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Curb appeal

Memorial Park on Sorin's Bluff offers breathtaking views of the city, Mississippi River and Lake Pepin. (Republican Eagle photos by Amanda Greenwood)1 / 3
The Memorial lookout offers a view of downtown Red Wing. Although not known as a mining town, per se, Red Wing hosted large limestone industry sites on Sorin's Bluff and Barn Bluff.2 / 3
Limestone features at the park include picnic tables and benches. The new trail at the lower quarry will feature engraved limestone curbing. 3 / 3

Since 2011, The Red Wing Area Fund and the city of Red Wing have worked together to restore the Memorial Park quarries and are now looking to create two new trails with limestone edging as a nod to the history of the bluff’s mining industry.

The trails will functionally and athletically enhance the park and allow citizens to be part of its rich history with customizable curbing available for purchase through the RWAF.

Red Wing Deputy Director of Public Works Lynn Nardinger said that grading has already begun and the pavers should be in place by this fall.

The two new trails will have a gravel base and are approximately 400 and 530 feet long. Both will connect to existing lower quarry trails.

Also part of the project is a 28x28 foot shelter which will be constructed at the upper quarry this fall as well.

Create your curb

The deadline to purchase curbing is Friday July 25.

“This effort is similar to the Barn Bluff stairway, which was installed in 1922,” RWAF board member Jerry Borgen said. “Names are inscribed in the steps and remain today on the east end of the bluff leading to the path on top.”

Each curb is $100 and will be 2 feet long with the engraved inscriptions standing out in one-inch capital letters.

The inscription can be up to 20 letters or characters and can include, but is not limited to, names of families, businesses, organizations and remembered loved ones.

Checks can be made out to the Red Wing Area Fund of the Saint Paul Foundation.

The address to mail or drop off payment is 418 Levee St. Suite B.

Limestone is a characteristic material of Memorial Park and can be found in both quarries.

It is incorporated into many steps, picnic tables and trails throughout the park.

Memorial Park can be accessed by East Seventh Street and is located on top of Sorin’s Bluff.

Legendary limestone

Mined from both the Barn Bluff and Sorin’s Bluff, limestone is a unique part of Red Wing’s early history.

In 1853, Phineas Fish gathered limestone from the base of Barn Bluff and then reduced it to lime for mortar in a makeshift kiln.

Red Wing’s lime industry was solely operated at Barn Bluff until around 1878, when mining began at Sorin’s Bluff.

According to the city of Red Wing’s website, Sorin’s Bluff then “challenged Barn Bluff for supremacy in Minnesota’s lime center.”

Swedish immigrants G.A. Carlson and R. Berglund spearheaded the limestone mining, which thrived until resources decreased for the mining and public concern increased about the danger of the industry to the bluffs.

An informational kiosk on the lower quarry of Memorial Park highlights how the limestone was removed by both dynamite and hand after all vegetation and soil was removed from the mining site.

In a kiosk picture provided by the Goodhue County Historical Society, workers are shown with mallets and bars used to “split the rocks from the rock lace.”

Simple cranes were also used during the late 19th century mining to hoist large blocks of the stone.

The limestone and lime mortar was used throughout Red Wing and surrounding communities as main building materials; the remnants of the quarries and their kilns can still be seen at Memorial Park.

Historic limestone buildings include the St. James Hotel, Red Wing Shoe Co.’s Main Street plant, National Guard Armory and Masonic Hall, Webster Livery Stable as well as many churches and civic structures.


Pictures of these and more are a part of panels 10 and 11 of Memorial Park’s informational kiosks. 

The limestone quarries became inactive in by 1908, and it was not until 1929 that Memorial Park — a tribute to soldiers of all wars — was dedicated.

Both leaders of the Women’s Community Association and Soldiers Memorial Association initiated work on the park, purchasing 93 acres and improving the quarry road.

The parkway located at the top of Sorin’s Bluff was then created followed by landscaping maintenance by WWI veterans.

After years of deterioration, the park recently found new life as the RWAF and the City of Red Wing started making improvements to the park including installing new fire rings, picnic tables, charcoal grills and informational kiosk panels. 

The details

What: Two new limestone edged trails on Memorial Park’s lower quarry

When: Deadline to purchase engraved limestone curbing is Friday July 25

Why: To enhance the hiking, biking and historical draw of the park

How: Checks can be made out to the Red Wing Area Fund.

More information: Call the RWAF at 651-385-6730