Sawmill District (Milepost 21 – Milepost38)
Stillwater: Is an historic “river town” which became the territorial capital in 1848, and center of lumber milling in the 19th and early 20th centuries with many buildings on the National Register of Historic Sites. It is the largest City on the St. Croix River. The antique shops, book stores, festivals, marinas, small businesses, dinner train, restaurants, picturesque churches, architecture and an engaged population are all key factors in this portion of the Scenic Byway.
The Old Territorial Prison (“home” of the Younger brothers after they were captured for the notorious Northfield bank robbery) was destroyed by arson fire several years ago, but the warden’s house (1853-1914) still stands adjacent to the prison site. It is a Greek revival dwelling of locally quarried limestone with frame additions. It was not disturbed by the fire and is now the site of the Washington County Historical Society. The area where the old prison stood is also referred to as “Battle Hollow” as it is the site of a fierce battle between the Sioux and Ojibwa Indians.
Other known buildings on the National Register are:
- Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Depot and Freight House: A brick combination depot built in 1883 of locally quarried limestone foundation. At one time it housed the town’s telegraph office.
- Roscoe Hersey House: An Eastlake/Queen Anne residence designed by George Orff and built in 1879-1880.
- Austin Jenks House: A Victorian brick residence with mansard-roofed tower built in 1871 for Captain Jenks, a river pilot and ship owner involved in log rafting.
- Albert Lammers House: An elaborate Queen Anne frame residence built in 1893 for a partner in one of Stillwater’s leading family lumber businesses.
- Ivory McKusick House: A small French second empire frame residence built in 1868 for lumberman and surveyor.
- Nelson School: A Georgian Classical Revival, two story brick school built in 1897.
- Pest House: Located in Stillwater Township this frame building was constructed in 1872 as a community institution to house persons afflicted with contagious diseases.
- St. Croix Lumber Mills/Stillwater Manufacturing Company: A limestone powerhouse built in 1850 for Stillwater’s second mill.
- William Sauntry House and Recreation Hall: A large Queen Anne frame residence built in 1891. In 1902 the prosperous businessman built an exotic
revival recreation facility for entertaining.
- Stillwater Bridge: A ten-span, concrete-and-metal vertical lift highway bridge of Waddell and Harrington type was built in 1931.
- Stillwater Commercial Historic District: Central business district of 19th century river town, encompassing largely brick commercial buildings of various styles, built in 1860’s-1930’s.
- Territorial State Prison Buildings: Brick warehouse and manufacturing buildings (1884-1898) of prison that operated from 1849-1914, with convict labor contracted to local manufacturers.
- Washington County Courthouse: Italianate/Classical Revival, second-generation brick courthouse, jail, and sheriff’s residence designed and built in 1867-1870.
- Mortimer Webster House: Italian villa-style frame residence built in 1865-1866 for New York immigrant and real estate developer.
Continue north on Highway 95, heading toward Stillwater Township following along the St. Croix River.
The Old Stone Bridge: The Point Douglas to Superior Road Bridge is a stone arch bridge of locally quarried limestone built in 1863 on the Military Road, crossing over Browns Creek. You will find it located near the junction of Highways 95 and 96.
The St. Croix Boom Site: Terminus of state’s great log drives, the earliest and longest-lived site (1856-1914) for storing, sorting, and rafting logs for mills downstream. It is a National Register and National Landmark property. Currently, it is a rugged, scenic area rest stop with trails, caves and picnic shelters. The towering bluffs make the scenery very dramatic.
Continue north on Highway 95, driving through a rolling, partially agricultural, partially rural suburban landscape, which provides a beautiful contrast to the narrower river valley.
Side Trip: If you jog off Highway 95 onto Arcola Trail, you will discover two architectural gems. Arcola Mills and the SOO Line High Bridge.
Arcola Mill Site and John & Martin Mower House: A large Greek Revival residence built in 1847 for the Mower brothers who founded the town of Arcola and built one of the earliest St. Croix lumber mills. Remains of the mill are still standing. The Arcola Mills Foundation is renovating the house. It has superb river frontage, scenery, and several creeks running through the property. In 1856 Mower built the steam mill that produced up to 2,000,000 board feet of lumber, and enlarged it in 1869 to produce 5,000,000 board feet. Mower also operated a store at this site from 1850-1865.
SOO Line High Bridge: This multiple-span steel arch railroad bridge with technical innovations was built by engineer/designer C.A.P. Turner in 1910-1911. At the highest point it is 184-foot above the St. Croix River.
If you choose not to jog over to Arcola Trail, you will want to continue north on Highway 95 until you will come to the quaint community of Marine on the St. Croix.
Marine on the St. Croix: Marine was the site of the first civilian settlement in Minnesota. It is the site of the first (1839) lumber mill on the St. Croix River. After the government land survey of 1847-1848 a company store and other business and industrial type buildings were build and flourished. Many trades flourished here, among them blacksmithing, wagon making, gunsmithing, boot and shoe manufacturing, plus doctors, lawyers, motels and more. At one time in history a record 9,000,000 feet of lumber was produced here per year. The village retains its pioneer character with its old buildings, historic sites and lovely homes. It is also close to the St. Croix Islands Scenic Preserve.
William O’Brien State Park: The park on the St. Croix contains 1,620 acres with year round access including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, camping, swimming, interpretive programs, passenger rail service, and visitors center.
Copas: A small-unincorporated settlement, originally known as Vasa; the town site was originally laid out by B.T. Otis and John Columbus. In 1849, a hotel, the Vasa House was built. John Copas built a major store in 1854 and a steam mill was built in 1857. At one time there were several stores, a post office and a saloon. In 1859 the township name was changed to Otis and the settlement became known as Otisville. Later when a railroad station for the SOO Line was built there, the town again changed its name to Copas, in honor of John Copas.