Rochester, Minnesota: Population = 112,225 (metropolitan area= 213,873), elevation = 1030 feet, Average January low temp = 8º, Average July high temp = 84º, average rainfall = 33.08”, average snowfall = 53”
The journey from Wisconsin Dells to Rochester passes through the river bluffs near La Crosse, an area of woody, rocky beauty. We enjoy the sculpted terrain as we roll along the Mighty Mississippi. Too soon, we are back in the heartland where the farmers are preparing to plant the corn and soybeans that will blanket this largely flat landscape.
From its humble beginnings as a stagecoach stop between St. Paul and Dubuque, Rochester could have developed into just one of many similar small towns in Minnesota. But then there was this doctor, William W. Mayo, who started here as the examining surgeon for draftees into the Civil War. After the war, he built a successful private practice in Rochester. In 1883 much of the city was demolished in a tornado and there was no facility to treat the wounded. Together with his two sons, William and Charles, Mayo and the Sisters of St. Francis raised the money to build a new hospital: St. Marys.
The Mayos enlisted the best doctors they could find for the hospital and formed an integrated private group practice. In 1919 they formed the Mayo Properties Association and become a non-profit. As the practice grew, more buildings were added. Downtown Rochester is now full of hospitals, clinics, research centers, and medical education buildings. The Plummer building is one of the early buildings and it is beautifully decorated with art deco trim and carvings.
The renowned medical center draws people from all over the world. Walking the streets, we hear foreign languages, see foreign clothing. There seems to be a lot of ethnic restaurants around for such a small town. But still, this is Minnesota, so there are some great Minnesotan breweries too.
We did not have much luck with the weather while we were in Rochester. It was a grey, rainy week. One afternoon downtown, a storm front with 60 MPH winds came through with a downpour, and watching it whip through the buildings was like seeing a horizontal waterfall. On the dry days we were able to do a little sightseeing, get lost in a park, and visit lots of restaurants.
Rochester is a nice city to visit, if you are in the area. And you don’t even have to be sick.
Next up: Plymouth, Minnesota