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.







Upcoming Events and Area Activities!

There are quite a few events and activities available in Stillwater in the next two weeks, just in time for Valentine’s Day! If you have yet to make romantic plans for the holiday, take a look at the list below. To see more upcoming events, visit our Current Events page!

Friday, February 5th & Saturday, February 6th

“The Mystery of the Purple Puma” at Luna Rossa

We are proud to announce “The Mystery of the Purple Puma” will be performed this January and February at the Luna Rossa!  Duck Soup Players are returning to our Joseph Wolf Brewery Caves for this performance, in the style of the Pink Panther, the “Mystery of the Purple Puma” won’t disappoint with mystery, comedy and intrigue! The performance is Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., the weekend of February 5 & 6 in time for an early Valentine’s celebration! Individual and Dinner packages available starting at $12 – $34 per person.

Call Luna Rossa Trattoria & Wine Bar directly to make your reservations for the package at 651-430-0560 or if guests want to purchase only the tickets to the show, they can call the Duck Soup Players directly at 651-433-4039.

Friday, February 5th, 7:30pm

Cantus: Elemental

Church of St. Michael, 611 3rd St. S, Stillwater
Come experience the energy of the elements as Cantus explores how we connect to the Earth. The critically-acclaimed voices of Cantus will blossom in the wonderful acoustic of The Church of St. Michael.

Saturday, February 6th, 11:00am – 7:00pm

Open House at Brick Alley Studio of Massage & Bodywork

Brick Alley Studio would like to invite you to join them for their Open House: Brick Alley Studio, Saturday, February 6, 11 – 7 p.m.  We will have free massages, samples of products, drinks, appetizers, coupons, and drawings for great prizes. Come see our studio, meet our staff, bring your friends, and relax!

For More Information, Please contact

Monday, February 8th, 6:00-9:00pm

Movie Night Monday with River Market

Watch the movie “Fresh” by Ana Sophia Joanes, a Swiss-born documentary filmmaker whose work addresses pressing social issues through character-driven narratives. For more information about the film, visit Popcorn and snacks provided by River Market. The screening will be followed by a discussion. Please preregister at River Market. Free!

The classes are held at the Loft, unless otherwise specified. The Loft is located at 218 North Main Street, on the second floor above Images of the Past and Present, directly across Main St. from River Market.

Wednesday, February 10th, 7:00-8:00pm

Wine 101 with Northern Vineyards

Come to the Northern Vineyards store and learn the basics of their wine making process. Cassie McLemore, the store manager, will explain the general wine and food pairings and will give you a tour of the winery. Wine samples will be offered with cheese and crackers from River Market. Please pre-register at River Market. The class will be held at Northern Vineyards, 223 Main Street North, Stillwater, MN. The class fee is $20 for River Market members, $25 for non-members. Call 651-430-1032 for directions. Must be 21 or older to attend.

Please pre-register in-store at River Market, phone (651) 439-0366 or email Ola at Payment due at registration.

Friday, February 12th- Sunday, February 14th

Valentine’s Weekend with Luna Rossa

Friday, February 12, 7 – 10 p.m. swing dancing in the cave – hosted by Belle Ballet
$5 per person or $10 per couple. Live Italian music performed by Pietro Saturday and Sunday Evenings. In addition to their regular menu, their Chef’s will be preparing a special three course and five course menu.

Also featuring – Joseph Wolf Brewery Cave Tours Friday, Febuary 12,  1 – 6 p.m., Saturday, February 13, 1 – 9 p.m., and Sunday, February 14, 1 – 8 p.m. for $5/guest

Friday, February 12th – Sunday, February 20th

Photography of Ann Meyers: Show & Reception

ArtReach St. Croix, 224 N. 4th Street, Stillwater
Exhibit of photography by regional artist Ann Myers in the St. Croix Galleries of ArtReach St. Croix. Join together for a reception Friday, Feb. 12 from 5-7 pm.

Saturday, February 13th, 6:00-10:00pm

Valentine’s Day Wine Dinner at Rivertown Inn

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart at Rivertown Inn. Featuring a five-course dinner with wine paired to each course. Room/dinner packages available.

For More Information, Please Call (651)430-2955.

Saturday, February 13th, 6:30pm

“Playing for Change: Peace Through Music” Film Screening

Bradshaw Celebration of Life Center, 2800 Curve Crest Blvd., Stillwater
Musicians and artists of the St. Croix Valley are invited to view and discuss the film “Playing for Change: Peace Through Music” as part of Trinity Lutheran’s St. Croix Valley Compassion Film Series. The film is hosted by Trinity Lutheran Church.

Contact Jody for more info @ 651-439-7400, ext. 119 or Thanks for bringing music to the St. Croix Valley!

2010 Culinary Events

Our last regularly-scheduled five-course wine dinner was held on December 10th, 2009. Though we are sad to see them go, we are excited to offer all new culinary events for 2010! We are pleased to announce our new bi-monthly Wine Tastings and Food & Wine Events  presented by our talented European Chef Ray Wyatt.  These promise to be truly amazing culinary experiences!

Wine Tastings

We are happy to announce that due to their popularity in 2009, we are making our wine tastings a bi-monthly feature in 2010. These casual yet elegant events allow you to sample six wonderful wines from a region or select vineyard served with a tasty and carefully-paired small bite, all whilst taking in the beautiful surroundings of Rivertown Inn. $30 per person. Advance reservations required.

Friday, March 12 French

Friday, May 14 Italian

Friday, July 16 Wine of the Americas

Friday, September 17 Spanish

Friday, November 12 Featured Wine Maker/Vineyard

Food & Wine Events

We are excited to introduce a new Food and Wine Event feature to Rivertown Inn in 2010. Every other month, we will host a themed evening serving up some fantastic food with equally great wines. These events will be casual, social and elegant, creating an opportunity to view the house and grounds, and an opportunity to meet fellow food and wine enthusiasts. Served buffet-style. $50 per person. Advance reservations required.

Friday, April 16 Tapas Evening

Friday, June 18 Organic Foods and Wine

Friday, August 13 Farmer’s Market Inspired Evening, Minnesota-grown Products and Produce

Friday, October 15 Food of the Mediterranean

Friday, December 10 Champagne and Seafood Evening

To Make a Reservation, Please Call Rivertown Inn at  (651)430-2955.

Please Note:

In addition to our regularly-scheduled culinary events, private dinners of 12 or more can be arranged on select dates. Please speak to our Chef or to a member of our staff for more information at (651)430-2955.

Off-site catering and classes may also be arranged with Chef Ray Wyatt through his website,