Stillwater’s fabled Main Street Stairs will close to public use for as long as eight weeks for needed repairs, Mayor Ted Kozlowski said Wednesday.
The most popular of the city’s five outdoor stairways, the Main Street Stairs begin at the south end of downtown and arrive, 157 steps later, at the top of the bluff at Broadway Avenue. The view of downtown Stillwater and the St. Croix River from that spot is possibly the most-photographed in the city.
“Everybody realizes how important those stairs are to the community. They’re such an asset to the town,” the mayor said.
Kozlowski said the concrete staircase will be reconstructed from street level to the second landing of the stairway, “not quite half of our stairs but more than a third.”
Work also will be done to an adjoining wall where a boutique hotel is being built in the historic Joseph Wolf brewery, he said.
The project will cost about $160,000, funded through a tax-increment financing arrangement with the hotel developer, he said. The hotel is expected to be done in March.
Water running off the stairs over many decades has weakened their foundation and the wall, Kozlowski said. Once new stairs are poured, the city hopes to reattach a metal handrail that’s been there for so long it appears in early photographs, he said.
A Facebook page describes the Main Street Stairs, which are steep and not for the faint of heart, as “a community treasure, loved by many, climbed by some, and feared by all.”
According to the Washington County Historical Society, the first Main Street stairway was built in 1875 to help residents reach downtown businesses from neighborhoods on the bluff. An early photo shows wooden stairs, rebuilt over the years with concrete.
The Stillwater Lumberman newspaper reported that year: “The new ones are to be located about twenty feet from the brewery, making it much more pleasant for those who have occasion to travel up and down them.”