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The City of Stillwater was recently awarded a $3,085 grant from the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) to purchase 34 rolls of microfilmed property assessment and tax records from the society’s Copy Services. The rolls will be transported to the Stillwater Public Library, where they will be viewable to the public within its St. Croix Collection.

The grant application was written by Matt Thueson, a local historian who is also a member of the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission. Thueson discovered that certain Stillwater property assessment and tax records were available at MNHS in St. Paul, but not in Stillwater.

“These records will be a good resource for people in the community, so it was nice to hear that the grant panel agreed with that.”

In 1993, at the start of Stillwater’s historic planning process, the Rivertown Restoration Group purchased a complete set of pre-1900 assessment rolls and tax list microfilms that were available and donated them to the St. Croix Collection. Seven years later, Washington County transferred a substantial number of additional assessment rolls to MNHS, where they were microfilmed but not made available in Stillwater.

Thueson explained that these newly acquired records can help fill in the gaps for people who are interested in figuring out the age of particular buildings. In the 19th century, people were also taxed for certain luxury items such as an expensive car, boat or piano, so these records can also provide some information on a particular person’s lifestyle.

“For people working on family history, it gives them the opportunity to find out more about their ancestors and how they lived,” Thueson said.

Now that grant money is secured for the last of the missing rolls, Stillwater will have a near-complete collection of tax and property assessment records dating back to the 19th century. The Stillwater Library’s extended hours and close proximity will make the records easier to access for residents and local historians, Thueson said.

Abbi Jo Wittman, city planner for Stillwater, worked through the grant submission process and will be ordering the rolls to transfer to the library. She said that these records will be useful when considering if a property is eligible to be listed on the local or national register of historic places, as well as identifying patterns of development in neighborhoods.

“I think the biggest benefit is that if you own a home in Stillwater and want to know more about it, you have that information right in your local library,” Wittman said.

Contact Kevin Ott at kevin.ott@ecm-inc.com

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