After being closed for more than a year, Historic Fort Snelling this summer will reopen to the public along with 11 other Minnesota historic sites that had been closed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minnesota Historical Society, which shuttered its 26 historic sites at the start of the pandemic, has been gradually reopening sites with limited crowds and safety protocols.
"We're just happy to be able to welcome people back," said Jessica Kohen, spokeswoman for MNHS, which she said has increased online education during the pandemic but also recognized the value of putting visitors "at the setting where history happened."
The historical society relies on admission and program fees for nearly 20% of its revenue, so closing sites during the pandemic cost it about $3 million in 2020.
About 200 employees — more than a third of its staff — were laid off as a result. Now MNHS is rehiring employees as sites prepare to reopen.
Sites opening May 29 will be Comstock House, Moorhead; Sibley Historic Site, Mendota; and W.W. Mayo House, Le Sueur. On June 2, Forest History Center in Grand Rapids and the Mille Lacs Indian Museum in Onamia will reopen. By June 3, visitors will be allowed back at the James J. Hill House, St. Paul; Jeffers Petroglyphs, Comfrey; and Oliver H. Kelley Farm, Elk River.
Fort Snelling and Snake River Fur Post in Pine City will reopen June 4, followed by Historic Forestville, Preston, on July 1, and the Charles Lindbergh House and Museum, Little Falls, on July 2.
The reopening of Fort Snelling, the fifth-most popular historic site in the state, was delayed by construction of a new visitor center and COVID concerns.
All sites will limit the number of visitors each day to allow for social distancing. Starting May 27, visitors can buy tickets online at mnhs.org or by calling 651-259-3015.
The historical society has already reopened the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul, Split Rock Lighthouse in Two Harbors, the trading post at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum and several outdoor trails.
Sites that remain closed are the Alexander Ramsey House, St. Paul; Folsom House, Taylors Falls; Harkin Store, New Ulm; Lower Sioux Agency, Morton; and the Mill City Museum and Minnehaha Depot, both in Minneapolis.
Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141