New London, Minnesota

Today’s post is 1285 words, 29 photos, a 6 minute read. Enjoy!

Hi everyone,

Welcome back to the third post in my series on our September stay in west central Minnesota. If you missed the first two post, click here and here.

This week I take you to the village of New London with a population of about 1250 people. The town of New London, Minnesota was named after New London, Wisconsin. This after an early settler noticed the similarity from his previous home in Wisconsin. In turn, New London, Wisconsin was named after New London, Connecticut which was named by the English settlers after London, England. Whew, I’m glad that explanation is over!

New London, Minnesota

New London is dubbed The City on the Pond. It’s located on the 40 mile long Middle Fork of the Crow River. While my Traveling Partner was perusing the Paisley Threads Quilt Shop, I walked around the downtown. There is a combined coffee shop/used book store (great place for a light breakfast), a couple of restaurants, a bakery, a few boutique shops, a thrift store, and some professional offices. The town has a well done weekly newspaper, an American Legion Hall with excellent food, an art gallery, and a choice of hair salons. There’s even a funeral parlor should the need arise. For those seeking spiritual help, there are a few church, Peace Lutheran being the most prominent.

The Little Theatre is an outgrowth of the Crow River Players, a local group organized to acquire and to renovate the aging theater. Located a half block off Main Street and across from the Post Office, The Little Theatre hosts musical events, local theatre productions, silent movies, and open mic nights. They also rent out the theatre for meetings and trainings. The cocktail bar is called The Auditorium, serving speciality cocktails, beer and wine. It’s considered the center for the arts, a nice compliment to community life.

Every time I went past the Post Office, there were a couple people standing around visiting. Seems like everyone knows everyone in town, so they greet and chat a few minutes. A small town phenomena. 

The Dam and Mill Pond

A few blocks south of the quilt shop I came across this little well maintained park. The plaques on either side of the insignias of the branches of the military, told the brief history of New London. The flag was at half staff in honor of Queen Elizabeth II who died on September 8.

Behind the memorial stands a mosaic mill stone reminiscent of the flour mill that once stood on this site.

A path led down to the Middle Fork of the Crow River.

As I walked down the path, I couldn’t help but notice this quote from Roald Dahl inscribed on the retaining wall. It reads: “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” Dahl, a British citizen of Norwegian descent, was a prolific writer of children’s fiction. His quote in this park is fitting reminder for all of us.

At the bottom of the path, the unique spillway for the Mill Pond Dam became apparent. The staggered rock barriers, allow the water to flow slowly down the spillway and gently reenter the Middle Fork of the Crow River. This prevents washouts below the dam during heavy rains. It was very peaceful standing on the banks of the river watching the water slowly flow by. I noted there was a place for canoeists and kayakers to portage their vessels.

Here’s how the dam looked from the top with another way to slow the flow of water.

The Mill Pond behind the dam was calm and surrounded by trees and parks.

Nearby was this sign that detailed the origin of the dam and mills.

Across Main Street from the dam is public access to the river. Again, there was a nice park.

Across the street from the Mill Pond was this unique place, the greenwater garage + gallery. The proprietor teaches painting (Monday) and drawing (Tuesday) in person and on zoom. During the height of the pandemic, there were participants online from several states and countries. The butterflies you see on the building behind the gallery are an attempt at a pollinator garden and a way to attract real butterflies. Another local business that adds to the quality of life in a small community.   

Paisley Threads

Meanwhile back at the quilt shop, my Traveling Partner was still shopping. A small pile of fat quarters and notions were in her basket. At the time, she was the only customer in the store so the clerk checked in with her from time to time. 

When I entered the store looking for my Traveling Partner, the clerk pointed out the scarecrow building contest that was beginning at the City Stage, an open air venue near the river. I promptly turned around and headed down the hill to photograph the action. There I talked with the organizers, a couple of young members of Experience New London created to promote the town and businesses. This was their first try at this contest and were thrilled when people showed up. At the end they had eleven scarecrows to spread around town to promote the town’s Fall Festival.

Here are a few photos of the families building their version of a scarecrow. They looked like they were having a blast. 

As I was walking back to the quilt shop to retrieve my Traveling Partner, I noted the Goat Ridge Brewing Company. It’s located in a repurposed auto repair shop with the Middle Fork of the Crow River in it’s back yard. I’m told they have family style karaoke on their patio every Sunday afternoon during the warm weather season. They host live music nearly every week. It’s a hopping place (pun intended)! In addition to locally brewed batches of beer, they offer non-alcohol drinks, and a nice menu of pizza and tacos. Seems like a popular place in town. We didn’t get a chance to check out Goat Ridge during our stay in the area but definitely will the next time we are in New London.

There’s a lot more to New London than I’ve shown you here. I was impressed every time we drove by the New London-Spicer High School, the home of the Wildcats. It looks like they have a lot going on with athletics and student clubs including FFA. Plus they offer community education programs for all ages. Everyone I talked with during our stay was proud of their school district. There wasn’t one complaint that it was taking up too much tax money.

Nearby New London are an abundance of lakes for fishing (all year round), boating, and other water recreational activities. New London is about fifteen miles north of Willmar and about fifty miles southeast of St. Cloud, the nearest large city. Sibley State  Park is about five miles west of New London. So there’s a lot to do and see should you find yourself in the area.

One very unique event is the annual New London to New Brighton Antique Car Run. This event features vehicles made through 1908 and any 1-or-2 cylinder vehicles made through 1915. This event event replicates the Brighton to London, England Car Run. In the US version, vehicles travel the 120 miles from New London to New Brighton over three days, the top speed is 20 miles per hour! Plus time is needed to stop for repairs and fuel, some entries run on steam! There are between 60 and 80 entries each year. Sounds like a lot of fun. To learn more about New London, click here for the city website.

Join me next week for a tour of Sibley State Park.

Until then, happy travels!