Quarry Hill Park was originally a part of the former Rochester State Hospital farm and was purchased from the state by the City of Rochester in 1965. Quarry Hill Nature Center was built in 1972 with funds groups. In September 1999, a second major addition was completed adding another classroom, multi-purpose room, and bird observation room. Since 1999, smaller building additions and renovations, new programs and exhibits, as well as outside trail work and habitat restoration has further solidified Quarry Hill's place as a premier environmental learning destination and labor donated by area residents and businesses. The Nature Center opened in 1973 as a cooperative effort between the Rochester Park Department and the Rochester Public School District. In September 1990, work was completed on a major addition to the existing nature center, effectively tripling the main floor area and enabling Quarry Hill to meet the increasing needs of both the general public and school. 


View Historical Guide





The Rochester State Hospital bought the property.



A Reservoir near the first quarry was built.


The first quarry was used through the 1880s.



Caves excavated

The cave was carved to serve as a cellar for the storage of fruits and vegetables grown on the State Hospital farm. A crew of six  State Hospital  residents dug the series of caves out of the St. Peter sandstone layer in the hillside. One of the patients,  Thomas Coyne, led this crew.  Coyne was a poet, as evidenced by the lines of poetry he carved into the walls of the cave.  Coyne's name and a few remaining words of his poem can still be seen today on the wall of the middle cave entrance just before the first storage room.



Cemetery was used by the Rochester State Hospital. The people buried in the cemetery were patients at the State Hospital. The 2,019 gravesites are carefully platted and the location of each individual grave meticulously recorded.



The City of Rochester purchases the land  used by the Rochester State Hospital from the State of Minnesota for $21,200. The 212 acres purchased became Quarry Hill Park.



Rochester Public School teachers begin holding classes in Quarry Hill Park.



Ground is broken for the Nature Center and the building is dedicated in May of 1973. Harry Buck is the founding director and Rochester Public Schools science teacher.



Pond is excavated



The Friends of Quarry Hill Nature Center Incorporated is officially organized.



Greg Munson begins tenure as the second Quarry Hill Nature Center Director after Harry Buck retires.



The Nature Center classrooms addition is dedicated and the first Fall Harvest Festival is held



58 acres is added to the park.



The Oak Savanna Restoration Project begins. Collaborative project with the Minnesota DNR



The City of Rochester again purchases additional park acreage. 20 acres of land is purchased from Harold Payne for $214,000 along the East side of the park.



Second building addition is dedicated at the 10th Annual Fall Harvest Festival and the one-millionth visitor walks through the doors of the Nature Center.



Jody Henning is recognized as Quarry Hill Nature Center's one-millionth visitor



24 acres of park land is purchased bringing the total acreage to 312 acres.

Land is purchased from Joe Postier for $480,000



Friends of Quarry Hill build a new pond bridge with a $21,000 Block Grant.



The first annual Creatures of the Night event is held. This nature-themed Halloween event was well received by the community and launched a yearly tradition.



The Friends of Quarry Hill expand public programs to offer environmental education to the community.



'Opening eyes and minds through natural science discovery.' is the new mission statement is adopted by the Friends of Quarry Hill.



Windows to the Woods

The "Windows to the Woods" renovation in the Exploration Hall is unveiled.


Cross Country Ski Trail partnership created.

The Rochester Active Sports Club, City of Rochester and Friends of Quarry Hill partner to plan, improve and maintain more than 6 miles of cross-country ski trails open to the public.

Quarry Hill exhibits Stan, a 40 foot Tyrannosaurus Rex Skeleton. 20,000 people visit.

This exhibit launched a bi-yearly series that includes: Creatures of the Deep, 2008 Ice Age, 2010 Twilight of the Triceratops, 2012 Hatching the Past, Dinosaur Babies and Eggs, 2014



A partnership with the University of Minnesota, RPU, & the Digital Technology Center builds an addition on to building. Addition will house the Hybrid Energy System (HESS) to study alternative energy.


Rochester State Hospital Recognition Group, along with Advocating Change together, begins marking 500 headstones in cemetery.



Demonstration Butterfly Garden is completed.



Pond Renovation - In cooperation with the City of Rochester and a Storm Water project, the Quarry Hill pond is drained, dredged, expanded & re-lined with clay



Pamela Meyer is named fourth Director of Quarry Hill Nature Center.



A demonstration hummingbird garden is installed.



Rochester Active Sports Club completes an expansion of the Nordic ski trails.

A bridge over the confluence on the north end of the meadow is constructed to create access to 4 km of new trails cut into the hillside on the north end of the park.

Nature for All



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