Legacy grant provides for restoration of George Stopple Farm smokehouse

The $237,265 legacy grant will be used by the History Center of Olmsted County to rehabilitate the smokehouse which architectural historians have said is unique to the region.

Stoppel Farmstead smokehouse.jpg
The smokehouse and back barn of the Stoppel Farmstead, which is the oldest standing farmstead in southeast Minnesota, according to the History Center of Olmsted County. (Noah Fish / Agweek)

ROCHESTER, Minn. ― The History Center of Olmsted County was awarded a Minnesota Historical & Cultural Heritage Grant that will help rehabilitate the smokehouse on the Stoppel Farmstead.

The center will match the $237,265 legacy grant with $100,000 to complete the project estimated to cost $337,265. Work is expected to begin in spring 2022 and be completed before the end of the year.

The farmstead was purchased by the History Center of Olmsted County in 1972 and in 1975 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its historical significance in the areas of architecture, agriculture and immigration. It's located on the history center's grounds.

Wayne Gannaway, executive director of the History Center of Olmsted County, said the George Stopple Farm not only commemorates agricultural history of southeast Minnesota, but reminds Rochester of its roots. He called the city a "hodunk country town" when the Stoppel brothers arrived in the 19th century.

"Now it's this bustling urban center and just continuing to grow," Gannaway said. "The truth is that so many residents today have no idea about the agricultural roots of Olmsted County."


George and his brother, Franz Joseph Stoppel, immigrated to the United States from Germany in the mid-19th century. In 1856, they arrived in Rochester and set up right next to each other.

The caves were created sometime between 1856 and 1890, according to the History Center, with the George Stoppel barn and stone house built between 1869 and 1874. While each of the historic buildings needs repairs, Gannaway said the smokehouse foundation is beginning to fail, making it "especially urgent."

The center has plans for a multi-phase, multi-year restoration project of the farmstead, which is expected to cost $2.3 million.

A class of its own

The Smokehouse, also referred to as the “Back House,” is a big part of what makes the farmstead so unique, said the history center in a press release.

"At around 150 years old, the George Stoppel Farmstead buildings are survivors amidst a rapidly changing world. The design and use of the Smokehouse makes it especially rare," said the release.

Smokehouses built at the time were modest, one-story structures designed only to preserve meats through the smoking process.

The Stoppel smokehouse straddles a 65-foot long storage cave and has a two-story smoking chamber, a bell tower, a built-in privy and a boarding room for hired hands. Architectural historians have said the Stoppel smokehouse “has few, if any, precedents or peers within its type or region.”

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