Arcola Mills Historic Foundation


Historic Lumberman’s Mansion. Photo:

The Arcola Mills Historic Foundation site was entered into the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA’s) Minnesota Target Brownfield Assessment Program (MNTBAP) in 2005, at the request of the Arcola Mills Historic Foundation. The location is a former historic sawmill village. MPCA staff in the MNTBAP contracted with Delta Environmental Consultants, Inc. to conduct a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment for the property.


The subject property encompasses 54.5 acres of wooded land located along the St. Croix River. Fourteen structures are located on the site; two of the structures have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The property was first developed in the 1840s as a sawmill village by John and Martin Mower. The village included two sawmills, an over 6,000 square foot lumberman’s home (reported to be the third oldest timber frame house in Minnesota), a general store, carpentry shop, blacksmith, a one-room schoolhouse, boat works, and homes for half a dozen mill workers. In the 1930s, the property was purchased for use as a summer home and retreat. In the 1990s, the Arcola Mills Historic Foundation was formed, and the subject property is being restored.

Environmental concerns

  • Several above-ground storage tanks were found on the property.
  • Peeling paint from the old buildings could potentially contain lead.
  • Old buried waste generated from the saw mill has the potential to produce methane.
  • Former blacksmith operations could have contributed metal and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbon impacts to the soil and possibly the groundwater.
  • Debris is scattered in spots on the property, some of which might contain asbestos.

Redevelopment of the site

  • The main house has been restored and is used for a retreat facility for business and community groups interested in the arts, environment, history and as a healing retreat.
  • Additional site buildings are in the process of being restored using information provided in the Phase I report.
  • There has been establishment of a perpetual Metro Greenways Conservation easement for 47 of the 55 acres Environmental benefits.
  • Arcola Mills is one of the largest undeveloped parcels of land on the shoreline of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.
  • Streams and ponds are being restored to reduce potential erosion and runoff into the St. Croix River. The restoration aids in habitat protection for bald eagles which are known to nest in the bluffs and islands of the Arcola area, a heron rookery that was formed in the area, and Arcola streams that are home to native brook trout.
  • The St. Croix River watershed is a premier mussel habitat of the Upper Mississippi River watershed with two federal endangered mussels, three federal special interest mussel species and twelve mussels that are listed on Minnesota’s list of endangered species.

Project partners

  • MPCA Voluntary Investigation and Cleanup staff Cathy O’Dell and Larry Quandt
  • Region V EPA provided 128(a) Assessment Funds to the MPCA
  • Arcola Mills Historic Foundation
  • Metro Greenways
  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources