Kiosk Panel 12: The Bluff, Its Stone & Red Wing Infrastructure

Red Wing & Trenton Transit Company

Red Wing and Trenton Transit Company Business has always been transacted between Red Wing and entities in Pierce County, Wisconsin. The first bridge between Red Wing and the Town of Trenton (in Pierce County) was built in 1895. Before that, the Mississippi River had to be crossed by boat or James Day’s ferry service. In 1875 businessmen in Red Wing formed a thirty-year company, the Red Wing and Trenton Transit Company. They then tackled the problem of securing the right-of-way across Trenton Island and Day’s interests in the ferry.

Building the Bridge

In 1878 they received permission from the State of Wisconsin to transact business there and to build a bridge over “the east channel or slough of the Mississippi river in the town of Trenton County of Pierce and State of Wisconsin.”

Red Wing and Trenton Transit Co. Ferry Ticket 1886

Running the Ferry

James Day’s bid to run the ferry ($900 for the first year and $1,000 for the second year) was accepted in 1882.


Rates doubled for crossings made between the hours of 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. During the winters, if the ferries ran through a channel cut in the ice, summer rates applied.

End of the Business

By 1905, the business was located in City Hall and the city was responsible for its operations. Within two years the business ceased to exist.

The Toll Fees Set for 1886

The High Wagon Bridge

The May 1, 1895, edition of the Red Wing Daily Republican trumpeted new bridge as “A Crowning Triumph…A Magnificent Structure in Every Detail.”

Plans for the Bridge

For more than twenty years people had been discussing the possibility of such a bridge between Red Wing and the Town of Trenton (in Pierce County, Wisconsin). The ferry crossing season of 1892 was apparently a difficult one and agitations for a bridge heated up.

One of a number of ferries that operated across the Mississippi River at Red Wing before 1895 when the first high bridge was built

A Ferry That Operated Across the Mississippi River at Red Wing Before 1895 When the First High Bridg

Plans were discussed and presented and, at a special election in February, 1894, the vote was almost 5-1 in favor of a bridge. According to reminiscences, at least a dozen teams of mules pulled rock for the foundation of the bridge. Gust Lillyblad, Andrew Danielson, and John Johnson all provided stone for the bridge. Charles Betcher Lumber Company provided the lumber.

Bridge Dedication

A highlight of the bridge dedication was a man who dove off the bridge into the Mississippi River.

Toll Bridge

The bridge began as a toll bridge. View the table to see the rates.

The Toll Bridge Rates

Waterworks Building (Red Wing Marine Museum)

Constructed in 1883 to 1884, for the purpose of supplying healthy, clean water to local residents and a consistent water source for the fire department, this is the earliest public works building built by the city water department which still exists. It continuously supplied water for local citizens until 1962.

Waterworks Building - Red Wing Marine Museum

The Need for a Better Water City System

The need for a waterworks building became obvious after the Diamond and Red Wing Flour Mills burned in 1883. This devastated the local commerce and city leaders determined to address the need for a better water city system. Water was taken from the Mississippi River and run through two wells. The first well removed “large impurities” (fish, leaves) and the second well filtered the water again through a sponge barrier. The water then went through the water mains to the main reservoir on Sorin’s Bluff.

Marine Museum

After 1962, the building was used for storage until being leased in 2011. The building has new life as a marine museum.