Americana Shines in Minnesota Museum

From farm collectibles to gas station signs to a re-created dentist's office, "Grandpa's Place" has it all.

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Marine engines, fishing creels and nets, lobster traps, and life rings fill one display area.

Visit Grandpa’s Place Museum in Wadena, Minnesota. Richard and Carol Taggart curate a diverse Americana collection from stagecoaches, to bikes, to jail cells.

For Richard and Carol Taggart, owners of Grandpa’s Place Museum, every day brings a trip down memory lane. “I have a lot of grandkids and I get called ‘grandpa’ a lot, so I decided to go with ‘Grandpa’s Place,'” Rich says. “I’m an active collector. I’m always snooping and looking. Pretty much every night I’m looking on the computer and trying to see what I can find.”

The couple lives in Wadena, Minnesota, a small town about an hour west of Brainerd. Situated on their property, Grandpa’s Place is a 6,000-square-foot complex dedicated to all things vintage, ranging from trinket-sized objects to full-scale displays.

Wooden old west jail replica with a buffalo head and keys hanging above the door…

Displays feature farm equipment and machinery, appliances and housewares, guns, saws, radios, gas station signs, a covered wagon and stagecoach, bicycles, coffee grinders, a shoeshine stand and themed exhibits (a jail, dentist office, barber shop, telephone operator station, saloon and more).

The museum is open by appointment only, and nothing inside is for sale. Admission is free. “It’s a hobby,” Rich says. “When we started buying antiques, we didn’t have a theme in mind, which is why our building has such a wide selection of antiques.”

Owners Carol and Rich Taggart sit at a table in an old fashioned soda fountain/diner…

Collection influenced by early years on the farm

It all began in 1999, when the couple purchased a 1950s jukebox after seeing one in a magazine. “On the cover there was a picture of a man who had bought a big truckload of jukeboxes from Canada,” Rich says.

Since then, the couple has become active collectors, browsing auctions (online and in person), Craigslist and private sales, and gaining leads by word of mouth. They’ve attended the Chicagoland Antique Advertising, Slot Machine & Jukebox Show for more than 20 years.

A lift being used to install a silver cupola with a retro red white and…

Rich is a familiar face around Wadena. For the past 63 years, he’s worked at the local Fleet Wholesale Supply Co. He rose from stock boy to owner. “Ninety percent of my customers are farmers,” he says. He grew up on a farm about 5 miles from where he lives. “I’m sure it [farm life] influenced my interests,” he says of the types of things he collects. “I never was a farmer. I helped my dad as a young man, then got married at 21, moved off, then raised horses and beef cows on a small farm – no field work once I left home.”

Dark wood bar set with mirror set behind in matching wood. Various items are displayed…

Collection quickly doubled

Grandpa’s Place began as a 3,000-square-foot building, but as the collection grew, additional room was needed. An adjoining space of equal size was added. “If something looks interesting, I end up with it,” Rich says with a laugh. “I enjoy buying this stuff. I had to double the size of our building a couple of years ago and it’s getting full. I almost have to eliminate something on display when I buy something new.”

vintage stagecoach painted red with yellow wheels and trim. There are old trunks stowed on…

Much of the collection could be classified as Americana. Visitors will spot a plethora of Coca-Cola memorabilia and movie posters. They’ll view scenes out of the old west; there might even be an Elvis sighting. But, Rich says, he prefers to focus on the years between 1800 through the 1940s. Rich builds his displays by hand. His saloon comes complete with a craps table; old sheriffs’ badges pepper the walls of the jail. “I found the jail in Ohio,” he says. “It’s probably from the late 1800s. It’s got the fold-down bunks. The bars on the windows and door actually came out of a jail.”

A cream separator dating to the 1800s was powered by a treadmill. “You could put a dog or goat on it to run it,” he adds. “My washing machine from 1888 uses a treadmill, too.”

differently shaped vintage coca-cola machines with various change and can slots lined up against a…

Building displays by hand

The collection includes a printing press from the 1880s, a 15-gallon butter churn, outboard motors from the 1930s, a U.S. Post Office display from the 1930s or ’40s, two line shafts with wood and metal pulleys, a 6hp stationary gas engine, anvils and a railroad telegraph three-wheel inspection car. The barbershop comes complete with a hot water source for heating towels that would have been used during shaving.

green engine on a wheeled cart with red Duplex pump.

A 6hp Economy gas engine runs the line shaft. “I put an ad in a magazine for a line shaft and then ended up finding one in my hometown,” Rich says. “It was used to run equipment in a blacksmith shop.”

A “reflection-proof” Blaxide Tube television set is a rare item. A 1951 ad boasted that the television, made by Zenith, allowed the viewer to “sit in any normal viewing position and see pictures utterly free of reflections from lamps, windows, overhead lighting, or bright objects in the room.” The ad listed the price of the television set at $449.95 (about $5,000 today).

Square wooden television set with speakers below and dials to control. The screen is round…

Rich recently obtained an old telephone operator station and is working to put that display together, complementing aluminum and wooden phone booths in his collection.

The area outside the museum is a display unto itself. A wooden tank on a stand was once used as a water supply for steam engines. In 2014, Rich saw a cupola for sale in southern Minnesota and had to have it. “I really like how it looked: big, old and an awesome style,” he says.

Vintage bikes lined up on stands in a row.

Rich loves encountering fellow hobbyists and scoring those rare finds. “I was sitting at McDonald’s and this lady approached me,” he recalled. “Her husband had just died and he had something she thought I would be interested in: a 35-foot tall, 8-foot diameter, wood-vane Monitor windmill for $1,500 and ready to be put up. You guessed it, I bought it.” FC


For more information, email Rich Taggart at grandpatags@live.com; write to him at 34066 620th Ave., Wadena, MN 56482.

Sara Jordan-Heintz is an award-winning writer, editor and historian. Follow her on Twitter or contact her at rose111@netins.net.

  • Updated on Sep 15, 2022
  • Originally Published on Aug 30, 2022
Tagged with: americana, antiques, collection, memorabilia, museum
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