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Holly Johnson: Getting the word out on the history of the Hormel Historic Home

I sometimes feel like I repeat myself over and over when it comes to promoting the Hormel Historic Home.

I was recently contacted by a writer from the Mankato area who asked me to describe the organization so she could add us to a list of regional attractions worthy of a visit.  Her questions made me think, so I decided now would be as good a time as any, at the risk of annoying you all, to repeat myself again about the history and mission of what is fondly known to many as the HHH.

I was a little wordy in my responses to her, so I will give you the abbreviated version.

1. Tell me about the Hormel historic home: In a nutshell, the HHH is a nonprofit organization with the mission of ‘preserving and sharing the history and legacy of the Geo. A. and Lillian Hormel family through education, music, hospitality, and community service.’

2. What can people do there? Guests are invited to tour the historic home, stroll through the Peace Garden, enjoy music at various events throughout the year, or rent the modern event center for all types of events.

3. What makes it unique? The HHH is unique because it is a combination of historic house representing the past and modern event center that serves the community for private and public events.

4. Tell me about some of the history of the house: The HHH has stood as a symbol of hard work and dedication to the community since it was built in 1871.  The original builder, John Cook, was an active businessman and served as mayor in 1871.  When the Hormels purchased and remodeled the home, it continued to symbolize the importance and value of hard work as Mr. and Mrs. Geo. A. Hormel built a business that supported so many in the region.  When George Hormel retired in 1927, he and his wife decided to give the home to the ladies of the community through the Y.W.C.A.  because they wanted it to serve as “a place for social gatherings, a meeting place for the town.”  When the Hormels donated the home to the YWCA they offered to build an addition to accommodate recreation or larger social gatherings, but the YWCA didn’t feel they could maintain that.  In 2009 we completed their vision with a 7000 sq. foot addition.

5. When did it open to the public?  The house opened for public tours in the 1980s and was then renovated in the early 1990s to better reflect the Hormel family period in residence.

6. About how many people visit per year? Through private events, public programs and tour, we welcome nearly 10,000 people per year to the historic property.

7. Why do people visit? I like to say that people visit for three reasons. 1. Because they enjoy history; 2. Because they appreciate architecture; 3. Because they find value in both history and architecture.  Other reasons include they are invited to an event that takes place here or they are traveling through the area and are looking for interesting things to do. Another common reason is that they have some connection to Austin and want to dive deeper into its history and how it connects to them.

8. Why is this home so important to the Austin community? The HHH is a message from the past to the present and future that history can and should teach and influence.  Every community has a history and Austin has done a great job of embracing and showcasing that which has made it thrive.  There are many other historic events that don’t include the Hormel family in the community and we, in collaboration with the Mower County Historical Society, often feature other stories in our History Happy Hour and Hump Day History events because the whole story is better than just one!

9. Why should people come check this place out? Visitors will get a glimpse into the life of a 19th century born entrepreneur who learned from life and work experiences and used those experiences to invest in a business that served his family and the community in which it was built.

10. Is there anything else you’d like to tell me about Austin or the Hormel Historic Home? Since 2010, the HHH has been a driving force in the community for summer programming and outreach for those on the Autism Spectrum.  We have the space, passionate people to lead, and the financial backing to continue supporting what is now called Autism Friendly Austin.

Thanks for listening to me….again.

Upcoming Events

• The Historic House is open for walk-in tours on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.  These hours are in addition to our weekday hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Free for members and children under 18 yrs., $5 for non-members.

Music @ the Mansion Pete’s Pool Hall Band

7 p.m., Monday, July 27

Please bring your own chair and be prepared to social distance.  Face masks recommended.

Hump Day History: Austin Alumni Museum at the Austin High School

Noon, Wednesday, July 29

Presented free on Facebook Live