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Odin Craft Mill filled with town's rich history

By Janet Kubat Willette
jkubat@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 10/07/2010 10:15 AM

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ODIN, Minn. — The Odin Craft Mill is a blend of history and charm in the middle of southern Minnesota's corn and soybean country.

Comprised of a 1917 Montgomery Ward house, a 1923 feed mill, and a 1927 Gordon Van Tine barn, the Odin Craft Mill is chuck full of history.

For five weekends a year, it's also packed with handcrafted gifts and one-of-a-kind items. This year's fall show begins Oct. 7.

The Odin Craft Mill is the brainchild of Odin supporter Nancy Olson.

"The joke in the family is this was my dream and their nightmare," Olson said.

Creating the Odin Craft Mill was no small undertaking. Olson bought the town's feed mill in July 1999 from Arvid and Lorraine Laingen. Agriculture had changed, outgrowing the feed mill. It had become the town's litter box and a rat magnet.

Olson brought the mill sight unseen. She brought her father with the first time she walked through. His response after walking through the building with her was "may the good Lord take a liking to you."

Olson and her family got right to work on the feed mill. They pressure sprayed the old asphalt siding and washed it with vinegar mixed in a spray bottle. That cured the mold problem. They tore off six layers of shingles and tin and put on a red steel roof. They hauled 27 flatbed loads of junk from the place. They cleaned out the grain pit. They covered some walls with old barn wood. They scrubbed and cleaned and remodeled and in April 2000 put on the first craft show with 35 consigners, including Olson.

"I was well pleased and the dream had started," Olson writes in the Odin Craft Mill cookbook, "Heaven on Earth."

Next to come was a 1917 Montgomery Ward house. Olson moved the house from five miles north of Odin to sit right next to the feed mill.

Emil Wettaburg ordered the house from the catalog in 1917, Olson said. It was known as a square house and was ordered by square feet. The Wettaburg home is 34 by 34, she said. It sold for about $639. The house-building kit would be transported by rail to the nearest depot where the family would be responsible for picking it up.

Wettaburg had two sons. One died at 18 and the other was a bachelor who lived in the house until he was 81. The house still has the original wallpaper and flooring upstairs. All the windows are original. Visitors

can see where the gas lights were.

Once the house was moved to town, Olson's family again stepped into action. They poured a foundation, built a walkway from the feed mill, shingled the roof and fixed the electricity. She and her son, Nathan,

built a white picket fence around the house.

Everything was ready in time for the fall show of 2000.

Four years later, Olson moved a barn 14 miles from north of Butterfield to Odin. The barn completed the craft mill.

The 1927 Gordon Van Tine Co. barn came with papers that show every piece needed to build the barn. John Fast Jr. ordered the barn on Dec. 29, 1926, for a total cost of $1,237.94. The Gordon Van Tine Co. was located in Davenport, Iowa, Olson said.

The materials for the barn were delivered to the Butterfield railroad station, she said, and taken to the family's homestead four miles north of Butterfield by buckboard and horses.

Once moved to Odin, the Olson family poured another foundation, built a two-story walk-through to connect the house to the barn, added electricity and built stair steps to the loft.

"Since my kids were little I did crafts," Olson said. "I always wanted to do (this) … I never thought I'd get the opportunity."

Odin Craft Mill now attracts thousands of people for its shows in April and October. Olson has a mailing list of 4,500, but a lot more come through. Some come through just to see the buildings. Some come everyday to dine in the feed mill warehouse turned cafe.

She hears stories about the Odin of years gone by.

"No crabby people walk through here," she said.

Olson has 150 consigners from throughout the five-state area and beyond, including Ohio, Nebraska, California and Texas.

She's busy preparing for her fall show now, dressing up 22 rooms with crafts and other handcrafted items.

"This is unique because it's all homemade and it's all one-of-a-kind," she said.

There's also a place for the past.

Just above the stairway in the loft, a corner is filled with items from Odin's past. There's a coffee grinder from the Brudelie Store, an Odin School desk, Christmas gifts from Odin businesses long since closed, an Odin City Band uniform from 1907-08, a ball team uniform and a chair from the Odin Opera House.