St James Hotel, Redwing, Minnesota
The St James Hotel is a historical emblematic property situated in the banks of The Mississippi in Red Wing Minnesota.
The Hotel is one of the main historical landmarks in Red Wing, Minnesota, a small town that runs along upper Mississippi and divides Minnesota and Wisconsin. St. James Hotel was built in 1875 surrounded by the spectacular Red Wing Bluffs and the Mississippi. This small enclave was once the largest wheat market in the world. Early guests marveled at the hotel’s modern features, including steam heating, hot and cold running water, and a state-of-the-art kitchen. Its acclaimed dining room became a regular stop for passersby of the time. Today, the St. James Hotel proudly maintains its 19th century character.
The St. James Hotel today is included in the US National Register of Historic Places and is a member of Historic Hotels of America since 1994.
In addition, the St. James Hotel houses the American Ski Jump Museum Hall of Fame micro-museum due to Red Wing becoming the birthplace of this exciting sport with the first recorded tournament in 1887.
To this day the St. James Hotel is one of the finest vacation destinations in all of Minnesota, a reputation it has maintained since it first opened. The hotel was originally born out of economic necessity to house the many merchants who traveled to Red Wing in the years after the American Civil War. Thanks to the proximity of the Mississippi River and the boom in the wheat business, Red Wing began hosting important Midwest businessmen during the 1870s. Today each room is named after one of the 19th-century riverboats that plied the waters of the Mississippi River.
Due to this demand, architect Edward P. Bassford was hired to design a boutique-hotel. Bassford used a brilliant combination of Italianate-style architecture for the building’s appearance. The new business opened its doors as the “St. James Hotel ”on Thanksgiving Day in 1875. The St. James Hotel immediately became a hub of all the social activity in Red Wing and even the railroads adjusted their schedules to allow passengers the opportunity to dine in their restaurants. Perhaps the greatest symbol of its prestige was when US President Rutherford B. Hayes stopped by the hotel in 1878.
With the decline of the wheat industry, the local industry collapsed. As such, the entire city experienced an economic recession that obviously affected the hotel as well. It was at this time that Charles Lillybald bought the St. James Hotel in 1909. In 1914 Clara Nelson moved to Red Wing from Fergus Falls and began working at the St. James Hotel. Soon Clara Nelson married Charles Lillybald and they co-managed the St. James Hotel for years, with Charles overseeing the finances while Clara took charge of the front of the house. After Charles passed away in 1931, Clara became the sole owner of the St. James Hotel until she died in 1972.
Her son, Art, became general manager, although he decided to sell the business to Red Wing Shoe Company five years later. The Red Wing Shoe Company continues to operate the St. James Hotel and strives to preserve the legacy left by the celebrated Lillyblad family.