Established 1875 | Our History
A Historic Hotel in Minnesota
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 timeless dining rooms, a 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 Depot and the steamboat docks, the historic 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.
Today, the St. James is owned by the Red Wing Shoe Company. Our historic Minnesota hotel continues to offer guests a blend of old-world service, luxurious amenities and culinary delights that it provided opening day over 140 years ago.
Milestone Events of Our Hotel
1875 – originally commissioned by 11 local business owners
1914 – purchased and operated by the Charles and Clara Lillyblad family
1977 – acquired, renovated and operated by Red Wing Shoe Company
2019 – Awarded Best Small Historic Hotel Award from Historic Hotels of America
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.
She ran the hotel with a heart of gold and an iron fist. It was once said 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 superb dining and lodging.