Hub of local history: Prairie Village Museum important asset to the area
RUGBY — A leisurely trip back in time might be something to consider when in the Rugby area. The Prairie Village Museum was organized in 1959 and opened in 1965 to the public and is currently a summer destination for fun and history.
The museum was constantly growing throughout the 1970s and 1980s to the size it is today — seven exhibition halls and 22 historical buildings from around the region.
The museum is open from May 15 to Sept. 30, weather permitting. The goal is to have their Old Main building open year-round in the next few years. The museum is conveniently located just off of U.S. Highway 2 in Rugby.
Being rich in history would be an understatement for the city of Rugby, famous for being the geographical center of North America and currently housing a dress worn by Queen Victoria.
The dress was worn by Queen Victoria of England during the 1880s and is a new acquisition for the museum. According to their website, few if any dresses worn by Queen Victoria or other royalty are hardly ever displayed outside of England.
“Victoria’s private dressing girl (Marie Downing Williams) eventually decided to marry and move to North Dakota with her husband to homestead,” explained Stephanie Steinke, executive director of PVM. “Victoria gave numerous trunks of royal items as wedding gifts and they all made their way to the prairie of North Dakota, and some of these items are now with us at PVM.”
The dress and its story was originally held at the Rolla Public Library for 40 years. In June 2017, the library board transferred ownership of the dress and other items to the Geographical Center Historical Society, which operates the Prairie Village Museum.
Steinke says Marie Downing Williams’ story is a fascinating tale of love and leaving the royal service to seek land and fulfillment elsewhere. She says the dress is in pristine condition for being 140-years-old.
In addition to the Queen Victoria dress, the museum has a vast car collection dating from the early 1900s to 1950s. They also have a tractor collection featuring many early models and two-cylinders.
The village is an attraction itself, each building boasting rich history open for visitors to walk through and browse. Steinke says the buildings help visitors get a sense of what it was like to live on the prairie 100 years ago.
The different buildings they have to view include: a working blacksmith shop, a dress shop, two homes, an original telephone office from Bottineau, a one room schoolhouse, a general store, a train depot and train car.
“It’s a great experience for kids and adults alike,” Steinke said.
In 2018, the programming focus of the museum will be World War I. They have a new exhibit that will be opening May 20 at their annual Spring Kick-Off Event. The exhibit, From Ploughboys to Doughboys: WWI in Central North Dakota, will showcase what living in North Dakota was like during the first world war.
Annual summer classics include the Rhubarb Festival, Kids Camps, and the Village Fair. Steinke said the kids camps typically sells out within the first hour of opening registration.
The museum is offering three different kids camps this summer: Aviation Camp, Kids Art Camp, and their normal kids camp with a ‘Farming and Ranching on the Prairie’ theme. Registration for all three camps opens in May.
The Aviation Camp is new, as PVM is teaming up with the Minot Dakota Territory Air Museum to offer a fun and educational trip through time about aviation in North Dakota.
For Rhubarb enthusiasts, the Rhubarb Festival at PVM would be the perfect summer treat. The festival takes place on the last Sunday in June and features costumed historical reenactors in the Village along with games and everything rhubarb.
Along with the daily, history-soaked fun, the Prairie Village Museum is also available for private events that can be rented by phone, 776-6414, or email, firstname.lastname@example.org. They are open to reunions, photograph sessions, weddings and birthday parties.
To stay connected or for more information, visit PVM on Facebook at Prairie Village Museum or their website at prairievillagemuseum.com.
Prairie Village Museum
open May 15-Sept. 30
Monday-Saturday: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Saturdays: Noon-5 p.m.
College Students: $6
Children age 7-17: $3
Children age 6 & under: FREE
Specials for families and groups available