The Lowell Inn Welcomes Holiday Guests for Tea

The Lowell Inn carries on its tradition of serving holiday teas.
Alissa Nogle enjoys a traditional English tea service, complete with cream of mushroom soup and scones, at the Lowell Inn in Stillwater.

The Lowell Inn first opened its doors in 1927 on the site of the Sawyer House, a lumberman’s lodge built before Minnesota became a state. The inn quickly became a destination spot for travelers from both here and abroad. According to Judy Anderson, who purchased the inn with her husband, Dick, in 2001, there was a reason for the international appeal. “[Europeans] have so much history and our country is just not that old,” she says. “The inn has a European feel that makes those travelers feel at home.”

As new owners, the Andersons worked to bring back the inn’s earlier traditions. One of these was afternoon tea, a version of the English tea tradition that dates back to the 1700s. The tea services are particularly special during the holidays, when the inn’s four-course teas are served in the elegant George Washington room every Saturday afternoon by reservation only. With courses including warm scones, the inn’s signature cream of mushroom soup, chef’s choice of canapés and assorted mini desserts, the teas are perfect for family outings or taking a break from shopping.

The Lowell Inn remains open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and throughout the New Year’s holiday—an accommodation appreciated by both guests in residence and local patrons looking for holiday cheer. “Holidays are a busy time in Stillwater. Some people are coming into town to visit relatives and for others it is an annual tradition,” Anderson says. “Still others are spending the holidays alone and looking for a place [to be with] people.”

While many guests have graced the inn, Anderson says it warms her heart to see folks return to celebrate special occasions. One such couple is Stewart and Joyce Kvalheim of Blaine, who have traveled to the inn to celebrate their wedding anniversary for the past 67 years.

“I came back from the service in 1946 after being gone for [nearly five] years. My black book with my girlfriends was out of date. I was on the phone trying to find a date and my mother, who happened to be Joyce’s Sunday school teacher said, ‘Stuart, why don’t you call that nice girl down the block?’ And I said, ‘Mother, she’s all elbows and knees.’ And my mother said, ‘She’s grown up a little bit,’” Stewart says.

The pair fell in love. “We were married at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Minneapolis in 1948 and came [to the Lowell Inn] for our wedding night. This was the place to come at the time,” Joyce says. The couple returns nearly every year and always insists on dining at the same table.

From the brightly lit exterior to the Christmas tree in the lobby, the Lowell Inn feels like coming home for the holidays. “This is my favorite time of year,” Anderson says. “I think when people think of the Lowell Inn, they think of tradition.”

Holiday Tea

Saturdays: December 5, 12 and 19, 2-4 p.m.

4-course high tea is $17/person.Reservations are required. For more information on menus, serving times and reservations, visit