The Washington County Historical Society Experience:
The Warden’s House
The Washington County Historical Society is an organization based in Stillwater and over the years has acquired a number of artifacts pertaining to the history in Washington County.
One such “artifact” is the Warden’s house in downtown Stillwater. Upon arriving for my VIP tour of the house, I noticed a few things: that the walls were 2 feet thick, as opposed to our <12 inches nowadays, and the fact that the house was rather big for a house that was made about 200 years ago. I inquired as to why these things were and learned that the walls were thick due to the need for insulation, and this was the best way, and the house had actually been added on to, in addition to being one of the best houses of its time upon its creation.
We were given the full tour of the house; four downstairs rooms and four upstairs bedrooms. The first two rooms on the ground floor were play and family rooms, containing various knick knacks like the “stereo-vision” and photo-slider that the kids might be found playing with. The society also obtained an authentic music box which played “Whistling Willie” when one wound it up. The kitchen came next, with every form of toaster up until the modern slotted toasters we see today, which was invented across the street from the Warden’s house, the first of its kind to toast both sides of the bread simultaneously!
Shortly after that, the upstairs tour began, where we learned about the history of the inhabitants of the Warden’s House. It had many good inhabitants, however, it began with less than a bang, as the starting wardens were appointed political hacks. One of them just gave up on keeping the criminals locked up and opened the doors for them to just escape!
There was a servant room (there were never legal slaves in Minnesota, as I was reminded) down the hall from the master bedroom, which contained mostly logging equipment, to demonstrate the huge influence of logging in the early development of Stillwater. I was oddly surprised when I learned also that the highest paid employee of the lumberjack process was the cook (and then his “cookie”).
Overall, I found the experience enlightening as to the local history of my hometown of Stillwater, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that some things that we still use today were invented not far from where I write this paper. I was also very much intrigued by the fact that the people of the time used real human hair for making elaborate wreaths to hang in their houses, and I would wonder where they found the free time to do all of the arts and crafts… All in all, a memorable experience, and I would do it again.