• STILLWATER, September 20, 2023 – The Stillwater Area Community Foundation (SACF) has awarded its annual Great Idea Grant of $10,000 to a program in collaboration with the Washington County Historical Society called Stillwater Area History Spots.
    The History Spots will be a series of QR codes on sidewalks, in shop windows, and on signposts particularly used by pedestrians. These codes will allow more stories and historical information to be shared via now ubiquitous mobile devices, and at a lower cost than past approaches of plaques and interpretive display panels, which were limited to fewer locations.
    The History Spots project builds on past grant recipient programs such as Lens Flare which showed current and past images on a mobile phone at select locations. The History Spots will place 72 QR code signs primarily in Stillwater but also Bayport, Lake Elmo, and Marine on St. Croix. An example is a visitor to the top of the Stillwater Stairs could scan a QR code and see the same view from 1866.
    The signs will be placed in May of 2024. QR code use data will provide information as to the most utilized access points and signs can be moved to accommodate public interest in subsequent years.
    The program’s goal is to increase resident and visitor connections to the Stillwater Area, its past, present, and future. For example, many are not aware that the parking lot adjacent to Valley Booksellers on Main Street was the site of Stillwater Lumber Mill, the 1843 origin of the city. Other QR codes may take visitors to information about the homes or workplaces of Black baseball legend Bud Fowler, Radio City Music Hall founder Roxy Rothafel, or circus patriarch August Ringling.
    The History Spots project is led by Matt Thueson who has 25 years experience with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media, and is a former Washington County Historical Society board member and chair of the Stillwater Heritage Preservation Commission. Thueson created StillwaterHistory.com, a historical mapping app launching this fall which will provide some content for The History Spots.

    Donald Empson, historian of local architecture and history, will contribute writing for place specific histories. Empson wrote many of the historical reports commissioned by the City of Stillwater in the 1990’s.
    Washington County Historical Society director Bret Peterson supports The History Spots project and is offering the Society’s support for linked resources. The WCHS is the project’s fiscal sponsor.

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