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Finding Minnesota: St. James Hotel

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RED WING, Minn. (WCCO) — After a long holiday weekend, you may have had your fill of family by now. Perhaps it’s time to plan a little getaway where you can have a some peace and quiet while living in the lap of luxury.

This week in Finding Minnesota, we head to Red Wing to see what makes the historic St. James Hotel such a treasure.

It’s the kind of place that exceeds expectations.

“I think it is a must-see. They drive by and they know it’s something special,” said General Manager Michael McKay.

The St. James Hotel opened along the banks of the Mississippi River in Red Wing, back in 1875, after a group of local businessmen pooled their money together.

Nearly all of the 62 rooms are named after riverboats. And each one is furnished with antiques.

About 100 years after it first opened, the Red Wing Shoe Company bought the hotel and renovated it.

“They spent a couple of years completely remodeling and bringing it back to the grandeur it originally had when it opened,” McKay said.

One thing that has also remained the same here is the reputation for quality food.

In 1914, the wife of one of the owners used her cooking skills to bring fame to the restaurant at the hotel.

Clara Lillyblad’s food was so good, it literally stopped traffic.

“The story is when the restaurant was open, she had a light right there, the pilot drivers and people on the river, if the lights were on, they’d pull over and come in and eat,” he said.

Today, the Port restaurant on the lower level of the hotel draws that same kind of admiration, as does the Veranda which overlooks the river.

In the early years of the hotel, Victorian times, women wore those large hoop skirts and that is why the hallways at the St. James are so wide.

Back then, ladies did not walk around in public unescorted.

The hallways had to be wide enough to accomodate two of those big skirts.

There are two lobbys here — one where you check in, and a historic one.

“You will notice the high ceilings and that’s a trademark of the hotel. The ceiling heights decline as you get up to the higher floors,” said Scott Hanson, rooms division manager. “This floor has the highest heights. As far as the guest rooms are concerned, second floor had the highest heights.”

In one of the most popular guest rooms, the walls are completely covered in leather. One floor up, another unexpected treat — an English pub.

“It is the room where a lot of people come in to relax,” said Rafael Perez, food and beverage manager. “It is not a rowdy room. On Friday nights, we have entertainment. We are full every Friday night, every Saturday night. People come in to have a bite to eat, a glass of bourbon or whiskey.”

The hotel has a couple of event spaces for weddings and conferences, as well.

It’s located near the Red Wing Depot, where the Amtrak trains make stops.

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