When Harry Sinclair Lewis was born here on a bitter cold February 7, 1885, Sauk Centre was a raw prairie town with an unpaved main street and five or six blocks of false fronts. A gawky, sensitive child who achieved little success in school and was the brunt of every crude piece of horseplay, "Red" Lewis spent most of his youth tagging after his adored older brother and doctor-father, and reading every book he could find. He began to write at age fifteen. Despite the years of lost jobs and false hopes that followed his graduation from Yale University in 1908, he persisted in his determination to become a writer.
With the publication of Main Street and Babbitt, Lewis became a successful novelist and critic of American culture, winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930. He returned frequently to Minnesota; never able to deny his underlying attachment to the Northern Middle West, he described it as "...the newest empire of the world...a land of dairy herds and exquisite lakes, of new automobiles and tar-paper shanties and silos like red towers, of clumsy speech and a hope that is boundless." Lewis's talent declined and he died alone in Italy in January 10, 1951. As he had requested, his ashes were brought home to Sauk Centre.