Stillwater Territorial Prison


The Stillwater prison was built in 1851 as part of the territorial plan.  The site was known as “Battle Hollow” because of a Native American skirmish in 1839.  Twenty-one members of the Ojibway tribe were killed by members of the Dakotah tribe.   The prison and the warden’s house were completed in 1853 and other additions were made to the construction site in later years.  Jacob Fisher, a millwright, designed the buildings  and also staked claims where Stillwater presently stands. The warden’s house is the only building left which was part of the original prison plan.  The structures were made of locally quarried limestone and were framed with lumber. The prison was used from 1853 until 1914 when the prisoners were transferred to the new prison, located to the south of Stillwater.  Many of the buildings in the old prison were demolished in 1936, while some were still used for various businesses until 2002, when a fire demolished the last buildings. 

There still are ruins in the central grounds of the present Terra Springs Condominiums that now occupies the Battle Hollow site.  Terra Springs was built in 2006 and has 174 condominium units.  

The prison at Stillwater enjoyed an interesting combination of inmate labor with privately contracted business ventures.  The products made included shingles, blinds, windows, farm machinery, steam tractors, shoes and twine.  There were many employees of these same firms that worked with inmates.  Some of the buildings inside the prison walls were used for manufacturing and many buildings outside the walls used convict labor. 




Dunn, J. T. (1960). The Minnesota State Prison During the Stillwater Era 1853-1914. Minnesota History.



Roberts, N. A., & Fried, J. A. (1985). Historical Reconstruction of the Riverfront, Stillwater, Washington County, Minnesota (DACW37-84-M-1459). Stillwater, MN: US Army Corps of Engineers.


Wikipedia; Stillwater Territorial Prison


Photo Credit:


Stillwater Public Library, John Runk Collection

Terra Springs Photo and Morphed photo, R. Molenda