Pilot Knob, a sacred indigenous burial ground and gathering place referenced in early explorers' and settlers' writings, was listed March 14 on the National Register of Historic Places as a site worthy of preservation, according to a Pilot Knob Preservation Association news release. The site is called "Oheyawahi" in Dakota, meaning a "sacred place much visited; the place where people go for burials."

The 112-acre site comprises both public and private land in Mendota Heights. Within that area is Historic Pilot Knob, a 25-acre natural area owned by the city of Mendota Heights with views of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers, Fort Snelling and the Minneapolis and St. Paul skylines.

Oheyawahi/Pilot Knob was an important landmark in Minnesota's early history. The rock formation atop the hill was removed in 1926 but had served as an important marker for travelers and steamboat pilots, and was once proposed as the territory's capital. It's thought to be a burial site for Native Americans who died at Pike Island's fenced internment camp in 1862-63. For information, visit pilotknobpreservation.org.


West St. Paul

City approves metro area's first Dunkin' Donuts/Baskin-Robbins location

At its March 27 meeting, West St. Paul approved building the metro area's first combination Dunkin' Donuts/Baskin-Robbins store at 1214 and 1224 Robert St., which will be outfitted with a drive-through lane and outdoor seating.

Saman Holdings will demolish existing Ace Hardware and JT's Hamburger buildings on the two lots to create a new 1,990-square-foot building.

Erin Adler


City to welcome 104 single-family homes

The Shakopee City Council granted preliminary approval for a new housing development that would utilize 80 acres of land on the city's east side.

Lennar Homes plans to build 104 single-family homes on a parcel north of Scott County Hwy. 16 between Pike Lake Road and the Riverside Bluffs development. Riverside Bluffs boasts 38 acres of open space and wetland areas. The city would like to develop trails and boardwalks that connect to nearby parks.

The project, dubbed Ridge Creek, would construct housing in the mid-to-upper $300,000 range. The development may also feature NextGen homes, which provide an additional suite for family members and are often suited for elderly parents.

For more information, visit lennar.com.

Liz Sawyer


Historic Ess House demolished

Bulldozers razed one of the city's oldest homes last week, two years after a fire ripped through the historic structure tied to Chaska's industrial past.

Known as the Ess House, the 1886 home dates back to Chaska's days as a brickmaking boom town fueled by bountiful subterranean clay deposits. Chaska bricks were in high demand at the time. They were used in Twin Cities structures like the Minnesota Capitol and the Minneapolis sewer system.

Joseph Ess took advantage of the thriving industry by opening a foundry on Walnut Street that fashioned brickmaking equipment. He built a new home for his family across the street, the Ess House.

At the time, it sat on the city's main thoroughfare, though it lacked running water except for a pump in the kitchen. Several Ess family generations lived in the home until about a decade ago, when it was turned into apartments.

A fire originating from a heat lamp later caused $500,000 worth of damage. The city bought the property for $1 with the intention of repairing and selling it but could not afford the cost of renovations.

After the city was twice denied state funding for the project, Chaska's Heritage Preservation Commission voted in December to knock it down.

Two other 19th-century buildings on the same block — part of a historic district — were demolished in 2015, including another Ess family house. City officials said both of those houses were dilapidated and "beyond repair."

Liz Sawyer