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.”
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.