Excellence that withstands the test of time. It’s the St. James way.
The St. James Hotel opened on Thanksgiving Day, 1875, after a group of 11 civic-minded businessmen recognized the need for a first-class lodging establishment in Red Wing, which was the wheat-trading center of the world at that time.
Architects from the Minnesota firm of E.P. Bassford outfitted the four-story Italianate structure in grand style with handsome furnishings, Brussels carpets in the lobby and English velvet carpet in the second floor ladies’ parlor.
On opening night, guests marveled at the hotel’s modern features, including steam heat, hot and cold running water, gas on every floor and a state-of-the-art kitchen.
Overnight, the St. James became the hub of Red Wing. The first floor included three dining rooms, the kitchen, office and baggage storage while the lower level featured a parlor, billiard hall, barbershop, public baths and four water closets. The second floor featured a ladies parlor, bridal suite and two ladies’ water closets. An elegant ballroom occupied the fourth floor.
Located within walking distance from the Red Wing train depot and the steamboat docks, the hotel was booked to capacity every night with travelers and boarders. The St. James chefs developed such a renowned reputation that the railroad adjusted its timetables to allow passengers to disembark and enjoy dinners here. Luminaries such as President Rutherford B. Hayes were among the more famous guests.
Now owned by the Red Wing Shoe Company, the St. James continues to offer guests the same blend of Old World service, luxurious amenities and culinary delights that it provided opening day almost 150 years ago.
In 1914, Clara Nelson of Fergus Falls, Minn., began waiting tables at the St. James, and quickly caught the eye of owner Charles Lillyblad. She caught his heart as well, and the two were soon married. It didn’t take Clara long to place her personal stamp on the hotel. She was a marvelous cook and insisted on using only the highest-quality local ingredients for her homemade recipes – and the St. James became so popular that even the railroad adjusted its schedule so passengers would arrive in time to take a meal.
She ran the hotel with an iron fist and a heart of gold. Legend has it that a rural couple honeymooning at the St. James spent most of their money on their room, so at dinner they could only order the least expensive item on the menu – two plates of hash. Their server told Clara, and she gave them the finest dinner available that evening, but only charged them for hash.
It’s only fitting that Clara’s son, Art, was born in the hotel in 1916. He began helping out as a bellhop at age 7 and eventually took over the hotel completely upon Clara’s death in 1972. Today the St. James continues to fulfill Clara’s commitment to dining and lodging excellence.
Red Wing, Minnesota
“A gem in Red Wing.”
Short Story: Our Ski Jumping Hall of Fame highlights the sport’s heyday in the 1920s and 30s. National tournaments held here in 1928 and 1936 attracted jumpers and enthusiasts worldwide.
Stay in the Jewel. Play in the Crown.
The city of Red Wing is the crown jewel of stunning Lake Pepin and southeastern Minnesota. This nationally renowned tourism area offers an exceptional blend of history, culture, scenery and the outdoors.
Stroll through Red Wing’s historic downtown and you’ll quickly slip back to a bygone era. The autumn colors in Red Wing and down the Mississippi are rated in the top 10 nationally by AAA. The bluffs and valleys are dotted with wineries, art galleries, antique shops, orchards and more.
As for nightlife, expect a sophisticated vibe not typically found outside of urban haunts. Catch a national act at the historic Sheldon Theatre – just a short walk from the St. James – or impressive local talent at hotspots along the river or in the bluffs and valleys.
Get to know beautiful Redwing, Minnesota
Starting with the St. James, you’ll get a glimpse of outstanding examples of 19th century architecture everywhere you look. Request a walking tour pamphlet from the concierge when you arrive, then enjoy a fascinating walk through the historic areas of Red Wing. Many buildings feature informative plaques describing the significance of the structure.
From the Red Wing Arts Association gallery in the historic depot to the Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies to Hobgoblin Music & Stoney End Harps to the Sheldon Theatre to Pottery Museum of Red Wing, Red Wing is an art lover’s dream. Spend a few days and prepare to be inspired.
Red Wing sits on the sharpest navigable bend on the Mississippi River at the head of Lake Pepin. The river splits into two channels, creating numerous backwater lakes and sloughs and the perfect habitat for a huge variety of wildlife and fish. Red Wing is known for its eagles. What’s not quite as well known is that more than 260 species of birds have been documented at Frontenac State Park (located a few miles to the southeast of the city), and it’s been called one of the best places in the country to view birds migrating in the spring and fall.
Few places anywhere offer so many recreational opportunities. There are literally thousands of acres of public lands within and near the city, waiting to be explored. If you enjoy the outdoors, you’ll love Red Wing.
Red Wing boasts 72 holes of picturesque golfing on three different courses. Within 25 miles you’ll find more than 15 additional courses to challenge your game.
Welch Village Ski & Snowboard Area is just west of town and several groomed cross-country trails begin in the city.
Hikers have no shortage of options, including a scenic trek to the top of Barn Bluff.
And, of course, the Mississippi River and Lake Pepin provide myriad recreational opportunities, from fishing to boating to swimming. Check out Bay Point, Levee and Colvill parks in Red Wing, all of which sit on the banks of the river.
The west edge of town features Red Wing Stoneware, the Red Wing mall and numerous chain stores.
Downtown Red Wing sits on the river, just below Barn Bluff. Numerous specialty shops are here, as well as more than a dozen restaurants. The Red Wing Shoes Factory Store and Museum has become a destination for thousands. It features the World’s Largest Boot, original Norman Rockwell drawings, a huge outlet center, and the most comprehensive selection of Red Wing Shoes products anywhere.
ENHANCE YOUR STAY IN BEAUTIFUL REDWING, MINNESOTA
American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame & Museum – Located on the Mezzanine Level of the Hotel
Red Wing Info – All you need to know about Red Wing
Lake Pepin and southeastern Minnesota are premier tourism areas within an easy drive from Red Wing. The beauty of Lake Pepin should be “seen by every poet and painter in the land” according to William Cullen Bryant.
Visit these local tourism sites for an overview of attractions and activities.