Aerial View of the Twin Cities Suburb of Stillwater, Minnesota
Picture of Wendy Gimpel
Wendy Gimpel

Historic Stillwater, Minnesota

Stillwater is known as the birthplace of Minnesota and boasts many historical wonders that are worth visiting. Whether you’re a lifelong resident or just passing through, keep reading to learn a bit about the history of Stillwater and how to enjoy its vibrant past today.

The History Of Stillwater, MN

Stillwater became known as Minnesota’s birthplace thanks to the location of the first territorial convention to establish Minnesota as a state, which was held in 1848 at Myrtle and Main Street, or what would soon be known as downtown Stillwater. Stillwater was one of the first towns established in the state and was incorporated as a city in 1854. At that time, it was the largest city in the state and was around long before Minneapolis was established.

Thanks to the lumber industry, Stillwater quickly became a popular place to live. During the logging boom of the 1850s, Stillwater boasted the largest lumber mills in the country and helped Minnesota become one of the largest providers of lumber across the world. The industry brought along with it all the luxuries of modern life, including railroads, gas lights, and larger homes. The residents of Stillwater continue to celebrate their rich history and share their stories with thousands of tourists each year.

Stillwater is proud to be federally recognized as a Preserve America Community. It features 21 buildings currently on the National Historic Registry and over 100 Heirloom Homes and Landmark Sites. The residents of Stillwater are proud to have maintained their hardworking and unique history over the years.

Enjoy Historic Stillwater

If you are visiting Stillwater and want to fully immerse yourself in its vibrant past, here are a few can’t miss activities and landmarks. Stillwater is the perfect destination for individuals, couples, families, or even large groups with its many options for entertainment and sightseeing.

Historical Sightseeing

Stillwater has preserved many historical landmarks which can be enjoyed year-round. Some must-see attractions include the Historic Lift Bridge connecting Stillwater to Houlton, WI, over the St. Croix River, the River City Sculpture Tour, the Warden’s House Museum, and Washington Country Heritage Center. Take a ride on the Stillwater Trolley during the summer months for a narrated tour. You can even try your hand at ax throwing like a lumberjack.

Antique and Vintage Shops

Downtown Stillwater is home to more than 50 independently owned boutiques and retail stores, but some of our favorites are the antique and vintage shops. It has been rated as one of the top 10 antiquing towns in the US by Fodor’s Travel. Check out Stillwater Antiques Mall, American Gothic Antiques, or Staples Mall Antiques to visit multiple local vendors in one location. If you’re a book lover, you can’t miss Black Letter Books, featuring used, rare, and first editions. Another unique shop is Rose Mille, offering hard-to-find paper and ribbon crafting goods.

Enjoy Nature’s Offerings

Some of the best areas of Stillwater are those left untouched by human hands. If you enjoy the outdoors, don’t miss the extensive network of biking and hiking trails. Lying along the St. Croix River, Stillwater offers a variety of water activities, including swimming, fishing, and even chartered cruises aboard an authentic all-American paddlewheel ship.

Historic Walking Tours

One of our favorite ways to explore Stillwater is through their free guided walking tours. All you need to do is download a free app to your smartphone, and you will be taken on an adventure through historical Stillwater using historical photos and audio. Choose from multiple tours (or try them all!), including the Historic Downtown Walking Tour, the Stillwater Ghost Walks, the Historic South Hill Homes Walking Tour, and the Stillwater Cultural Landscape District Tour.

Scroll to Top