Arcola Mills to re-open to the public — volunteers needed

The historic site will be open for the second fall in a row this year and citizens are needed to help make it happen.




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The main house, built in 1847.
The main house at Arcola Mills, built in 1847.

The historic Arcola Mills site — located on the Minnesota banks of the river just north of Stillwater — will be open to the public again this fall, and volunteers are needed to staff the property between Sept. 1 and October 26. Volunteer training will be held Tuesday, August 21.

The Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway provided the following information:

The National Park Service and the Arcola Mills Historic Foundation are partnering again this fall to open the 1847 mill owner’s mansion and grounds to the public, and we need your help!  The Visitor Center will be open from 9 am to 5 pm seven days/week from 9/1 to 10/26.  Volunteers are needed in 4-hour shifts to welcome visitors, interpret the history of the site, and keep the place looking great for visitors.  If this opportunity appeals to you, please contact Jonathan Moore at or 715-491-6839.

The announcement that Arcola will be open this fall comes after news last month that the Town of May board rejected a proposal to open the site indefinitely. Citing traffic and parking concerns, they asked the Park Service and the Arcola Mills Foundation, which owns and manages the site, to come back with a revised proposal. The Country Messenger reports:

The National Park Service will once again operate a visitors center on a trial basis at Arcola Mills beginning this month, following a decision by the Town of May Board.

The Arcola Mills Board of Directors and National Park Service officials approached the May Board Aug. 3 to request temporary approval to operate a visitors center on the site for August, September and October of this year, as well as six months next year, May through October.

Their presentation to Board members included possible solutions to concerns community members voiced during the Township meeting last month. During the July meeting, a conditional use permit to allow an indefinite visitors center at Arcola was denied, partially due to citizen concerns and partially due to a lack of traffic data.

Their most recent proposal addresses those concerns and should allow enough time for sufficient traffic data to be gathered and analyzed, Cameron Kelly, a member of the Arcola Board of Directors, said.

Last October’s trial run of opening the site was almost too successful, leading to the concerns about traffic issues. In the one month Arcola Mills was open last year, 4,077 people from 35 states and 11 countries visited. The site will be open for nearly two months this year and hopefully much longer in 2013.

A River Retreat

The mill house
The mill house

Arcola Mills was once a small lumbering village. Brothers John and Martin Mower founded the settlement and built a Greek Revival stle house there in 1847. Visitors can still see marks on the wood floors from lumberjacks’ spiked boots (for navigating log rafts floating down the river) when they came to collect their paychecks at the house.

It had a second life starting in the 1920s when Stillwater doctor Dr. Henry Van Meier purchased the property and used it as his family’s summer home for several decades. He re-located several eccentric cottages on the grounds and formed something of an artist’s colony until Van Meier’s death in 1979. When his widow Katharine passed away in the 1990s, the property was transferred to the non-profit foundation which manages it as a retreat center today.


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Arcola Mills to re-open to the public — volunteers needed