Many people make a special stop in Mantorville in southeastern Minnesota to dine at a hometown restaurant with a statewide reputation. But a day trip to the town of 1,100 will open visitors' eyes to a quaint, nationally recognized historic downtown with antiques and art shopping, and a local brewing tradition -- all within a short drive from the Twin Cities.
Dine back in time
Mantorville is perhaps best known for the Hubbell House (502 N. Main St.; 1-507-635-2331; www.hubbellhouseres taurant.com), a restaurant that dates to 1854. John Hubbell opened the first structure as an inn and saloon, replacing it in 1856 with the current three-story building. Early guests included Ulysses S. Grant and newspaper editor and politician Horace Greeley. Over the years, the restaurant has attracted celebrities including Mickey Mantle, Roy Rogers and various Minnesota Vikings. The restaurant's walls are decorated with newspaper stories, antique china, Civil War era artifacts and its original guest register, signed by Grant in 1876.
These walls can talk
The entire 12-block downtown has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975. A self-guided walking tour guide, available at local businesses, explains the history of 35 structures. Many buildings, including the Hubbell House, were built out of local limestone that was soft when quarried but became stronger as it was exposed to the elements. One limestone building, the Dodge County Courthouse (22 E. 6th St.; 1-507-635-6239), was completed in 1871 and is the state's oldest working courthouse. The last local building constructed of Mantorville limestone was the Mantorville Opera House, built in 1918. Those two buildings, as well as the Hubbell House, are said to be haunted; members of the Twin Cities Paranormal Society have visited the town to investigate.
The Opera House (55 5th St.) is owned by the Mantorville Restoration Association, which received the 2010 community effort award from the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota for its renovation of the 150-seat opera house. The Mantorville Theatre Company (1-507-635-5420; www.mantorvillain.com) stages productions at the Opera House throughout the year.
Local brewing tradition
Near the ruins of the town's original brewery, built in 1874 of limestone, Mantorville Brewing Co. (101 E. 5th St.; 651-387-0708; www.mantorville beer.com) has revived the local brewing tradition. The company's Stagecoach ales and porters are available on tap at the Hubbell House and the Mantorville Saloon and are sold in stores in southeastern Minnesota and the Twin Cities. The brewery is open for tours by appointment.
Antiques and art
Not surprisingly, given its historic ambience, Mantorville offers antiques shopping. Next door to the Opera House, Memorabilia Antiques and Collectibles (9 W. 5th St.; 1-507-635-5419) has two rooms bursting with china, furniture and other items from bygone days. A block away on Main Street, the antiques mall Mantorville Square (416 N. Main St.; 1-507-635-5554, www.mantor villesquare.com) contains 25 stalls with items from vintage costumes and hats to Red Wing stoneware crocks and soy candles.
Theresa Hoaglund sells antiques, cards, gifts and hand-painted items in her shop, Riverside Gifts (521 N. Main St.; 1-507-635-5464), housed in an 1856 building. Hoaglund is one of the founders of the nonprofit Mantorville Art Guild (508 Clay St.; 1-507-635-5665, www. mantorvilleartguild.org), which formed in 2007. About 20 area artists sell handcrafted items including jewelry, felted wool hats and delicately carved eggshell sculptures in the renovated 1870 building. Upstairs, shoppers can buy high-quality yarn and used books at bargain prices. The gallery is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays.
Across from the Hubbell House on 5th Street, Jim's Little Shoppe of Art offers classes for children and sells art and art supplies. The shop is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.
A different kind of art -- the hand-dipped chocolate variety -- is for sale at the Chocolate Shoppe (420 N. Main St.; 1-507-635-5814). Owner Lynnette Nash bought the longtime family business from her mother in 2010. The homemade caramel and toffee are popular, and the pecan turtles are top sellers.
Four miles west of town, visitors can soak up more history at the Wasioja Historic District, made up of a former Civil War recruitment station, a house, a school, a church and the ruins of a seminary, all built before 1861. The Friends of Wasioja (www.civilwarmn.com) is hosting a Civil War Days event June 24-26, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
Joy Riggs is a freelance writer based in Northfield, Minn.