Hinckley Fire Museum
The Ojibwe had lived near the St. Croix River since the mid-1800s, amidst the natural wealth the land had to offer. Because of the abundance of white pine trees in the Hinckley area, loggers migrated here and built the first sawmill in 1869. That same year, the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad pushed into Hinckley with the coming of the railroad, the lumber industry boomed and for twenty years, Hinckley was a growing, prosperous town.
On September 1, 1894, all of that changed. With blowing winds, low humidity, and less than two inches of summer rain, the area was a prime target for fire. Drought fires were common along the railroad tracks and logging camps since loggers would set fire to slash before moving on. Saturday, September 1, 1894, began as another oppressively hot day with smaller fires threatening area towns. To add to the problem, a huge layer of cool air from a temperature inversion held down the heat, smoke, and gasses of these fires. Two fires eventually joined together, creating one large fire that penetrated the inversion, reaching the cool air above. That air came rushing down into the fires to create a vortex (a tornado of flames), which quickly grew larger, becoming a fierce firestorm. The fire first destroyed the towns of Mission Creek and Pokegama (now Brook Park) before reaching Hinckley.
When it was over, the firestorm had completely destroyed 6 towns. More than 480 square miles lay black and smoldering. The firestorm was devastating; it lasted four hours and destroyed everything in its path. The death toll exceeded 400. Today, the Hinckley Fire Museum commemorates the story of the Great Fire of 1894. Housed in the restored depot, rebuilt just after the fire, the museum is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Exhibits include the original waiting rooms for men and women, the eating area, known as the Beanery, and the Freight Room, where once an hour a 20-minute documentary about the fire is shown. Upstairs in the Depot Agent’s Apartment, life in the 1890s is recreated in the five-room living space. A replica “relief house” is also onsite for those interested in the post-fire reconstruction era.
106 Old HWY 61 S, Hinckley, MN 55037
Hours are 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. – No admission after 4:15 p.m., please.
Please plan to spend enough time inside to enjoy our short film explaining the conditions that led to the fire and to walk through our many exhibits. Because the museum closes each day at 5:00 p.m., we ask that you arrive no later than 4:15 p.m. We have a great story to tell, and it takes a little time!
The museum is open from May through Mid-October each year.
Open Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays
Children: 0-6 FREE