Society.