Photography by Spacecrafting

A twisting road winds through hundreds of acres of rolling hills that give way to small ponds. Trumpeter swans, sandhill cranes, white-tailed deer, turkeys and hawks appear, almost as if on cue. Oaks with their gnarled branches and wise trunks stand stately and omniscient, bearing witness to the development of this land across recorded history. It’s a true slice of Midwestern Americana, the kind of imagery that comes to mind when you read Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Just a few miles outside picturesque Stillwater in pastoral Grant Township, something is afoot. This idyllic rural scene is the site of a unique, architecturally driven community. Carefully developed by David Washburn, Bob Appert and Dan Larson, it is appropriately named White Oaks Savanna. These savannas, the fleeting transition between forest and prairie, are some of the most quickly disappearing ecosystems on the planet, and this community aims to protect and preserve them — all while inviting people to live in kinship with the land, as it was meant to be.

Nearly 30 five- to seven-acre custom luxury properties are available for those looking to blend country living with easy access to not only the Twin Cities but also the charming river towns along Minnesota’s border. Acclaimed firms Peterssen/Keller Architecture and Rehkamp Larson Architects will design the blueprints to work in concert with clients’ lifestyles and the landscape, and Hagstrom Builder, Elevation Homes and Redstone Architectural Builders will bring those plans to life.

Bales of hay indicate where each residence will take shape, but you can only really spot them if you look closely, as each space has been designed so as not to be too obtrusive, in true Midwestern ethos. And yet, each home will still enjoy sweeping views and wide open spaces among the beneficent land that has quite literally fed and nurtured this community for centuries. On the northeast edge of the property, a quaint barn stands its ground and awaits a light renovation, the shakes on its roof holding steady after years of sun, rain, snow, ice and melt.

And yet, as back-to-the-land as the savanna feels, the buzz of nearby Stillwater is palpable. In a happenstance that seems like the universe truly conspiring for good, the riverside town is enjoying its own renaissance. New luxe boutique hotels, charming brick-and-mortar shops, and the relocating and reopening of the bridge all mean that a night out or a weekend away is just a few miles down the road. To the west, meanwhile, stand some of the giants of Minnesota’s economic engine: 3M and other businesses that helped shape Minneapolis and St. Paul.

But then back to the land it is, with those oaks standing tall, a reminder of Grant’s past and a testament to fortitude and stewardship over sacred land. Beautifully designed by nature and impeccably protected by experts, White Oaks Savanna is creating a unique legacy by preserving that rare slice of land between forest and prairie, country and city, history and future. 

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.