One Tank Trip: Stillwater celebrates their 85th Lumberjack Days

Iconic bridges and a gorgeous river meet history in the popular Minnesota town

Susie Jones
July 12, 2019 - 10:19 am

(Getty Images / HaizhanZheng)


All this summer, we are showing you places in Minnesota, where you can get to using just one tank of gas.  This week, WCCO's Susie Jones takes us to Stillwater, where residents are getting ready for "Lumber Jack Days" which begins July 17th and runs through July 21st.  Stillwater’s annual community festival began as a salute to the city’s heritage in 1934, celebrating it's 85th incarnation in 2019.  

RELATED: See all of WCCO's "One Tank Trips" here. 

It seems fitting that people in Stillwater, would celebrate "Lumber Jack Days" as that is how it all started back in the 1850's.  Stillwater Mayor Ted Kozlowski talked to WCCO's Susie Jones about the effects of lumber in the area. "All the lumber baron and giant Victorian mansions we have around town were all built because of the lumber industry", said Kozlowski. "Now I like to say, we've got a ton of character and characters in this town."  

Long a destination for those searching for antiques, or a good meal, Stillwater is a quaint destination town in Minnesota.  "We've got great restaurants and great shops.  We just happen to on a gorgeous river", said the Mayor.  

Mayor Kozlowski is also proud of the historic Stillwater Lift Bridge, that iconic steel structure that dominates the view over the St. Croix along with the new St. Croix River Bridge.  The Lift Bridge is undergoing a restoration project.  It will reopen for pedestrian and bicycle traffic only and lift for boats in fall of 2019.

(Getty Images / Kingoftreno)

"One of the things I'm really excited about, is once this restoration project is finished, we're going to have this loop trail along the Minnesota side of the river, across the new bridge.  Then it brings you back up the Wisconsin bluff and down the old historic Lift Bridge."

The lift bridge project won't be done until November, but people are already enjoying the new St. Croix River Bridge, including resident Ron Raser.  "You can park on the Wisconsin side and come down the bridge, and go all the way to St. Paul", said Raser about the bike trail.  

Stillwater is famous for the Lift Brige for sure, but also for their Bed and Breakfasts and small hotels.  Those include the Lowell Inn, which still attracts thousands of people from all over.  The hotel was established in 1927 and is on the National Historic Register.  

There's a new hotel that's open too, called the Lora Hotel.  Mayor Kozlowski told Susie it was no simple project creating.  "It was definitely a renovation project for the books.  It was a very challenging project and they did a phenomenal job."   

It's located where the old Vittorio's restaurant used to be, and before that a brewery back in the caves underneat the river bluffs.  "It was originally the Joseph Wolf Brewery.  So they'd use the caves, because it was always nice and cool, to store beer, make beer, all those things.  Before the days of refrigeration it was kind of an ideal location", said Kozlowski.  

From the Lora Hotel website: "Following a fire, the brewery’s damaged building was rebuilt into a steam-powered brewery facility – the first of its kind in the state – along with a brewhouse and hotel. Under the name Empire Brewery, it became one of the largest breweries in the state. But the 1890’s ushered in a temperance movement. Liquor sales declined. The brewery kept its taps flowing by turning to one of America’s beloved pastimes – baseball. Forming one of the toughest teams in the state, the brewery’s baseball team garnered newspaper coverage whenever they stepped up to the plate."

(Photo Courtesy of Lora Hotel website)

Outside the new hotel, there are stairs at the site of the original "Main Street Stairs", which were used to come down to the river from the bluffs.  You can see those in the photo above, just to the left of the brewery.  They were originally made of wood, but now are concrete and well used by people wanting to get in a good work out.  Mayor Kozlowski says, "It's a very popular activity in town."

Susie ran into Andrea Vazec coming down the stairs.  She said, "I've never done all of them.  I know lots of people who do.  I've run and done a few of them at a time.  But usually I'm just trying to go out for a longer run."  

Whether your up for a workout or you just want to take in a lazy afternoon along the river, Stillwater might be a nice trip to take on one tank of gas!  

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