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.







Valentine’s Dinner at Rivertown Inn

Rivertown Inn will present a special Valentine’s Dinner on Saturday, February 11th, 2012,  prepared by Chef Ray Remler featuring a romantic 4-course menu paired with wines for $65 per person plus tax and gratuity. An overnight stay at the luxurious inn will cap off the perfect evening, although guests are welcome for dinner only.

The Valentine’s Dinner is limited to a maximum of twenty guests to ensure an intimate and memorable dining experience in the elegant Rivertown Inn mansion. The 4-course menu with exquisite wines expertly chosen for each dish will begin with a salad of Roasted Root Vegetables on Arugula with apple cider vinaigrette, followed by Roasted Beet Soup with crème fraiche. The main course offers Seared Pork Tenderloin with Cherries and port sauce, whipped celery root and broccoli rabe. The dessert course will feature Ginger Molten Chocolate Cakes with ginger crème anglaise and white chocolate dipped strawberries with citrus gremolata.

The fabulously renovated 1882 lumber baron mansion, three blocks from downtown Stillwater, is the ideal destination for discriminating travelers who want to experience luxury, privacy and romance in Victorian splendor. Filled with rare antiques and the extraordinary details that one would expect only at the finest European hotels, the Rivertown Inn offers five Suites and two Bedchambers in the main house, and two Grand Suites in the separate Carriage House.  Each features a sumptuous décor that pays homage to a great romantic poet or literary figure of the 18th, 19th or 20th centuries. Couples can cozy-up in front of their room’s live flame gas fireplace and delight in their spa-quality private bath featuring a double whirlpool tub.

The Rivertown Inn is committed to promoting health-conscious gourmet dining with organic, locally-sourced ingredients and is proud to be one of the only inns in Minnesota to have a talented professional Chef on staff to create culinary delights for its guests.  Chef Ray Remler presents a nightly social hour for guests with hand-picked wines and a fresh assortment of beautifully prepared hors d’oeuvres, a sumptuous 4-course gourmet breakfast in the morning, and a never-ending supply of delicious homemade cookies at the refreshment bar.

For the evening of February 11, 2012 Rivertown Inn suites are priced at $295.00, excluding tax.  Bedchambers are priced at $215.00, excluding tax.

For information and reservations contact the Rivertown Inn at (651) 430-2955 or visit

Minnesota Free Night of Theater: Special Early Access for Rivertown Inn Guests!

Minnesota Free Night of Theater with special early access for Rivertown Inn Guests!

Dozens of theaters. Thousands of tickets. All free. Over 50 different theaters across Minnesota invite you to try a theater during October that you’ve never visited before. No strings, no fees. The only condition is that you are a first-time visitor to the theater you choose.

Visit and use the secret code to make reservations starting September 22 at 10:00 a.m., one week ahead of the general public!

Secret Code: tra*108

After you reserve your tickets online, you will receive a confirmation email from Theater Communications Group with a link you’ll need to click to confirm your attendance. You will also receive a reminder email shortly before the performance.

View Flier for Minnesota Free Night of Theater

Thank you for joining us in celebrating Minnesota’s vibrant theater scene!

We’ll see you at the theater!

Activities in September – Stillwater, Minnesota

Stillwater is the perfect place to visit during the Fall season. Enjoy the fall colors along the St. Croix Croix River and the rest of the valley during your stay at Rivertown Inn. Take a look below to see a list of activities and events happening in Stillwater during the month of September.

**Be sure to check our Area Activities page for more information on local restaurants, wineries, shops, etc. Visit our Current Events page for a list of more activities every month!

Friday, September 10th, 6:45 – 9:30pm

Swinging the Valley

Tickets are on sale now for our annual swing concert and dance under the stars on the Stillwater Public Library terrace overlooking the beautiful St. Croix Valley. Free group swing dance lessons. Cash bar. The St. Croix Jazz Orchestra is a professional jazz orchestra with members that play all over the midwest and nationally. This amazing group will perform swing and big band jazz favorites, and some you may not be familiar with. Don’t miss this event – under the stars with music that will blow you away. Stillwater Public Library terrace, 224 N. 3rd St. Tickets are just $15, and if you are an ArtReach member, you receive a discount. Student tickets are $5.

For More Information, Please Call (651)439-1465.

Friday, September 10th – Saturday, September 11th, 4:00-9:00pm

Art On Main: Stillwater’s Fine Art Walk

Stillwater’s Fine Art Walk showcases Stillwater’s fine art scene including new and hidden treasures.  An artist reception will be held at each location on Friday’s featuring one or more artist as well as refreshments.  Enjoy and appreciate the growning art scene in Stillwater, with its diverse galleries and recognized artists.

Locations: Gallery 310, Tamarack Gallery, Parrot Art Sanctuary, Mart Jo Van Dell Studio, Alesci Furniture Gallery, KMK Designs / KMKostumes, Stillwater Art Guild Gallery.

For more infromation please contact Scott Zahren at 651.351.0262 or e-mail or Kate Vichich at 651.439.9393 or e-mail

Saturday, September 11th, 10:00am – 4:00pm

St. Croix Valley Historic Architecture Tour

Tour homes and other sites highlighting the rich architectural history of the North Hill of Stillwater. The tour is self guided and can be walked. Ticket location: ArtReach St. Croix, 224 N. 4th Street in Stillwater.

For More Information, Please Call ArtReach at (651)439-1465.

Saturday, September 11th, 4:00pm – 7:00pm

Franconia’s 1st Annual 3-D Music Festival

Franconia Sculpture Park, 29836 St. Croix Tr., Franconia, MN
This music festival encompasses a wide range of musical genres to create a diverse family friendly art and music cultural event for our entire community. The 3-D Music Festival significantly expands the park’s existing cultural event programming with a summer-long series of musical performances. Food will be available at the Lizard Lounge, Franconia’s own ” you betcha brat shop.” Tours of the Park will be given during the break.

For More Information, Please Call (651)257-6668.

Saturday, September 11th – Sunday, September 12th, 12:00-6:00pm

11th Annual Grape Stomp at Saint Croix Vineyards

This is an event not to be missed! Saint Croix Vineyards is hosting its 11th annual Grape Stomp Celebration on September 11th and 12th, with free tours at 12, 2 & 4pm, and grape stomping competitions at 1, 3 & 5pm. A drawing will be held to determine who will compete in the competitions. Please enter your name in the drawing when you arrive (no pre-registration required/accepted). Prizes will be awarded to those with the best grape-stomping style (as determined by audience applause). Local bands will be playing live music both days from 1-4pm. This is the perfect opportunity to bring your family out to the vineyard, stomp grapes and relax outdoors with a picnic.

For More Information, Please Visit

Friday, September 24th – Sunday September 26th

Oktoberfest at the Gasthaus!

Huge festival tent, German food, beer and music. The Artie Schaefer band Fri. and Sat. 6-11 pm (gates open at 5 pm)- must be 21. Sundays are family days with free pony rides and live music. Noon-6 pm – all ages welcome.

For More Information, Please Visit

Saturday, September 25th – Sunday, September 26th

Afton Art in the Park

Aftons Art in the Park – Enjoy arts & crafts, food and fun for the entire family.

For More Information, Please Visit