The Former Village of Lilydale, Minnesota

Lilydale Village HallAs I explored Lilydale Regional Park I learned there once was a community called Lilydale on the floodplain that’s now parkland. It’s completely gone now, and I’m not sure if it just moved up the bluff and became the modern Lilydale or if the two communities are completely separate. As you might imagine, the prospect of a ghost town or at least the faintest remnants of a town that as recently as 40 years still existed is intriguing.

Here’s what the Mississippi River Field Guide tells us:

The village of Lilydale was platted as Lilly Dale in 1886, in honor of the many Water Lillies that flourished in Pickerel Lake (Upham, Warren. p. 169). Between Water Street on the downstream end, and the hill to Highway 13 at the upstream end, was the village of Lillydale, bracketed by the river and Pickerel Lake. It was a village of several dozen homes on the flood plain, with a village hall in the former one-room schoolhouse (Hiebert, Gareth 1958. p. 68).

The origins of the name may be subject to debate as a brochure from the Friends of Lilydale Park says it’s either the lily pads or an old Mississippi River tow pilot song.

The one-room schoolhouse was known as Lilydale Village Hall and existed into the 1970s. But what became of it all? Apparently it was “bulldozed into an embankment that is still visible from the pot-holed roadway nearby,” according to a brief mention in an old article in the Riverview Times. I’m not sure where that location is exactly, though there are several likely spots and it probably wouldn’t take much exploring to figure it out.

We also get this detail from the Paddelford Packet boat company’s tour:

When Lilydale actually was a small community it was literally a town on wheels. Virtually all the residents lived on boats or in trailers and would move out for spring floods.

I realize that doesn’t answer a lot of questions, but it’s as much as I can find without doing some more involved research. This is kind of one of the things that frustrates me–the facts are certainly out there. Somebody knows what happened to Lilydale, and considering the recent history a lot of somebodies know. But the information just isn’t readily available.

16 thoughts on “The Former Village of Lilydale, Minnesota”

  1. Hi Kevin,
    Is there a church at Lilydale Park?

    Thanks for the other hints! I’m a 2010 treasure hunter.

    Thank you,
    Any information will help.


  2. I’m not sure about a church. There was the schoolhouse, though I don’t know if that was ever used as a church.

    Knowing the Medallion Clues, I doubt they’re referring to a literal church.

  3. Thanks for the article, Kevin;
    Use to live in Lilydale {lower}. I lived right behind the school house. Yes, the school was used as a church, went there for Sunday school summer of ’69 to meet other kids that I would be going to school with. do you know what happened to the school??

  4. I am the 5th generation to live in family names are Walters,Wolf,Stadt. My maternal grandmother was born 1862 in Germany. She settled in Lilydale around 1900. Other families who lived there was Waldenauer,Peron,Jack,Brown,Mudgett,and Harmon. Many a home before 1950 had white picket fences around them. The school/village hall my mother and her siblings attended.It burnt down.A few of my family members lived on Vine St.

  5. I am a member of the Jack family. My dad’s uncles, Carl and Frank and their wives and Frank’s daughter and my dad’s aunt Elizabeth Schultz lived in Lilydale. I visited there dozens of times, from 1950 until the big flood of 1965. I loved the place. Others have described the town as a wonderful, rather upscale place, or at least a middle class place. Maybe I missed those parts. I saw a shanty town , at least the part behind the village hall, where Carl Jack lived. (Young Carl became a plliceman, Old Carl was the justice of the peace. He was considered rich because he had a basement. Frank’s hobby was collecting old appliances and leaving them in his yard. His house lacked running water and they used an out house back of the house. I don’t recall seeing any trailers before the big flood in the 1950s. My dad’s Uncle Ray Schultz drove himself and his wife and his rabbits and his beer up to the bluffs, until the flood water receded. Those are my Lilydale memories.

  6. I also lived in Lily dale as a small child with my parents Martin (Butch) Stadt and Deanna Stadt and my brother Jamie . We lived at 1000 Vine St. My father raced cars on pickeral lake and attended the one room school house. We lived right past the yaught club and the next driveway was a bar on river than our house. I remember big willow trees and apple trees. My Grandparents also lived there, samuel and marie Stadt.

  7. I lived there as a child until we were bought out for the park. I have wonderful memories of living there. There was a mix of homes and trailers. My father was a Lilydale police officer for a few years but quit because a gang called the Rivet Rats threated his family and he said it was not worth the risk. He then ran a horse corral there. We had about 20 horses there. There was the Village Hall across the street and down a little bit where they had town hall meetings, Christmas parties and my favorite was the 4th of July potluck picnics. They even had a train on wheels come in one year to give everyone rides up and down Lilydale Road. On Sundays churches would come in and teach Sunday school, later some would bus us to their churches. In the summer the 4-H would come to the Village Hall and teach us art crafts and photography and we could pick our favorite to enter in the Dakota County Fair that they would bring us to.
    The flood of 1968 is the one I remember. Since my father was a police officer he still had to patrol the area and since it was flooded he patrolled in a boat and one day he took me along for one of the best days and memory of my life. Going in a boat over your neighborhood and only seeing treetops is an incredible way to learn about what floods do as a child. They moved all the trailers to the gravel pits in upper Lilydale where the million dollar homes are now, and then when the flood water receded and they brought the trailers back, the water was still high enough we could fish in our back yard with my mom. Dad taught us how to swim in pickeral lake at the small beach there and the he and mom would pull the leeches off after we were done swimming. I have wonderful memories but there were some awful memories of living there. I am so greatful to God they turned it into the beautiful Regional Park for everyone to enjoy.

  8. I lived in Lower Lilydale in the early 1960s. My father built a nice house…which we lost in the flood. Some of my relatives lived there also. It was a good time.

  9. My first in-laws, John and Anna Christian, lived in Lilydale. They had a house on Chemung St that was destroyed by the flood of 1965 and replaced with a mobile home. I stayed with them a while during 1968. I had a friend, Edna, who lived on the east end of Vine St. It was nice to feel like living in a rural town while also living in the city. I remember the parties at the town hall, walking to the marina for treats (no store down there), and them having to move the mobile homes up to the gravel pits on Hwy 13 when the flood came. In the 1980’s, the homes were gone, but one could still see the old streets. There was always two Lilydales. But, I don’t recall the rich folks up the hill calling their part of W. St Paul/Mendota Hghts Lilydale until the old town was gone. The park is beautiful, but I wish they could have found a way to save the old town hall.

  10. Message for Rene. I am with Dakota County Historical Society.
    I am researching an article about riverfront Lilydale. I would like to talk to you.
    Dave Byrne
    Mendota Heights

  11. My mother’s family lived in Lilydale. They went through two floods. My mothers family name was Wold and her parents were Bert and Ann. As far as I know they raised all nine kids there. My mom being the oldest was born in 1936. I have newspaper clippings my mother saved with pictures and news of the flooding. Getting very brittle and old now. I am glad there are people that still remember that town

  12. I taught at Humboldt for several years, and reviewed a lot about Lilydale, including interviews with people who lived there. Sorry but all the info is long gone.

    BUT, no one has mentioned Blueberry Falls. I have three times been there, including taking a few students there. It’s located under Highway 13. You need to take the tracks from the Yacht Club, then turn off on a rarely used trail. The last time I was there the houses above were trying to protect the area, which was gradually eroding. Home owners had put up barricades – didn’t work, washed away. Interesting place to visit.

  13. Around 2010, I had done some research on Lilydale as my grandfather was born and raised there by my great grandparents who lived there from 1905 to 1953. My dad spent many childhood summer days visiting his grandparent’s home at Lilydale and playing in the woods and along the river for hours on end with his cousins. I have started a facebook page called “Old Town of Lilydale, Minnesota” (link below) where I have and will continue to post information and pictures. Please contact me via email or through the facebook page if you would like me to post your stories or pictures on the facebook page.

  14. The city of Lilydale is contemplating a video on the history of the town. I am working with them on the sources. It would be great if anyone who has a history or could identify former residents would contact me. I was a trustee of the Dakota County Historical Society and I have written some articles about Lilydale.
    Dave Byrne. 651-260-9390.

  15. I grew up across the river On Butternut. Our back yard was the cliff. We used to watch the annual migration out of town for high water and the eventual return of everyone. My dad would just roll his eyes and chuckle at the folks who did this. Growing up on that bluff was amazing for a kid like me, we lived on the bank of the river all summer long. With 11 kids my mother would always marvel at how we all survived but we did!

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