At Lora, you find yourself in a place of historic significance. In 1848, Stillwater housed the first territorial convention, beginning the establishment of Minnesota’s statehood. Located along the St. Croix river, Stillwater emerged as a prominent lumbering town, with the river granting passage to nearby pine lands. As railroads arrived in the early 1870s, Stillwater flourished.
Stillwater’s rich brewing tradition emerged amid this growth, to quench the thirst of hardworking fellers. In 1868, the Joseph Wolf Brewery was built into the bluffs where Lora now stands. It was connected to a series of caves used to store beer and source spring water, thus tapping into nature’s resources and harnessing natural refrigeration. The beer was advertised as a healing elixir: “an efficient antidote against fatigue from strenuous work, play or the weakening of old age.”
Following a fire, the brewery’s damaged building was rebuilt into a steam-powered brewery facility – the first of its kind in the state – along with a brewhouse and hotel. Under the name Empire Brewery, it became one of the largest breweries in the state. But the 1890’s ushered in a temperance movement. Liquor sales declined. The brewery kept its taps flowing by turning to one of America’s beloved pastimes – baseball. Forming one of the toughest teams in the state, the brewery’s baseball team garnered newspaper coverage whenever they stepped up to the plate.
In 1920, Prohibition went into effect, and the brewery closed. The company continued to produce bottled water, sodas and sparkling water until 1925.Over the years, lumber production slowed, Stillwater’s economy shifted to dairy farming and manufacturing, and the population declined. After World War II, the town’s population began to rise again and, by the 1970’s, Stillwater began to reinvent itself as a tourist destination.
In 2018, Lora emerged from the brewery’s original foundation. Here, one still feels the intrigue of Stillwater’s storied past. We’ve retained the original stone walls that were built into the cliff, as well as vaulted ceilings from ancient warehouses, and even cave entrances that lead to nowhere. A sense of adventure and lore remains, mysterious like the persistent call of a loon that stirs the night.