Then & Now: Dodge Nature Center

Thanks to Cherokee Service and Southview Animal Hospital for their support.

Here’s an aerial view of the Dodge Nature Center from around 1967 and today in 2022. You can see the encroaching development nearing the patchwork of remaining farms. These photos show the impact of legacy.

Dodge Nature Center: 1960s

1960s aerial photo of Dodge Nature Center
(Photo credit: Dodge Nature Center)

This aerial photo from the 1960s shows the main property of the Dodge Nature Center in West St. Paul looking north toward downtown St. Paul, which is visible in the distance. By 1967, Olivia Irvine Dodge had purchased several farms and founded the Dodge Nature Center, preserving this land from likely development.

The cluster of buildings in the center of the photo includes the main farm house (the building farthest north), which was expanded and renovated in 2017 to be the Olivia Irvine Dodge Library and History Center. The other buildings are the horse barn and carriage house, which were taken down in the late 1990s and replaced by the current farm education building.

The buildings on the far right of the photo were likely part of the Marthaler or Sperl farm, based on a land survey commissioned by Olivia Dodge. the farm owned by George and Rosemary Marthaler, where they raised 10 kids until they sold to Olivia Dodge, according to their daughter, Pamela Marthaler Wagner.

In the extreme bottom left corner of the photo you can see a glimpse of a chicken coop that was renovated in 1971 and turned into the schoolhouse.

In the middle distance on the right you can see St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church. This photo was taken before their hexagon-shaped sanctuary was built (which was dedicated in 1969).

Dodge Nature Center: 2022

Aerial photo of Dodge Nature Center by Andy Berndt.
(Photo credit: Andy Berndt)

Here’s the current photo of the Dodge Nature Center. The grid pattern of farms has been replaced with nature and woods. The farm pond is also larger, bisected by the boardwalk.

In the middle you can see the current cluster of buildings, including the big red barn, which is a replica of a turn-of-the-century barn and built between 1971 and 1972.

The green roof of the Dodge Nature Preschool is visible on the far right, which was built between 1999 and 2000.

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