Were it not for an offended Catholic priest Minnesota would today boast the most memorable of all state capital names...
The Dakota Indians considered the spot at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers the center of the world; European visitors recognized its strategic importance for trade and defense. On September 21, 1805 Zebulon Pike picked up 100,000 acres for $200 of trinkets, a keg of whiskey and the promise of a trading post. Colonel Josiah Snelling shaped the post into a military fort when he arrived in 1820 and Fort Snelling operated as through World War II and became the first National Historic Landmark in Minnesota in 1960.
No, the town that would become the capital was never named Snelling.
Just downstream from the fort a well-traveled and weary French Canadian fur trader named Pierre Parrant, then in his sixties and blind in one eye, staked a claim in 1832 to a patch of land at the entrance of a cave on the north bank of the Mississippi River. In addition to shelter the cave had the singular advantage of a spring which Parrant used to distill whiskey. “Pig’s Eye” Parrant found ready customers in the soldiers from Fort Snelling and rivermen plying the Mississippi and the community that grew up around Pig’s Eye’s tavern took the same handle. Local residents had no qualms about living in Pigs Eye but when Catholic priestLucien Galtier arrived he declared that in no way would his chapel bear the name of such a man of ill reputation. He named his chapel after his favorite saint and soon the settlement had jettisoned its first resident in favor of Paul the Apostle.
The Minnesota Territory was formalized in 1849 and St. Paul selected as its capital. As Minnesota prepared for statehood in 1858 a bill was passed to establish the capital in St. Peter on land owned by the Territorial Governor Willis A. Gorman. According to the story, legislator Joseph J. Rolette spirited the physical bill away and disappeared for a week, returning only after it was too late for the governor to sign the bill into law. Today, St. Paul is the second largest city in Minnesota with a population of a quarter of a million and St. Peter remains a small rural town with some 10,000 inhabitants.
While Minneapolis evolved as a place to make things, St. Paul’s identity was forged in finance and business. Our walking tour of downtown St. Paul will find landmarks erected a century ago by the city’s biggest players on the financial stage but we’ll start with a few figures who never paid much mind to matters like that, characters from America’s most popular comic strip...
Peanuts on Parade
Market Street and Saint Peter Street between 5th and 6th streets
Charles Monroe Schulz was born in Minneapolis in 1922 as the only child of Dena and Carl Schulz, a barber in St. Paul, which is where he grew up. After service in World War II Schulz returned to the Twin Cities and landed a job at the Art Instruction Schools in Minneapolis where he had once taken a correspondence cartoon course. In June of 1947 the Minneapolis Tribune published two comics by Schulz, titled Sparky’s Li’l Folks. The lead character of Charlie Brown was named for a co-worker at the Art Instruction Schools. Two weeks later Li’l Folks was picked up as a panel comic by the St. Paul Pioneer Press. More than 52 years and an estimated billion dollars later, Schulz published the final Peanuts strip on January 3, 2000. A few weeks later he died of colon cancer at the age of 77. In 2000 the City of St. Paul produced a tribute to its hometown cartoonist by producing fiberglass statues to be placed around town. That year was Snoopy and subsequent years featured Charlie Brown, Lucy and others. Most of the Peanuts on Parade figures were auctioned for charity after their display but some can still be seen. These bronze sculptures were designed to be child-friendly with no sharp corners and a special coating so they won’t get too hot in the sun.
EXIT LANDMARK PLAZA IN THE SOUTHWEST CORNER, THE CORNER THAT IS TO THE LEFT OF THE DIRECTION CHARLIE BROWN IS LOOKING. CROSS INTO THE PARK THAT IS DIAGONALLY ACROSS THE STREET.
bounded by 4th Street, 5th Street, Washington Street and Market Street
This space has been a public square since 1849 and carries the name of Henry Mower Rice, a fur trader turned politician who lobbied to establish the Minnesota Territory and was elected the state’s first senator as a Democrat. The centerpiece fountain is called The Source by Alonzo Hauser and was installed in 1965.
WALK TO THE NORTH SIDE OF THE PARK (LANDMARK PLAZA IS AHEAD OF YOU ON THE RIGHT). THE PICTURESQUE BUILDING IN FRONT OF YOU IS...
75-109 West 5th Street
So many of these grand civic buildings have been torn down through the years that it is almost jarring to still see one standing. And indeed, this federal court house and post office was one week away from its date with the wrecking ball in 1972 when a determined citizenry stayed its execution and brought it back to life as a cultural center. Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury Willoughby J. Edbrooke designed the building in 1892 but it was not completed until 1902 when Edbrooke was no longer around to see it. He blended a fanciful Chateauesque style with towers and turrets and gables onto a Romanesque form for this hall of justice where the fates of John Dillinger’s moll, Evelyn Frechette, and members of Ma Barker’s gang would one day be tried. The building is faced in smooth pink granite ashlar and outfitted with steeply pitched red tile roofs to slide St. Paul snows harmlessly to the ground.
TURN AND WALK THROUGH RICE PARK TO THE OPPOSITE END. ON YOUR LEFT IS...
The Saint Paul Hotel
300 Market Street
Although Lucius P. Ordway made his money in one of the most basic and conventional of businesses, plumbing supplies, he was a man who enjoyed the thrill of risk. So when the owners of a small struggling company that had started in 1902 on the shores of Lake Superior in Two Harbors, Minnesota to mine a mineral to make grinding wheels came to to him in distress, Ordway tossed them a financial lifeline for their unpromising venture. It would take years for the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company to find its way with commercial sandpaper and Ordway’s long-term investment became a guiding philosophy around the 3M Company known as “patient money.” Ordway was a great booster of St Paul (he would bring the 3M Company to town in 1910) and realized the young city could not truly thrive without a first-class hotel. So in 1908 he offered this prime chunk of real estate to the community if the Saint Paul Business League would raise $1 million to finance construction. That was enough money to bring in St. Paul architects Charles A. Reed and Allen H. Stem, best known for their participation in the design of New York’s Grand Central Terminal and their many projects for the Great Northern Railway and Northern Pacific Railway. They delivered an Italian Renaissance vision on a base of Indiana limestone that was so opulent the National Hotelmen’s Association proclaimed the Saint Paul the “Best in the West” within a month of its opening in 1910. A century later it is still the finest hotel in Minnesota, the only four-star recipient in the state from the influential Mobil Travel Guide. A parade of United States Presidents and celebrities, perhaps most notably Gene Autry who stayed here with his horse Champion, have the signed the guest register. In 1937 a young bandleader named Lawrence Welk got a regular Saturday night gig in the Grand Ballroom here, honing the talents that would land him on national television for 27 years beginning in 1955.
ON YOUR RIGHT IS...
Ordway Center for the Performing Arts
345 Washington Street
The Ordway Center features two theaters, one large and one intimate, and two rehearsal halls that host nearly 500 performances a year in “everything from opera to the Russian circus” as envisioned by arts patron Sally Ordway Irvine. Irvine donated $7.5 million of her own 3M money and cajoled an equal amount from her family to bankroll the lion’s share of this $46 million complex. Ordway Center opened on New Year’s Day 1985, created by architect Benjamin Thompson, a St. Paul architect best known for designing big city outdoor festival marketplaces around the country. Behind the expansive glass facade is the elegant two-story lobby.
AT THE SOUTH END OF RICE PARK, THE MONUMENTAL BUILDING FACING YOU IS...
St. Paul Central Library James J. Hill Reference Library
80--90 West 4th Street
James Jerome Hill was a Canadian who came to St. Paul in 1856 at the age of 18 and found work as a bookkeeper with a steamboat company. For the next twenty years he learned the shipping business inside and out, applying his motto for success: “work, hard work, intelligent work, and then more work.” Hill would establish a monopoly of the steamboat business in the Upper Midwest and then slide into railroading in the 1880s. He came to be known as the “Empire Builder” as his railroad expanded across the West. In time his Great Northern Railway would extend from St. Paul to Seattle - the first transcontinental railroad built without public money. Hill spread his money around St. Paul in schools and churches but his most significant largesse came for this library. New York architect Electus Litchfield, whose father was president of one of the Great Northern’s predecessor companies, drew up the plans for what has been called the “high point in Beaux Arts architecture in Minnesota.” Designed in the Italian Renaissance style, ground was broken in 1913 but Hill’s death delayed construction and the library, faced in pink Tennessee marble, was not opened to the public until 1921. It was always Hill’s intention that his Library collect only the latest and most authoritative reference books. He excluded only medicine, law, genealogy, and popular fiction. Every other subject – history, science, economics, art, music, geography – was to be represented. Through the years Hill’s library came to concentrate on business information resources and today is considered one of the most comprehensive business libraries in the country.
TURN RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE LIBRARY AND WALK TO THE CORNER OF WASHINGTON STREET AND 4TH TURN. TURN LEFT ON WASHINGTON STREET.
317 on Rice Park (Minnesota Club)
317 Washington Street at 4th Street
The private Minnesota Club was founded in 1869. Despite a membership roster that included Civil War general and first governor of Minnesota, Henry Sibley, and many of the town’s other business elite, the club folded after six years when the country sank into economic distress during the Panic of 1873. The club reconstituted in 1883, moving into a resplendent red brick and brownstone clubhouse outfitted on the inside by Cass Gilbert, the only architect in the club. In 1915 the Minnesota Club moved into these more spacious digs designed in a Renaissance Revival style by Clarence H. Johnston and rendered in brick with stone trim. There may have been ulterior motives in the selection of this site by the members of the Minnesota Club. The original clubhouse had been neighbors with an establishment operated by Nina Clifford, Minnesota’s most famous and resourceful madam. After she was widowed at the age of 35 she moved to St. Paul and operated a brothel from 1889 until 1929. Clifford moved her operation into a stylish red brick building on Washington Street and coincidentally the Minnesota Club, many of whose members were fans of Ms. Clifford, wound up on the same street. Despite rumors of an underground tunnel between the Clifford brothel and the club, no evidence was ever unearthed. In 1999 the Minnesota Club could no longer afford its clubhouse and sold it to the owners of the Minnesota Wild Hockey Team which converted the building to offices and an event center.
AT KELLOGG BOULEVARD CAREFULLY CROSS THE BUSY HIGHWAY TO THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER.
Science Museum of Minnesota
120 Kellogg Boulevard West
The St. Paul Institute of Science and Letters was formed in 1907 to present free lectures on hygiene and sanitation. It quickly transformed into a depository for donated scientific specimens and collections. The museum had several homes around town during the 20th century and when it moved here in 1999 it required the transport of 1.75 million artifacts. In addition to the Science Museum building’s 370,000 square feet there are ten acres of outside riverside exhibition space.
LOOK BACK ACROSS KELLOGG BOULEVARD TO YOUR LEFT TO SEE...
Saint Paul RiverCentre
175 West Kellogg Boulevard/Xcel Energy Center/The Legendary Roy Wilkins Auditorium
The Saint Paul RiverCentre opened its doors in May 1998 to complement the existing Roy Wilkins Auditorium and Saint Paul Civic Center, which was soon razed for the Xcel Energy Center, home of the Minnesota Wild hockey team. The Art Deco auditorium, built in 1932, was permitted to stand. Missouri-born Roy Wilkins graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in sociology in 1923 and stayed in town to work on St. Paul newspapers. A long career of activism for civil rights, which would result in a Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, would follow. Wilkins died in 1981 and the auditorium was renamed in his honor in 1985.
TURN TO YOUR RIGHT AND WALK EAST ON KELLOGG BOULEVARD (THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER IS ON YOUR RIGHT). STAY ON THE RIVER SIDE OF THE STREET.
300 Market Street at Kellogg Boulevard
Almost every town in America seems to have a 1930s Art Deco telephone building - St. Paul has one of the best. Clarence H. Johnston, Jr. used two contrasting native stones to create this nine-story commercial building for Tri-State Telephone in 1937. The base is composed on Morton Gneiss form southwestern Minnesota, one of the oldest rocks on the planet, that is called “rainbow gneiss” for its patterned grain. The main body is crafted with Kasota limestone, rich in dolomite and magnesium, that is featured prominently in the facade of the Target Field in Minneapolis. The same stone is used on the Qwest addition next door from 1968. The third Qwest tower came online in 1976 and bears little in common with its older and smaller siblings.
Women’s City Club
305 St. Peter Street at Kellogg Boulevard
This Art Moderne-style tugboat of a building has held this corner since 1931 when it was constructed for the St. Paul Women’s City Club. The club organized in 1921 with some 1,000 members seeking to provide a “center for organized work and for social and intellectual intercourse.” Magnus Jemne, a local architect by way of Norway, provided the design for the building that was clad in Kasota limestone above polished black granite. His artist wife Elsa, noted for her Western-themed murals, crafted the interior. The building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was sold to the Minnesota Museum of Art in 1972 and most recently housed an architectural firm.
City Hall and County Courthouse
15 Kellogg Boulevard West
John Augur Holabird and John Wellborn Root, Jr. were the sons of pioneering skyscraper builders who helped define the Chicago Style of architecture. Holabird and Root formed their own design partnership and created some of Chicago’s most impressive Art Deco buildings. For St. Paul’s City Hall in 1932 they emphasized the verticality of their Deco design with columns of windows linked by plain, flat black spandrels. The exterior is faced in smooth Indiana limestone into which relief sculptures have been carved at the entrances by Lee Lawrie, one of America’s foremost architectural sculptors.
BEAR RIGHT INTO KELLOGG MALL PARK AND OVER LOOK THE RIVER. THE ISLAND IN FRONT OF YOU IS...
Mississippi River at Wabasha Street
This view of the Mississippi River includes Raspberry Island in the foreground named, not surprisingly, for an abundance of wild raspberries that once grew there. Today it is landscaped with a performance pavilion and is home to the Minnesota Boat Club (MBC). Founded in 1870, the MBC is the state’s oldest athletic organization and its clubhouse from 1910 rests on the National Register of Historic Places. Raspberry Island is the last true island in the Mississippi River as it flows past St. Paul. Others have had their channels filled in over the years, including Harriet Island on the opposite bank which was developed into a city park at the turn of the 20th century.
DOWNSTREAM TO YOUR LEFT YOU CAN SEE...
Great Western Bridge
Mississippi River at Robert Street
The Chicago Great Western Railway made its way across the Mississippi River here in 1913 with this lift bridge, one of only three that still operate on the river today. The bridge lifts the tracks 72 feet above the water. When the adjacent Robert Street Bridge was constructed in 1926 it was a tricky undertaking since the rainbow arch bridge had to be designed to accommodate river traffic and rail traffic.
MAKE YOUR WAY BACK TO KELLOGG BOULEVARD AND TURN RIGHT, CONTINUING TO TRAVEL EAST. CROSS JACKSON STREET.
Eugene McCarthy U.S. Post Office
180 East Kellogg Boulevard
While they were in town working over City Hall, John Augur Holabird and John Wellborn Root, Jr., two of the nation’s leading cheerleaders for the Art Deco style, teamed with veteran St. Paul architect Lambert Bassindale, no stranger to big projects himself, to design the U.S. Post Office & Custom House. Completed in 1934, this is one of the tallest post offices ever constructed in the United States. The building came to be named for Eugene McCarthy, a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1949-1959 and a United States Senator from 1959-1971.
TURN LEFT ON SIBLEY STREET.
Saint Paul Union Depot
214 East 4th Street between Sibley and Wacouta streets
This is the second grand train station to serve St. Paul, constructed between 1917 and 1923 to replace an 1881 Victorian depot that had burned to the ground. Built by the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad (The Milwaukee Road), the terminal served nine different railroads and was quickly handling as many as 282 trains daily after it opened in the 1920s. Architect Charles Frost of Chicago gave the main headhouse a monumental Neoclassical appearance, standard for the day, but saved his best work for the arched roof concourse that was highlighted by splendid stained glass artwork. When Amtrak assumed all long-distance passenger train responsibilities in 1971 Saint Paul Union Depot was not in their plans. The building was spared demolition, however, and after 40 years of duty as office and living space, there are plans to return it to train service.
Sibley Square at Mears Park
333 Sibley Street at 4th Street
Richards Gordon sailed away from the Great Potato Famine in Ireland in the 1840s and was 25 years old when he reached St. Paul in 1854. He opened a hat business in town but soon shifted to making buffalo coats from the great herds that were being decimated on the Great Plains. Paul Ferguson came on board in 1871 and by the time Richards Gordon retired back East in 1898 Gordon & Ferguson was a nationally known furrier. In 1912 his son Charles set out to move the business into more modern accommodations and hired go-to Minnesota architect Charles Johnston for the job. Johnston would never work with a budget of $250,000 like the one he had here. He filled half a city block with this Chicago Style high-rise that housed salesrooms on the lower floors and the fur fabricators on the upper floors. It was in this building that fur coats worn by Admiral Richard E. Byrd on his first expedition to Antarctica in 1928 were sewn. And when Charles Lindbergh flew non-stop from the United States to Paris it was a fur-lined Gordon & Ferguson flight suit that kept him warm in the open cockpit. The company would move on in 1944 and this building has been used variously for offices and living space ever since.
350 Sibley Street at 4th Street
This heritage building from 1879 stands as one of the oldest in the city, a souvenir from an age when the Italianate style was the design fever sweeping America’s downtown commercial districts. Most of this brick building’s telltale Italianate details have been stripped off through the years but the inlaid windowhoods emblematic of the style can still be seen, especially along Sibley Street. The first occupant was the Noyes Brothers and Cutler Company wholesale house but for most of its life the Straus Knitting Mills operated here, until 1986.
TURN LEFT ON EAST 5TH STREET.
Merchants National Bank/Brooks Building
366-368 Jackson Street at northeast corner of 5th Street
Edward Payson Bassford was a Civil War veteran from Maine who came to St. Paul in 1966 when he was 29 and became one of the young town’s busiest architects. This building of native sandstone was one of his last projects, built in 1892. He adapted the Romanesque stylings of influential Boston architect Henry Hobson Richardson here with rough-hewn stone, prominent arches and groupings of small-scale columnettes.
Railroad and Bank Building
176-180 East Fifth Street at southeast corner of Jackson Street
There is no need to guess what this brawny block-gobbling structure was intended for when it was constructed in 1916. The railroad offices were for the two pillars of James J. Hill’s Great Northern Empire, the Great Northern Railway and the Northern Pacific Railroad, and the bank was Hill’s First National Bank. This was the first move for Hill since his headquarters was constructed in 1887 at 281 East Kellogg Boulevard. Architect Charles S. Frost was called up from Chicago to draw up the plans but he did not have to expend much creative energy - Hill liked his office buildings the way he ran his railroads: efficient without a lot of flash. Hill was intimately involved in the planning and construction of the Great Northern Office Building, as the 14-story building was called. He spent $14 million but didn’t spend much time here; he died in May of 1916 at the age of 77. With a million square feet of space this behemoth was the largest office building in the Twin Cities for almost sixty years. When looking at these beefy office buildings from the street it is best to remember they were not solid masses but constructed with interior light courts in the days before air conditioning or workers in the center of the ant hill would suffocate.
TURN LEFT ON JACKSON STREET. TURN RIGHT ON 4TH STREET.
141 East 4th Street
Cass Gilbert was born in Ohio, raised in St. Paul and trained in architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He returned to St. Paul to practice but always retained a hankering for the big stage of New York City. He would not make the move until he was almost 40 and he in fact became one of the first celebrity architects with his classically inspired Beaux Arts designs. His works would include such national treasures as the Woolworth Building in New York, the world’s tallest building when it was constructed in 1913, and the United States Supreme Court building. In Minnesota, Gilbert designed homes, churches and railroad stations in his early career. His design of the Minnesota State Capitol was one of three state capitols Gilbert would helm. The Endicott Building has been considered a masterwork since its completion in 1891. Crafted around the Pioneer Building next door, the L-shaped wrap provided Gilbert the chance to design two facades and two grand Italian Renaissance entrances for the building. The Endicott features pressed brick rising from a granite base with brownstone on the first floor. It was the most elegant office space in town and Gilbert moved his drawing boards in and remained until he shuttered his St. Paul office in 1910.
332-344 North Robert Street at northeast corner of 4th Street
When this heritage skyscraper was completed in 1889 as the home for Minnesota’s first newspaper, it boasted 12 stories and was the tallest building in America west of Chicago. Solon Spencer Beman, best known for his work as the architect of the Pullman railroad coach company, provided the Romanesque design and also sketched out four additional floors that were added in 1909. The building claims the country’s first glass elevator and, in 1927, the implementation of the first telephone answering service.
TURN RIGHT ON JACKSON STREET WHERE YOU CAN SEE THE OTHER ENTRANCE TO CASS GILBERT’S LANDMARK ENDICOTT BUILDING. NEXT DOOR IS...
Manhattan Building (Empire Building)
360 Robert Street North
Designed in 1889 by Clarence H. Johnston, this Renaissance Revival building, done when he was 30 years old, helped build the reputation that landed him the job as architect for the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota for many years beginning in the 1890s. Most of the first two dozen buildings on campus were his design. Johnston liked the result here well enough to move into the 7th Floor as soon as it was complete; his firm would remain until it closed in 1960. Johnston himself would practice for 54 years until his death in 1936, designing more buildings across a broader range of urban environments than any other figure in Minnesota’s history.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS TO 4TH STREET AND TURN RIGHT.
109-119 East 4th Street
Jarvis Hunt was a renowned Chicago architect who designed a wide range of buildings including monumental train stations, golf clubhouses, block-filling department stores and palatial suburban estates. Here he created St. Paul’s tallest building in 1916, with a Beaux Arts design executed in glazed white brick and terra cotta. Merchant’s Bank not only suffered the ignominy of having its assets absorbed by First National Bank during the Great Depression but its 228-foot tower was left standing and dwarfed by the headquarters its new overlord constructed next door.
First National Bank Building
330-340 Minnesota Street at northeast corner of 4th Street
This 417-foot Art Deco tower ruled the St. Paul skyline for 55 years after its construction in 1932. Today the building is most famous for its appendages. The red neon “!st” sign on the roof stands 50 feet high and is said to be visible from 75 miles at night. A bit closer to the ground, the skyway that connects the 17th floor with the adjacent 16-story Merchants Bank Building, which First National absorbed in 1931 and which was the St. Paul’s previous Sky King, is considered the highest in the city. The passageway that was constructed with the tower is not part of the official Skyway System through which one in five St. Paul workers move every day.
University Club of St. Paul Downtown Clubhouse
334-342 Cedar Street at northeast corner of 4th Street
From their St. Paul offices beginning in 1891, the architectural firm of Charles Reed and Allen Stem specialized in large commissions, especially for the railroads. In 1901 they won the largest of them all - Grand Central Station in New York City. Reed died of a heart attack in 1911 when he was only 53 and Stem continued to work until his retirement nine years later. This exuberant Beaux Arts building, erected for the St. Paul Athletic Club, came from that period. In addition to the gymnasiums and swimming pool the club’s interior boasted marble floors and walls, exquisite plaster ceilings and a grand ballroom. The building has since passed into the hands of the University Club of St. Paul which has restored it to its 1917 grandeur. The University Club was founded in 1912 in the fashion of similar city clubs started around the world modeled after the Oxford and Cambridge clubs in London.
318-330 Cedar Street at southeast corner of 4th Street
If you are not sure this 1930 office building that recently underwent an award-winning conversion to affordable living space is actually the Minnesota Building you can look for the terra cotta forms of the state seal at the entrance. The seal actually predates the state; when Minnesota joined the Union in 1858 the legislature adopted the territorial seal that had been proposed back in 1849 by Henry Sibley based on a picture by Seth Eastman. The seal features a settler plowing turf beside the Mississippi River near St. Anthony Falls. In the background, an Indian on horseback rides toward the setting sun. In 1983 the seal was redesigned to include Norway pines, the state tree, and the Indian was redirected to ride towards the farmer rather than away from him.
Pioneer Press Building
345 Cedar Street at northwest corner of 4th Street
This International Style office building began life in 1955 as the home of Minnesota Mutual Life Insurance Company. They departed in 1982 and the St. Paul Pioneer Press, which has its roots back in the Minnesota Pioneer started by James M. Goodhue as the state’s first daily newspaper in 1849, moved in. Back in 1868 the first editions of the Saint Paul Dispatch appeared and two papers would do battle until 1927 when they were purchased by Herman Ridder who had begun his career with German-language newspapers in the 1890s. The St. Paul papers continued to operate independently, the Pioneer Press in the morning and the Dispatch in the evening, until 1985 when they combined operations into a single publication known as the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Dispatch. After a few years “Dispatch” was indeed dispatched from the masthead.
The Lowry Hotel
339 Wabasha Street at northwest corner of 4th Street
The Lowry was once the kind of hotel where Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Bing Crosby and Charles Lindbergh would check in. Not that the front desk was very discriminating - this was the favored spot to bed down for Alvin “Creepy” Karpis of the Ma Barker crime gang in 1932-33 and the hostelry of choice for crime syndicate leader Bugsy Siegel when he was in St. Paul. The Neoclassical, U-shaped hotel of contrasting brick and limestone was developed by Samuel J. Stats of Kansas City in 1927 as the city’s largest guest house with 350 rooms. Located hard by City Hall the hotel, that would be owned by Horace Lowry, was a popular hang-out for politicians. For much of the past forty years it has trundled on as the Lowry Square Apartments for low-income residents.
City Hall Annex
25 West 4th Street
In a long career as Minnesota’s most prolific architect this is the tallest building Clarence H. Johnston ever built in St. Paul. Johnston began designing buildings in the Victorian Age and wound up late in his career in the era of Art Deco, which he applied to this composition in limestone in 1931 as part of the office complex for the Lowry Block.
350 Saint Peter Street at northeast corner of 4th Street
Thomas Lowry was an Illinois lawyer who came to the Twin Cities in 1867. His business led him into real estate and ultimately into railroads and streetcars, developing lines that would often be built on his land. This 12-story building was one of the last projects developed by Lowry; known as the Medical Arts Building, it housed the offices of doctors and dentists for decades. In recent years the examination rooms have been redeveloped as residential living space.
TURN RIGHT ON SAINT PETER STREET. TURN RIGHT ON 5TH STREET.
Germania Bank Building
6 West 5th Street at southeast corner of Wabasha Street
This richly decorated Romanesque-flavored eight-story building was constructed in 1889 for the Germania Bank. It stands more than a century later as an outstanding example of a sensitive historic restoration. Creaking into the 21st century, the brown Lake Superior sandstone facade was crumbling and original hand-carved ornamentation had weathered away. In a million-dollar facelift a source of the 1880s stone was found and blended into the original while craftsmen replicated matching replacement pieces.
TURN LEFT ON WABASHA STREET.
Northern States Power Building/Ecolab Global Communications Center
356-362 Wabasha Street at northeast corner of 5th Street
If this Art Deco-styled, truncated trapezoidal building appears to just be starting to rise it may be because when this project was dreamed up in 1930 it was projected as a 16-story tower.
Osborn Building/Ecolab Corporate Center370 Wabasha Street at northwest corner of 5th Street
This was the second tallest skyscraper and the purest expression of the International Style in the city when it was constructed in the 1960s. The lack of fussiness, absence of ornamentation, sleek stainless steel and polished black granite surfaces are all meant to suggest an aura of cleanliness as befits one of the world’s largest producers of sanitary products.
19-21 Seventh Street West at Wabasha Street
Moses Finkelstein had spent the better part of a quarter-century in the jewelry trade in St. Paul when Isaac Ruben, who owned a small movie house in Des Moines, Iowa, approached him with the idea of building a theater in St. Paul to show these new moving pictures that seemed to be catching on with the public. The pair opened their first movie theater in 1910 and over the next two decades the partners would come to own 120 movie houses - tens of thousands of Minnesotans would experience their first movie on a Finkelstein and Ruben screen. The Palace was their sixth theater and their biggest when it debuted in 1916 as a vaudeville stage with 3,000 unobstructed-view seats. By the 1930s it was the Orpheum and exhibiting only movies. Like most of its downtown cousins the Orpheum staggered through the 1970s before closing in 1978 and, after a brief revival, going dark for good in 1982. The building, that once included the St. Francis Hotel, has stared down the demolition crews but still stands for now.
TURN RIGHT ON 7TH STREET. TURN LEFT ON CEDAR STREET.
Central Presbyterian Church
500 Cedar Street
Cornell-trained Warren Howard Hayes established his architectural practice in Minneapolis in 1881 at the age of 34, from which base he developed a national reputation as a church designer. He pioneered the diagonal orientation of the auditorium with semi-circular pews to bring the congregation closer to the speaker, a practice he employed early on here. For the exterior of this 1889 church building Hayes tapped the then-popular Richardsonian Romanesque style, featuring such trademark elements from Boston architect Henry Hobson Richardson as rough-faced stone, turrets and powerful arched entrances. The Central Presbyterian congregation organized in 1852 in the home of Reverend John Riheldaffer; its first church building, a modest brick and stone affair, was erected on this site two years later.
Church of St. Louis King of France
506 Cedar Street
This is the third house of worship on this site for the congregation that was founded by French Canadians in 1868. It was designed by eminent French architect Emmanuel Louis Masqueray, whose lengthy list of landmark buildings include some of America’s grandest estates in New York City, Newport, Rhode Island and other tony addresses. Masqueray arrived in St. Paul in 1905 and remained here until his death twelve years later. He designed about two dozen parish churches for Catholic and Protestant congregations in the Upper Midwest, but this Renaissance Revival brick church, completed in 1909, was always one of his favorites.
DETOUR: IF YOU WANT TO SEE THE MINNESOTA STATE CAPITOL CONTINUE WALKING NORTH ON CEDAR STREET FIVE MORE BLOCKS.
Minnesota State Capitol
Aurora Avenue between Cedar and Park streets
By the time Minnesota was 40 years old it was already working on its third capitol building. The first one burned in 1881 and the second was just built too small. Construction on the current building began in 1896 and was completed in 1905. Hometown architect Cass Gilbert provided the Italian Renaissance design whose centerpiece is the world’s second largest unsupported marble dome. The largest belongs to Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, upon which Gilbert’s dome is modeled. When he was finished Gilbert had spent $4.5 million; a century later the building was estimated to be worth $400 million. His work was widely admired and earned him commissions to design capitol buildings in West Virginia and Arkansas.
IF YOU HAVE TAKEN THE DETOUR, TURN AND WALK BACK DOWN CEDAR STREET TO EXCHANGE STREET AND TURN RIGHT. IF YOU HAVE NOT TAKEN THE DETOUR, WALK BACK FROM THE CHURCH OF ST. LOUIS KING OF FRANCE A FEW STEPS AND TURN RIGHT ON EXCHANGE STREET.
10 East Exchange Street
Four finished novels and a raft of short stories in a short 44-year life were enough to stamp Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, born and briefly educated in St. Paul, as one of the great American writers of the 20th century. This theater, the oldest existing stage in the city, opened in 1910 and was renamed for Fitzgerald in 1994. It began life as one of Sam Shubert’s chain of stages, designed by Charles Eli Fox and Benjamin Marshall of Chicago who were best known for their luxury apartment buildings and hotels before becoming Shubert’s favorite architects. The Fitzgerald is owned today by Minnesota Public Radio and is home to Garrison Keillor’s live radio show A Prairie Home Companion, which began broadcasting in 1974 in front of an audience of twelve. The show moved into this space in 1978. Today it is heard on more than 500 public radio stations with about four million listeners each week.
CROSS WABASHA STREET AND TURN LEFT AT SAINT PETER STREET. TURN RIGHT ON 7TH STREET.
Church of the Assumption
51 West Seventh Street
German immigrants organized the Church of the Assumption in 1856 and broke ground for a meetinghouse just north of this site that same year. The original church was replaced by a growing congregation with this twin-spired Romanesque building that was raised in 1871. Parishioners from that time would likely recognize St. Paul’s oldest church inside and out today. Four bells in the east tower (your right), including the one from the original church, can be heard throughout the city. Until 1975 they were rung by pulling 200-foot ropes.
WALK BACK A FEW STEPS TO SAINT PETER STREET AND TURN RIGHT.
Mickey’s Dining Car
36 West Seventh Street at southwest corner of Saint Peter Street
Mickey was Mickey Crimmons (his partner was Bert Mattson) and their dining car was one of the nation’s first to be built in the Art Deco style. It was fabricated completely in Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1937 by the Jerry O’Mahony Diner Company and shipped by rail on a flat bed to its current location. O’Mahoney produced about 2,000 diners between 1917 and 1941 that were not actual railroad cars but meant to resemble real rolling stock. About two dozen are known to still exist and several, including Mickey’s, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Featured in movies, television shows, magazines, music videos and even commemorative coins, Mickey’s has been open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year since it opened.
408 Saint Peter Street
This building was planned in 1915 as a grand department store but construction was abandoned. William Hamm, whose father had been brewing beer in the Swede Hollow neighborhood of St. Paul since 1865, grabbed the reins and converted the structure into offices. The triangular building is covered on all sides by the finest classically decorated terra cotta in St. Paul. But for most townsfolk the attraction here was the Capitol Theatre that was built into the Hamm Building when it opened in 1920. The Spanish Baroque theater was billed as the largest, most elaborate movie palace in the Upper Midwest. The lobby was faced with several types of colored marble and patrons made their way to the 3,000-seat auditorium past a Renaissance-style fountain where they would be entertained by a 30-piece orchestra and the largest Wurlitzer organ outside of New York City. Like most of its movie palace cousins the Capitol fell victim to television and suburbanization and was gutted in 1965.
YOU HAVE NOW REACHED THE TOUR STARTING POINT AT LANDMARK PLAZA.