Monday, 10 August 2009

Stillwater, Minnesota

I'd originally planned our itinerary to be with Art and Norma at the weekend, but she said many people left town Friday to spend the weekend at their cottage on a lake. Their family traditions, as it turns out, were associated with Hand Lake. Norma even wrote a poem about it. She is like my Mom in that, able to turn her hand to writing poetry. I think that's a natural gift and certainly not one that I have!

Anyhow, given that we needed to be at theirs mid-week, we pretty much skipped past Madison and Milwaukee to get to Minneapolis (where would this area be without the letter "M"?) and I wanted to go back to those places, even if only briefly. First, however, we would be passing through Stillwater, Minnesota, and I was looking forward to that; it is the birthplace of my Grandma Clara and much of her family. We asked if there was anything in particularly to see there. Art told us it was a tourist trap and, yes, it was pretty but whatever you do,
don't stop there! The traffic is terrible, etc., etc. Clearly he's not a browse-in-the-tourist-shop type. Well, neither am I normally, but as I'd never seen Stillwater and we were, after all, tourists, I had no intention of taking his advice.

Stillwater reminded me a lot of the old part of Guthrie, Oklahoma, with the old brick buildings and the sidewalk shops. However, Guthrie doesn't sit on the beautiful St. Croix River. I noted a sign that said "Birthplace of Minnesota" and I've just now had the opportunity to look up why. According to Wikipedia, this is because of a 1848 territorial convention that began the process of establishing Minnesota as a state, held at the corner of Myrtle and Main Streets. At that convention, three leading cities were chosen for important public institutions. Minneapolis got the University of Minnesota, Saint Paul became the capital and Stillwater got the territory's first prison; a nice 'thank you' if you ask me, but I suppose it did bring jobs...

This reminds me of an interesting part of Spike's Tour of Minneapolis where he noted that States tend to keep these three institutions, political, educational and correctional, in separate places; something about them being corrupt or vulnerable to corruption. That's a conversation I shall have to follow up with him one day.

I didn't see any sign of the prison, but I did see the street signs for Myrtle and Main, most notable to me because my Grandma's favourite sister was named Myrtle. It wasn't an uncommon name when she got it (1893), but it was relatively rare by the time I came along. I was also taken with the cafe called Jake's, as that was what Grandpa's family called him.

I only saw this small bit of Stillwater, but I thought it was a lovely place and when we crossed over the Lift Bridge and headed south towards I-94 and Madison, I saw lots of places I could imagine living. (Did I ever mention that we once looked to buy a house in Guthrie?) But before we leave Stillwater, I have to confess to having done exactly what Art wanted to save us from: I found a couple of great shops, bought souvenirs (Christmas tree ornaments) and even took pictures...

1 comment:

alphagary said...

Too funny Shelley! I don't know if you got my last message or not but you probably got your Christmas ornaments from one of the same places I do! They have great stuff, unique, clever and usually made by a regional artist. They make the best gifts. I think most of the vendors in Stillwater know me by name...yeah, its pretty sick!

Hope all is well in England! Love the blog... if you have any questions about some of the notes you took while on tour just let me know and maybe I can help decifer them for you!

Until then, take care.