Faribault, Minnesota – Central Avenue

Main Streets 2016: Minnesota

One of Minnesota’s most historic communities, Faribault is committed to preserving its past. Through the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, this small city of 24,000 has become a “Designated Main Street Community,” with staff and community members collaborating to preserve and restore downtown while boosting the local economy.

The mission of the Main Street Program is to “unify the Central Business District, with emphasis on Central Avenue, to create an attractive destination in which businesses prosper, the community benefits and residents and visitors enjoy a quality downtown experience.” Faribault has been devoted to this work for decades. In 1982, the city created its Heritage Preservation Commission, which developed the annual Heritage Days Celebration and has been instrumental in securing grants to help building owners revitalize the downtown.

The resurgence of Central Avenue is easy to see. This main street is home to a number of historic sites and buildings, including the old-time home of Ochs Department Store, the Classical Revival style Theopold Block, the striking Wolf Building, and the Italianate-style Batchelder’s Block.

Local businesses are strong on Central Avenue, where residents can enjoy breakfast any time at Bernie’s Grill, or a home-style meal at Anna Dee’s Café. For those with a yearning for sweets, Bluebird Cakery and The Coffee Shop and Chocolate Haven will do the trick.

Paradise Center for the Arts, built in 1929 on the Central Avenue site of the former Faribault Opera House, brings live theatre and music, an art gallery and education programs to Faribault. At the southern end of Central Avenue at Division Street is historic Buckham Memorial Library. Heading north, bikers, walkers and inline skaters can access the Straight River Trail at several spots along Central Ave. Also marked on local calendars are the summertime Car Cruise Nights, the annual Taste of Faribault event put on by the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce, and June’s Faribault Heritage Celebration Parade, with its craft show, annual Soap Box Derby and Grand Parade.

Faribault is even a major contributor to America’s carnival and amusement-park culture — it’s the birthplace of the Tilt-A-Whirl. That iconic ride was invented here in 1926 by Herbert W. Sellner, a local woodworker and waterslide maker. Sellner Manufacturing built thousands of Tilt-a-Whirls in Faribault until the company was purchased in 2011. The Sellner name is still on the Tilt-a-Whirls being manufactured in Texas today.

Street photo courtesy of Audrey Kletscher Helbling – Minnesota Prairie Roots
All other photos courtesy of Faribault Daily News