The Histories of Hudson and Stillwater, As Told by Trolley Operators

by | Jun 2019

Four trolleys from Stillwater Trolley await riders before a tour of the city.

Photo: Sapryna Balstad

Fall back in love with the Valley: Book a trolley tour!

There’s nothing more nostalgic than an open-air trolley ride through town—and we’re lucky to have two great companies running tours on their respective sides of the St. Croix River. In addition to stunning views and some fantastic peoplewatching, trolleys offer up a bit of history and intrigue courtesy of their hilarious and ultra-knowledgeable narrator-residents. Here are a few little-known facts about our neck of the woods, courtesy of the people behind our cutesy trolleys:


  • In the 1970s, there was a dispute between the railroad and the lumber industry over a new railroad bridge. During the so-called “Battle of the Piles,” the railroad worked on the bridge during the day, and loggers would come at night and steal the piles so they wouldn’t impede the flow of their logs to the sawmills. They got into a full-out brawl about it—but eventually compromised: the piles were built far enough apart that logs could get through easily.
  • Mr. Horace Taylor once lived on Vine Street. He was selected to be the ambassador to France by President Garfield, and was closely related—through the ambassadorship—to one of the few presidential assassinations.
  • Hudson is actually the city’s third name. The riverside settlement was called Willow River and Buena Vista before it was named after the Hudson River in New York.
  • Dick’s Bar is the longest continuously-running bar in the state—an impressive feat, knowing Wisconsin’s reputation.
  • Downtown used to be home to Hudson Boxing Arena, located approximately where Phipps Center for the Arts stands today. At the time, Minnesota didn’t allow boxing—and Hudson became a destination!


  • The first patent for the invention of the toaster was issued to a company from Stillwater, Minnesota.
  • The Lowell Inn is considered the Mount Vernon of the West, as it is a replica of George Washington’s Mount Vernon home in Virginia.
  • Stillwater was considered the “Lumber Capital of the World” from the 1850s through 1914. More lumber was being produced here than anywhere else in the world!
  • Stillwater had to be rebuilt three times because fires destroyed the downtown buildings. The third time, the city’s founders thought it would be better to build the buildings out of stone, brick and block—instead of wood—and many remain today.
  • Stillwater Trolley was founded in 1989 and is celebrating 30 years this season. Its motto is, “The First Best Thing to Do in Stillwater.”

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