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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Washington County: ‘Conference Cottage’ in St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park to be demolished

Croix Bluffs Regional Park in southern Washington County will be demolished next year, county officials decided Tuesday.

The cottage, originally built in the 1950s as a summer home for famed Minnesota architect Thomas Ellerbe, has fallen into disrepair and has been closed to the public over the years.

County board members on Tuesday instructed employees to demolish the building and restore the land to its natural state.

“It was originally condemned for being unsafe,” said Commissioner Wayne Johnson, who represents the area. “There are cracks in the foundation, and there’s mold.”

He said the building, located on top of the St. Croix River, is covered with trees and is difficult to find. “It’s very well hidden,” he said. “You pretty much have to know where it is.”

four options

The county board discussed four possible options for the site: spending $736,000 to convert it into a group retreat cabin, spending $637,800 to build a camper cabin on site, building a $288,000 overlook deck on the location, or completing it. Kind of delete, Johnson said.

The view from the deck of the “Conference Cottage” at St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park. (Courtesy of Washington County Parks)

According to a report from TKDA consultants, there is a $118,300 price tag to remove the building and restore the site with native oak woodland species.

Because the area is so elevated, the river is only visible during the winter months, Johnson said, and the county is limited in its ability to trim and manicure vegetation under St. Croix Riverway regulations.

“You’ll never have a view of the St. Croix River, and the main feature is the river,” he said. “If we could do that, it would have been a different discussion.”

Parks manager Sandy Breuer said: “We are a natural resource-based park system, and the board supported it with that direction in mind to return it to its natural state.”


According to research by TKDA Consultants, Ellerbe and his family used the home until his retirement in 1966, when it came under the control of his architecture firm. The architecture firm used it for corporate events and retreats until the late 1980s. It eventually came under the ownership of Control Data, now Ceridian, and it continued to be used as a corporate convention center.

Breuer said the building is not considered historic due to significant renovations carried out by the previous owner and would not qualify for the National Register of Historic Places.

Washington County acquired the 1,500-square-foot structure when it acquired 579 acres of land for regional park development in 1997. The conference cottage was available for rental use as a meeting and retreat space until 2015.

In 2015, a major crack was discovered in the foundation, and the building, which did not have handicap-accessible toilets, was closed for public use.

The TKDA advisory report states that the vacant building is physically isolated from the rest of the park and “can be an attraction for vandalism and exploration without operational oversight. Rotten wood on deck for those looking around the building.” can be dangerous.”

World Nation News Desk
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