Stockholm is, no surprise, a town that has deep Swedish roots. It is also home to a surprisingly large colony of artists, who have given the village new life.
For tourism info, check the village website or call Stockholm General (715.442.9077).
In 1849, Erik Peterson and two brothers left Karlskoga, Sweden to prospect gold in California. Erik changed his mind in Chicago. His brothers continued on to California, while he went south for a few months, then back north to work in a logging camp along the St. Croix River. Along the way, he passed the location of the future village site, liked it, and filed a claim in 1851. He sent a letter to another brother in Sweden, Jakob, encouraging him to come. When he didn’t get a reply, he went back to Sweden only to find that Jakob had already left. Jakob had a tough voyage to America. His ship captain died en route, leaving his green son in charge; the ship rammed into an iceberg before turning south to warmer waters. Jakob’s group wintered in Moline (Illinois) in 1853, where one of his daughters died. He finally reached Stockholm in the spring of 1854.
While in Sweden, Erik got married and organized a party of 200 to go to America with him. Erik was quite a cad, though. He booked the cheapest, least comfortable passage from Liverpool to Quebec for his fellow Swedes, keeping the extra cash as profit. After they reached North America, they traveled to Chicago by train but Erik booked them in cattle cars where a cholera epidemic killed nearly one-third of the group, including his own mother. He tried to claim he didn’t know her, so he wouldn’t have to pay for her funeral. When he finally arrived in Stockholm, only 30 of the original group were with him (some opted to stay in Moline rather than continue upriver).
With that inauspicious beginning, the proprietors platted the village in 1856 and called it Stockholm on Lake Pepin. Perhaps because of bad karma, the village grew very slowly, centered primarily on the farm sector. In the 1870s, Paul Sandquist made a living selling lemon beer, and John Gunderson did the same by brewing and bottling spruce beer. By the time the village incorporated in 1903, it had 300 residents but would soon enter a period of steady population loss until reaching bottom in the 1940s with fewer than 100.
On July 18, 1938, Stockholm was visited by Swedish royalty: Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf, Crown Princess Louise, and Prince Bertil. They were touring the US to mark the 300th anniversary of the founding of the first Swedish settlement in the US (at Delaware). The town was notified on a Friday that the royals would be stopping on the following Monday, so they spent the weekend busily prettying-up the town and the rail station. Nearly 700 people turned out for the 15-minute whistle-stop speeches. Prince Gustaf told a Swedish newspaper that the stop in Stockholm on Lake Pepin was one of the top three highlights of his months-long tour of the US.
The village’s fortunes began to turn around when artists began moving to town in the 1970s. Most made Stockholm their year-round home and opened shops and galleries that continue to attract visitors from throughout the region.
Stockholm Village Park (Spring St.) is a quaint, peaceful lakeside park, perfect for a picnic lunch. There is also an old pier that extends far into the lake, offering panoramic views.
The village’s history is preserved at the Stockholm Museum (Spring St.; open daily from May–Oct, otherwise by appt through A Sense of Place, the store next door). Housed in the former post office, the museum has an informative timeline of the town’s history, some old photos, and a bunch of old records for genealogy enthusiasts.
Stockholm is included in these products:
Culture & Arts
The WideSpot Performing Arts Center (Stockholm Opera House, N2030 Spring St.; 715.307.8941) is in the old opera house and hosts regular concerts and performing arts; check the schedule online.
The Palate (W12102 State Highway 35; 715.442.6400) hosts a monthly cooking class at the end of which you get to eat the class assignment.
Linda Harding also offers cooking classes through The Kitchen Sage (612.964.9050); lessons emphasize using seasonal, sustainable ingredients.
Entertainment and Events
The Stockholm Art Fair (mid-July) is an art fair the way an art fair oughta be, which is probably why it is insanely popular. The juried fair includes a variety of media like zipper paintings, pottery, fiber, photography, painting, wood carving, and jewelry, but, based on my entirely unscientific method, the single most popular item was a giant bag of kettle popcorn. Even the food is better than your average fair food fare: salmon ceviche, wild rice bratwurst, and portabella burgers, but, lest you forget you are in Wisconsin, you can also get deep-fried cheese curds. In between shopping and eating, you can listen to live music or wander along the shore of Lake Pepin.
TIP: Parking in Stockholm for the Art Fair is an exercise in patience, and it is good exercise. My advice: bring comfortable shoes and be prepared to walk a few blocks. It’s good for you, anyway. Parking is available in the park, but it will probably take a while to get in and out. You should be able to find a spot along Highway 35, especially if you don’t mind a bit of a stroll.
This being home to many artists, it is only right that they offer more than one art-centered festival. In fact, the Fresh Art Tour, held in May and again in October, attract crowds directly to artists’ studios in the region.
Sports and Recreation
The famed cliff from which Wenonah is reputed to have jumped rather than marry a man she didn’t love is preserved as Maiden Rock Bluff State Natural Area (Long Lane; 715.235.8850). A short 1½ mile round trip hike passes through several areas of goat prairie, each with great views, so don’t stop after you reach the first one. From Stockholm, go north on County J for 0.7 miles to County E and turn left (northwest); after 0.7 miles, turn left on Long Lane and follow it until it ends at a parking lot.
If you want to swim, there is a beach in Stockholm Village Park (Spring St.).
My, oh my, Stockholm has a surprising number of shopping options for a town of fewer than 100 people, and, even better, all are interesting boutique shops. Take your time and explore the village’s shops at a leisurely pace. Keep in mind that many stores may close or have reduced hours from November until spring.
Eating and Drinking
A short drive from the village, the Maiden Rock Winery and Cidery (W12266 King Lane; 715.448.3502) grows several types of apples, which are available in the retail store in late summer. What really sets them apart, though, are the ciders they create from their own apples. This is not the sweet, cloudy non-alcoholic cider that you see in every store in the fall, but a refined, hard cider that packs a bit of a punch. There is no charge to sample the ciders, but I bet you will have a hard time walking out empty-handed (open from April–Dec).
Bogus Creek Café and Bakery (N2049 Spring St.; 715.442.5017; café open from Apr–Dec; WiFi) is a pleasant courtyard café serving tasty, fresh food using seasonal ingredients. This is not a budget option, however; cash only.
The Stockholm Pie Company (N2030 Spring St.; 715.442.5505) makes pie like you wish your grandma made; on any given day they should have eight or more types of pie, including one or two savory pies. If you’d rather have a cinnamon roll, they make those, too.
A to Z Produce (N2956 Anker Lane) is another rural gourmet pizza joint that uses ingredients produced or grown on their farm. They only serve on Tuesday evenings from mid-February to Thanksgiving; bring your favorite picnicking supplies, a snack, something to drink and be prepared to wait a couple of hours for your pizza and to pack out what you brought with you.
Stockholm has several excellent boutique lodging options, but the only budget option is the campground.
Stockholm Village Park (Spring St.) is lovely place to camp; the sites are shaded and virtually all have views of Lake Pepin; no showers.
Inspired by Scandinavian country home décor Lilla Hus (N2089 Spring St.; 612.275.1227; WiFi) embellishes a rustic cabin with elegant touches like chandeliers; the cottage is light and airy and has one bedroom, two bathrooms, a walk-out basement with patio, and a spiral staircase to the basement.
The Great River Bed & Breakfast (State Highway 35; 800.657.4756; open mid-March–Dec.) is in the original 1870s-era home of Jakob Peterson, one of the founders of the village. Relax in the screened porch or next to the fireplace or take a hike on the extensive grounds. The house has a lively décor accented with original art and stylish furniture from different periods (no credit cards).
Tansy Hus (W12066 Second St.; 626.523.8910; WiFi) is a cute century-old home that has a Victorian farmhouse feel. The four-bedroom house has lovely oak floors, a modern kitchen, two bathrooms and room to sprawl; it is a good place for a large group or a family.
A Cottage in Stockholm (W12224 Highway 35; 715.448.2048) is a warm, elegant place that feels like a home and not a rental property. The house has a modern kitchen, full bathroom, a deck, and good views of Lake Pepin; it can comfortably sleep four.
Moderate and up
The Spring Street Inn (N2037 Spring St.; 651.528.9616; WiFi) is one of the older buildings in town. The cozy apartment has a rustic feel, and is furnished with Amish furniture; it has a kitchenette, full bath, and a sitting room; no credit cards.
Located a few miles from the village, Maidenwood (N447 244th St.; 715.448.4001; WiFi; open May–Oct.) is set in a peaceful area far from the intrusions of modern life. All three rooms have a private bath and plenty of country comfort; the treehouse room is above the garage and has copious natural light; the other two rooms have amenities like a steam shower or Jacuzzi tub. If you forgot to bring something to read, the house is filled with 8000 books, so, odds are pretty good you’ll find something to your liking.
The River Road Inn (W12360 State Highway 35; 612.306.2100; WiFi) is a distinctive multi-gabled building, clearly visible from the other side of Lake Pepin. The two luxury suites each have an elegant spa shower, outdoor deck, wet bar, bed with pillow tops, and a great view of Lake Pepin. The carriage house room is rich in natural light, with a fireplace, deck, satellite TV, and a shower you won’t want to leave.
Post Office: W12117 Highway 35; 715.442.5169.
Normally this is about public transportation, but Stockholm, ever eager to please visitors, has two ways to ensure your comfort as you explore the village. The Blue Bikes of Stockholm provide an easy way to get around town, if walking a few blocks is too much for you; pick one up and drop it off at designated locations, like the corner of Spring and State Highway 35. On a rainy day, the Blue Umbrellas of Stockholm will keep you dry as you explore the shops; look for them in front of local businesses and, when you are done, leave them in front of the last place you visited.
Heading upriver? Check out Maiden Rock.
Heading downriver? Check out Pepin.
© Dean Klinkenberg, 2011