For centuries, the beauty and natural treasures of the St. Croix Valley have drawn people to the area which is now Stillwater. The first to call this area home were the Sioux and Chippewa Nations. Later, the first traders and trappers in Minnesota Territory settled here.
By the mid 1880’s, railroading and river activity helped build the community into a bustling town of 13,000 people. Stillwater became the trade center for miners and trappers to the North, and farmers and lumbermen to the West. The Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad eventually saw a need for a freight depot.
The builders set to work using heavy mill timber; two foot thick limestone foundation walls, and eighteen inch exterior walls hovering thirty feet high. Flooring four inches wide and one inch thick were milled from the maples found on the river islands nearby. Finally, the heavy ceiling trusses were placed, carrying the full weight of a solid slate roof.
The depot was finished in January of 1883, handling as many as seventy rail cars a day, and housing the areas telegraph office. In later years, Curtis Feed and Coal and the Farm Service Store operated out of the “Freight House,” as it was now called. In 1970, the Milwaukee Road Railroad closed the agency and the building was sold.
In 1979, the historical significance of the building was recognized and the Freight House became the first building in Stillwater to be placed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
The building still stands as it did over a century ago. It remains a symbol of Stillwater’s colorful and historic past, as the popular “Freight House Restaurant.”
Historical Preservation Committee’s Podcast regarding the Freight House’s history
(3rd Stop on the Historic Downtown Stillwater Tour)