Full Circle


Circles are beautiful, orbital, never ending, perfectly proportioned and spot on.  They are all-encompassing, inclusive and embracing.  Rivertown Inn had the pleasure of hosting a group of ladies from Trinity Lutheran church here in Stillwater for their monthly Circle meeting, centered around a lunch fit for a queen.   With warm hospitality, elegant surroundings and excellent food,  Operations manager, Larry Loyer, InnKeeper Sheila-Marie Untiedt and Chef Maggie Wescott delighted in preparing every detail designed to please the palate and the eye.

This special circle of friends had the run of the place for their gathering:  no other diners making noise, no other tables competing for attention and service.  They were, quite simply, the belles of the ball.


from left to right:  Karen Bosmoe, Kathy Tollerud, Gail Steinmetz, Sandi Steinmetz, Sue Butler, Delores Olin, Carolyn Minor, Carol Hendrickson, and Rita Lawson



Operations manager Larry Loyer setting the table for Rebekah Circle luncheon

If you have a special event and would like to have a private gathering, we would love to accomodate your group!

(651) 430-2955
Email:  rivertown@rivertowninn.com

Strengths coaching meets staff cooking

As a new employee of the Rivertown Inn and an old believer in the Clifton StrengthsFinder, I had the pleasure of being a part of a recent staff coaching session.  Our coach, Julie Anderson, who also happens to be the proprietor of the Rivertown Inn, and her business partner/sister/former Gallup Associate Partner Jennifer Ford, led us in a learning session, centered around a culinary class.

jen and julie

                       Gallup Certified Strengths Coaches                          Julie Anderson and Jennifer Ford

Gallup research proves that people succeed when they focus on what they do best. When they identify their talents and develop them into strengths, people are more productive, perform better, and are more engaged.Gallup’s Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment is the first step in helping people identify their talents. Clifton StrengthsFinder results give people a way to discuss and develop their unique combination of skills, talents, and knowledge — also known as strengths.  (taken from Gallup StrengthsFinder website)

Our session began by our coaches defining the 34 themes/talents/strengths, helping us better understand each of our individual strengths and those of our co-workers.  We then moved into the kitchen and worked together to create a gorgeous meal, as our coaches observed our interactions and took notes.  After learning and laughing together while making an amazing seafood salad and homemade pasta, we sat together, feasting on the food our hands had made and learned about ourselves, our strengths and each other.

Consider this extraordinary team building activity for your family, your leadership team, your club or organization!  The Rivertown Inn is the perfect venue for small to mid-size groups to focus on each other in an elegant, historic atmosphere that accommodates your every need.

For more information about StrengthFinder, individual coaching or team building activities, Julie can be reached at julie.anderson@strengthswise.com or strengthswise.com.

For more info about cooking classes and culinary events, visit http://www.rivertowninn.com/


Zanny Johnson

social media director for the Rivertown Inn

Boating on the St. Croix River

Many Rivertown Inn guests enjoy an outing on the St. Croix River by canoe, kayak, yacht, paddleboat or even an authentic Venetian gondola.  It’s hard to imagine that this beautiful river we now use mostly for pleasure excursions was once a teaming “freeway” for steamboats shipping goods up and down the river.  By the mid 1880’s the banks of the river had been deforested and Stillwater’s riverfront was lined with huge, noisy sawmills.

John O’Brien and his brother James, owned several steamboats.   The most famous one was the G.B. Knapp, which they acquired in 1888 when they purchased the Marine Lumber Company.  According to an article in the Stillwater Messenger the Knapp was the “longest in service in these waters, and a craft that has carried more people up and down the St. Croix than any other three boats combined.”GBKnapp

The G.B. Knapp

Unfortunately, the Knapp was in very poor condition when it was acquired by the O’Brien brothers.  In March of 1889, she was retired.  Her machinery was reused in a new boat which the O’Briens christened the “Ravenna” and the hull of the Knapp was used as a floating boarding house for lumber rafting crews.

Although the St. Croix River was a very busy shipping route, it was often used for pleasure excursions.  It was reported by the Stillwater Daily Gazette on Monday, July 23, 1900 that, “This afternoon John O’Brien took the Cardinal and Bishop Foley out on the St. Croix in the yacht of George H. Atwood.”   The Atwood yacht was  78 feet long and was built in 1899 by George Muller of Stillwater.  Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore and Bishop Foley of Detroit were guests of John and Anna O’Brien for a week at the home we now know as the Rivertown Inn – but that story will have to be told in a future blog.

Among the many options our guests at the Rivertown Inn often use to enjoy the St. Croix River include the following Stillwater businesses: 45 Degrees for paddleboards, Stillwater Boat Rentals for boats, Gondola Romantica for gondolas, Stillwater Riverboats for riverboats and Wahoo Adventures for kayaks.




Bicycling Stillwater

Since the late 1800’s, bicycling has been very popular in Stillwater and the surrounding area.  We often have Rivertown Inn guests who arrive on their bicycles and many people come to Stllwater to either participate in or watch the local bike races.  On April 27th, Washington County will host the 48th annual Minnesota Ironman Bicycle Ride and on June 5th Nature Valley Bicycle Festival  will be held in Stillwater.  Guests who arrive without a bike can rent bicycles by calling the Rivertown Inn where our staff will gladly make arranges for them through Wahoo Adventure.


The “bicycle craze” in the United States began shortly after the safety bicycle was invented by John Kemp Starley in 1885.  Unlike the earlier bikes with the large front wheel, the safety bike featured a steerable front wheel, equally sized wheels and a chain drive to the rear wheel.


As early as 1886, bicycle races were held in Stillwater.  The Saint Paul Daily Globe reported on a race held in April of 1886, between “Prince, champion of America; Woodside, champion of Ireland, and Eck, champion of Canada.”  It was a 15 mile race which was completed in 52 minutes and 8 seconds with the fastest mile being completed in 3 minutes and 51 seconds.  In July of 1891, under the heading “Dull Day in Stillwater,” the St. Paul Daily Globe reported on “the ladies bicycle race at the new Athletic park…”

The next major innovations in bicycle design were the use of pneumatic tires in 1888 and the invention of the coaster brake in 1896 (an important need for those who do not live on flat land).  Before the use of pneumatic tires an elaborate suspension system (which made the bikes heavy, cumbersome and expensive) was needed to ride comfortably on hard surfaces.  These new tires allowed for a much lighter frame and the resulting lower production cost brought the bicycle within reach of most people.  In fact the bicycle became so popular and affordable that in 1895 the cost of a good horse hit an all time low.

The Stillwater Cycle Club was organized in July of 1895.  In addition to promoting the hobby, they also raised funds to build local bicycle trails.  John O’Brien, who built the home we now know as the Rivertown Inn, was elected president of this organization in 1896.  Several newspaper articles mention that John O’Brien was an enthusiastic cyclist and on April 24, 1896, the Stillwater Daily Gazette reported that, “John O’Brien has purchased wheels for his children and may occasionally be seen mounted on a cycle himself – and let us add that these good sized folks, like Mr. O’Brien and R.S. Davis, appear graceful on their silent steeds of steel.”

As noted in the Saint Paul Globe, the Stillwater city council soon became involved with regulating this new mode of transportation.  On May 21, 1896, they stated that the city council passed “an ordinace governing bicycling in the city.  It provides for a maximum speed of six miles per hour, prevents riding on sidewalks, and compels riders to carry lanterns on their wheels after dark.”  A few months later, they revisited the new ordinance and removed the lantern requirement.  I have not been able to confirm any other changes to this ordinance, so it might be amusing to racers in Stillwater, that they could be ticketed for traveling faster than six miles per hour.

In August of 1896, the Deere Weber Bicycle Day at the State Fair Grounds was touted as being “the greatest cycle meet ever held west of Chicago” by the Saint Paul Globe.  Among the participants in the “One-Mile Fat Riders’ Race – weight must be over 200 pounds” was John O’Brien of Stillwater.  It was reported that “The fleshy gentlemen provided considerable amusement” and John came in third place.

Bicycle on SUmmit Avenue

In 1897 and 1898, the local newspapers include many articles concerning bike runs from St. Paul to Stillwater by the Capital City Cycle Club.  The Little Falls (Minnesota) Weekly Transcript reported in 1897 and 1898 about Felix Simonet and friends of Stillwater traveling between the two cities on bicycles.

Although the Stillwater Cycle Club had been planning a cycle path to Lake Elmo since early 1897, it was reported by the St. Paul Globe on September 21, 1898, that “The city of Stillwater has no cycle paths.  It is to be excused for this, perhaps, as they would have to be equipped with elevators and safety devices.”  This little jab, may have got them moving, as the Stillwater Gazette reported on April 20th, 1900, that “Work on the Lake Elmo Path began this morning.”  By early 1901, the Stillwater Cycle Club was working with the area boards of county commissioners to complete the cycle path to Stillwater “as far as the Ramsey and Hennepin county lines.”


Typical Ladies Bicycle Attire

The “cycling craze” or “golden age of cycling” dropped off dramatically between 1900 and 1910 as automobiles became the preferred mode of transportation.  One legacy of this “golden age” concerns the rights of women.  According to Wikipedia, “the impact of the bicycle on female emancipation should not be underestimated.  The safety bike gave women unprecedented mobility…As bicycles became safer and cheaper, more women had access to the personal freedom they embodied, and so the bicycle came to symbolize the New Woman of the late nineteenth century…Since women could not cycle in the then-current fashions for voluminous and restrictive dress, the bicycle craze fed into a movement of so-called rational dress, which helped liberate women from corsets and ankle-length skirts and other encumbering garments…”

Thank you for your readership and please let me know if there is anything of local interest you might suggested for future blogs.  Next week we will be announcing an exciting new blog special for the month of May at the Rivertown Inn, so stay tuned.