Minnesota’s Lost Mining Towns

Sparta, Taconite Harbor, Genoa, Penobscot and Cooley live on in Northern Minnesota’s memory, although there are few physical remnants of the towns that claimed these names. These “locations”, as they were originally called, played a vital role in the development of the emerging mining industry on the Minnesota Iron Range. But, today, many of these locations are now only marked by grown over streets, an abandoned building, or have completely disappeared altogether, uprooted by the ever-changing needs of the mining industry.

WDSE•WRPT created the documentary “Minnesota’s Lost Mining Towns” to capture what’s left of these foundational communities – sometimes only photographs and memories – that helped build northern Minnesota, and whose iron ore helped to build the United States. The documentary features oral histories of towns that are no more, and centers around memories that are unique to this time and this region.


Watch the Full Documentary


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Mining Towns Map

Download a PDF of lost (and current) mining towns of Northern Minnesota


Lesson Plans for Teachers


Photo Gallery:



Photo Information:

“Adriatic Location Houses” – Mining “company towns” had simple frame houses with very similar construction to house families close to the mine itself.

“Dilapidated Buildings” – Location towns could be chaotic, with many having few rules and regulations and little thought put into plotting streets or property lines.

“Mine Pit – Houses” – These location houses appear uncomfortably close to the ever-expanding mine pit! Location houses were often moved to make way for a growing mine.

“Section 30 1911 Mine” – Often, location towns would pop up in the midst of a forest, when iron ore was found in the ground nearby.

Funding for this program is provided by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Click here for more information or visit the Minnesota Legacy website.

Clean Water, Land & Legacy Amendment