History Comes to Life as a New Mural at Candyland in Downtown Stillwater

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The new mural (days before it was finished) on the north side of Candyland in downtown Stillwater.

If you’ve been on the north end of Main Street this week, you may have noticed a new mural on the Candyland building in downtown Stillwater.

The mural — based off of a photograph taken of the nearly complete Lift Bridge in 1931 — was painted by local artist Randy Raduenz.

“Randy did an amazing job, as always,” Brandon Lamb, owner of Candyland said. “It looks great.”

When the Lambs first bought the building on North Main Street, they always saw the north block wall as an eye sore, Brandon said. The Lambs originally commissioned the artist who makes Candyland’s Peanuts characters to create a design, but the city wasn’t keen on the more colorful/cartoonish designs that were being presented.

One day Brandon was looking through a Stillwater book when he stumbled on a picture of the Lift Bridge with the old Pontoon Bridge beside it.

“I knew very little about the image and this time in Stillwater history,” Brandon said.

For this reason, Brandon said he was compelled to use the historic photo as the base of the mural’s design.

“I figured if I didn’t know too much about this history, a lot of other people were in the same boat,” Brandon said. “Sharing the history of our town is very important and needs to be continued.”

With a new idea for the mural, Brandon contacted Raduenz, gave him the photo and they kicked around a few different concepts.

“The city loved our final concept,” Brandon said, “and now a few months later we have another piece of amazing Stillwater culture.”

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Here’s the story behind the photograph used as the base of Stillwater’s newest mural, according to the Washington County Historical Society:

In 1931 the much-rebuilt wooden Stillwater-Houlton bridge was at last replaced. For more than 30 years the city fathers had been saying a new bridge was needed, but they discovered that talk doesn’t build bridges.

The Minnesota Highway Department took over the old pontoon swing bridge in 1925; by 1928 the old wooden span had so far deteriorated that it had to be closed to heavy traffic. Problems arose over who would pay for a new bridge and where it should be located. At last, State Senator George H. Sullivan of Stillwater solved the legal and financial problems by taking the project to the interstate level. Mostly due to his efforts, work on the new bridge began in 1930.

The new bridge was designed to be a vertical lift bridge. Swing spans like the old bridge were considered outdated because they took up too much room. In addition to a counterweighted, tower-and-cable lift span, the new bridge included nine steel trusses, in all spanning just over 1,000 feet. The remaining 800-foot width of the river was covered by an earthen causeway built out on the Wisconsin side. This had the effect of reducing the grade as well as the costs.

The bridge opened on July 1, 1931. The first person to cross the bridge was young Topper Jackson of Stillwater, who bicycled across as soon as the barriers were taken down at 10:05 a.m. The total cost of the project was $460,000, shared equally by the state of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

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