The Origins

In the early 1840s, before Minnesota became a state and shortly after the founding of the first settlements in the territory (Stillwater and Marine on St. Croix), John and Martin Mower moved to the St. Croix River Valley.  They sought to capitalize on the logging boom in the Midwest.  They built a small and prosperous village on the shores of the St. Croix River known as Arcola, centered on a lumber mill that still stands today.


By 1847 the Mower brothers completed construction of a grand Greek revival-style home at Arcola Mills, as well as a general store, a small boat-building operation, carpentry and blacksmith shops, a one-room schoolhouse, and home for the mill workers.  It was an entire village in and of itself. Regarded as the third oldest and largest timber frame house in Minnesota, the Mower house, as well as the original Arcola sawmill chimney, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Cutting over one million board feet per year, legend has it that the lumber cut at Arcola Mills built the homes, villages and cities along the Mississippi River as far away as St. Louis. The lumber boom lasted only until the early 1900s. The sawmill closed and the Mower family home and surrounding village fell into disrepair.

The Revival

In the mid-1930s, newlyweds Dr. Henry Van Meier and his wife Katharine of Stillwater, Minnesota stumbled upon the abandoned property while hunting ferns.  They knew they had to make it their own and purchased the Mower house and its surrounding 50+ acres of property on the St. Croix River.  It became their summer house until Dr. Van Meier’s death in 1979.


During those 50 years, the Van Meiers acquired nine cast-off buildings and installed these eclectic cottages around the property. Here, artists, writers, family, friends and students came to create, learn, reflect and have fun.


The mission of Arcola Mills Historic Foundation is to preserve and enhance Arcola Mills as an historic site and environmental asset, as a connecting place for renewal and celebration that encourages a spirit of stewardship throughout the St. Croix River Area. The grounds and mansion of Arcola Mills are under restoration and maintained through generous donations and the hard work of dedicated volunteers. 


The lumber-era Greek revival mansion, built in 1847, has been greatly restored to most of its original character with modern improvements included.  The mansion was originally constructed in 1847.  The original lumber mill remains situated along the riverfront, targeted for future restoration.


Email us at info@arcolamills.org​​


due to winning a MN DNR Legacy grant for habitat restoration, Arcola mills is closed this summer as habitat preservation work is underway. 

We look forward to your visit in 2024.

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