On a recent visit to the Twin Cities, we took a day trip to the historic town of Stillwater. It’s located just thirty minutes east of St. Paul, right on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border.
Stillwater claims the title of the birthplace of Minnesota because the first territorial convention to establish Minnesota as a state was held near the town center. Many of the historic buildings have been preserved, and Main Street is listed on the National Register.
Stillwater sits on the banks of the beautiful St. Croix River. You can board any number of tour boats for some sightseeing from the water, or stay on land and take a trolley ride to view the historic homes.
With son and daughter-in-law and new granddaughter along, we explored the streets and shops on foot. It was Christmas in July when we stepped into the Kathe Wohlfahrt store. I had been in these stores in Germany and learned that this was the only one in North America. It was a small shop but had all the familiar glass and wooden Christmas items. I did some early holiday shopping.
An icon in the community is an historic lift bridge that spans the river. The bridge was completed in 1931, and in a neighborly fashion, the cost was split between Wisconsin and Minnesota. Today the Stillwater Bridge is pedestrian/bicycle rider only.
The bridge is somewhat unique in that the midsection raises vertically when a tall boat needs to pass underneath. According to the information board posted nearby, the boat captain approaches and signals to the lift bridge operator, who is stationed in a little building on the bridge, to raise up the middle section. Horns honk, lights flash, and gates in front of the moving part close off the area. After the boat passes, the raised section slowly comes back down, the gates open, and everyone is free to continue. Once you get across the bridge, you’re in Wisconsin!
There’s plenty of restaurants to enjoy in town, and we chose the Dock Café with its outdoor patio. The restaurant sits next to the St. Croix so we could take in all the activity on the river while we were eating lunch. The Dock offers a great view of the lift bridge, too.
I would highly recommend a visit to Stillwater. Being from Illinois, it reminded me a lot of Galena, one of my favorite towns in our state. I’m looking forward to returning to Stillwater at Christmas time – Midwest Living magazine named it a Magical Midwest Main Street during the holidays.