As we were planning a shoot that would include some Minnesota and Iowa places, we decided to visit Johnson, Minnesota, in Big Stone County, not far from the South Dakota border, to investigate one structure.
The aerial view of the structure in our mapping software seemed to indicate a rectangular building with some kind of bell tower or steeple at one corner, so we marked it and made plans to visit under the assumption we would find an old fire station, or perhaps a school or church. When we arrived in April of 2016, we were very surprised to find something quite different.
This abandoned structure stands on the northwest edge of Johnson, Minnesota, and it is the first structure of its kind that we’ve ever stumbled upon. From the front, the ground floor of this building looks like many of the other places we’ve photographed, like a pioneer-era store of some kind. The corner tower, however, appears to have been constructed to provide defense against unknown assailants. Reinforced rifle slots in the north and west walls hint at ominous intent.
The name J. Luchsinger on the facade of the building, with the date 1912, might be a clue. Searches reveal two Luchsinger men, John and Jacob, fought in the Civil and Indian Wars of 1861-65 (Fort Abercrombie, North Dakota is not far away, and was besieged in 1862). Another search result revealed an ad from 1922 in the Ortonville Independent which lists Jacob Luchsinger as a merchant in nearby Correll, Minnesota.
Was Jacob Luchsinger the namesake of this building? Why was it built as a fortress? If you know the history of this place, we would love to hear it in the comments below.
Update: There is also a genealogy search result that shows a Jacob Luchsinger who was born in Minnesota in 1848, and died in 1916, location unknown.
Looking at the windows, high on the west wall, Terry had another observation… maybe it was a jail? Another possibility.
Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media