Downtown Saint Paul Walking Tour:
Location: Downtown & Lowertown Saint Paul
Tour Cost: Free, Self-Guided (Optional Fees Listed Below)
Start: 1st National Bank Building (Central Light Rail Stop)
End: Fitzgerald Theater (10th Street Light Rail Stop)
Walking Distance: 1.4 Miles
Time: 30 Minutes of Walking (5 hours with all stops)
Alternative Route: If you are also visiting the 7th Street or Irvine Park consider doing them right after the Science Museum.
Best Time To Go: We love going during the Winter Carnival which has been going on since 1886, but any time over year is good. Remember that Stop 4 is only open Monday-Friday 8am-4:30pm.
Fun Scale: 8.5 out of 10
Downtown Saint Paul Minnesota is often voted one of the best places to visit in American. This is because it has a rare combination of big city amenities and activities, but with a small town charm. As you’ll learn, St Paul pre-dates Minneapolis and offers a great contrast of thing to do. Visiting Saint Paul makes for a great day; we hope you enjoy our free walking tour of Downtown & Lowertown!
Overview of Downtown Saint Paul:
Early day St Paul may have started around the Mississippi River docks at Upper Landing, but the City’s heart quickly shifted to the area no known as Downtown. Getting its start as the home of a collection of trade warehouses, Downtown grew fast as rail road lines expanded throughout the region.
Many men who got rich in early day St Paul gave back to the community including Henry Rice whose land donation in 1849 gave way to the Park around which Downtown development accelerated. As an emerging frontier city of dirt roads and wagons, grand buildings such as the Federal Court House (Landmark Center) and Windsor Hotel (St Paul Hotel) served as magnets attracting residents and commerce. The young city center quickly shed its small wooded buildings and became packed with over 75 huge mansions before later development of large commercial buildings took their place. Over the decades Downtown St Paul became home to historic court cases, prohibition bootleggers, mobsters, and some of the Nations most powerful businessmen. Throughout its changes the City has continued to grow around its historic city center while maintaining the festivals and personality that have made St Paul a worthy place to visit any time of year.
Downtown Saint Paul Walking Tour Sights:
*Stepping off the Light Rail at the Green Line’s Central stop puts you right in front of the iconic…
1. The Union Depot: The huge Union Depot, with its Art Deco interior, has been the major hub into Saint Paul since it opened in 1926. Even if you can make a guided tour, a quick walk through the vast hall will make you feel like you have stepped back in time. In the 1920s as many as 20,000 people a day cycled through doors of the Union Depot. Back then it mainly facilitate train traffic, but today it is also visitor on the Twin Cities’ Light Rail Metro. The Light Rail tram connects Saint Paul to Downtown Minneapolis, the international airport, and the Mall of America. Entrance Hours: 24/7. Guided Tours: Free 60 minute guided tours leave every other Tuesday at 11am & every other Thursday at 1pm. Depot Website: (HERE).
2. Weekend Farmer’s Market: This amazing weekend market was started by local farmers in 1853 when St Paul was still a pioneer town with dirt roads, steam boats, and log homes. Overtime the facilities that been upgraded and the market has become out favorite in the Twin Cities. The current open-air building opened in 1982 and houses 167 stalls. The focus of the market is fresh produce, flowers, and food. Market Hours: May-Thanksgiving Saturdays 6am-1pm & Sundays 8am-1pm. Guided Tours: Free 60 minute guided tours leave every other Tuesday at 11am & every other Thursday at 1pm. Depot Website: (HERE).
3. Mears Park: In 1849 land owner Robert Smith donated the area of today’s Mears Park to the City because it was a hill mound he deemed to steep to be worth developing. Although it was supposed to become a park, the First Baptist Church was allowed to build a small meeting house here in 1951 and the area became known as Baptist Hill. As the church expanded and built a larger church on Wacouta Street in 1862 the City decided to use the square for forced labor. Criminals with short sentences were brought here for manual labor breaking rocks. After long objections by locals the hilly lot was finally level off and turned into a park in the 1886 in Robert Smith’s honor. The newly finished Smith Park hosted the Ice Palace for Saint Paul’s very 1st Winter Carnival the same year and became of fixture of a rapidly growing Lowertown. Some of the most important warehouses in the Midwest quickly sprung up near the park making the land quite valuable.
Over time industry moved out and the area around the square was hit hard until the help of local inventor Norman Mears. Mears had turned his small family company into a mega corporation as inventing better sights for WW2 guns and an aperture mask used in almost every color television. He then focused his time and wealth into re-developing Lowertown and the buildings facing old Smith Park. After Normans death the name of the was changed to Mears Park in his honor in 1974. Today the lively park is home to many events including the Twin Cities Jazz Festival. The North side of the Park is also home to the popular bars Barrio Tequila (website) and The Bulldog (website). Guided Tours: Free 60 minute guided tours leave every other Tuesday at 11am & every other Thursday at 1pm. Park Website: (HERE).
4. 1st National Bank Building: The 16 story East Tower of the current complex was built as Merchants Bank in 1915. After Merchants merged with 1st National Bank in 1929 they started building on the West Tower which was finished 2 years later. From the time the West Tower was completed in 1931 it remained the tallest building in St Paul for 55 years through 1986. During the 1931 expansion, 1st National Bank had to compete hard for materials with New York’s mighty Empire State which was being built at the same time.
The coolest part of the 1st National Bank Building is a old shooting range in the basement. During the complex’s days as a bank headquarters, the guards were required to practice hand gun shooting weekly at targets up to 96 feet away. Chances are you’ve seen the bright red neon 1st sign on top of the building which is almost as cool as the secret shooting range. The large backlit sign can be seen as far away as 20 miles on a clear day and even over 70 miles at night. Before leaving notice the Downtown Skywalk System connecting 1st National to the surrounding buildings. Because of the cold climate, St Paul adopted the elevated skyway to help residents get around rain or shine, or snow. Building Website: (HERE).
*From the fountain-line Kellogg Mall Park you have great views of the Mississippi River and…
5. Lambert’s Landing: 80 foot cliffs mark the location where the area’s first European settler Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Parrant lived and started a tavern in 1830s. Early day Saint Paul was referred to as Pigs Eye in his honor. In 1937 the boat dock near the tavern was officially named Lambert’s Landing in 1837 after Colonel George Lambert who helped reshape the upper Mississippi for steamboats. After Father Lucien Galtier built a chapel to the Apostle Paul nearby in 1841 people started calling the city St Paul instead which stuck when the city was officially established in 1849. By 1858 the landing saw over 1000 boats a day and expanded toward today’s Lower Landing Park. The landing is why this area of St Paul is nicknamed Lower Town.
*From the fountain-line Kellogg Mall Park you have great views of the Mississippi River and…
6. Raspberry & Harriet Islands: Before leaving the River Plaza Park notice the Island sitting right in the middle of the Mississippi called Raspberry Island. This former Naval training center is often confused for popular Harriet Island which is a little further West on the River and is no longer a Island at all. Harriet Island was named after Harriet Bishop who became the city’s 1st public school teacher in 1847 and the land was donated to the City by Dr. Justus Ohage in 1900. Ohage was a successful surgeon, the first health director of St Paul and wanted the land to be a park to be centered on hygiene. That might sound a little weird, but public baths and a beach were set up making the park was a huge hit. Unfortunately by 1919 the water and beach became so polluted the park had to close after only 19 year. Since then many changed have happened from extensive clean up and restoration to the east side channel being filled in 1950 connecting the Island to the main land. Today Harriet Island holds many ethnic festivals, large music concerts, is home the popular Mississippi Steam Boat Cruises, and is the sight of the Twin Cities best fireworks on the 4th of July. The best place to view these fireworks from Upper Landing Park on the St Paul side of the River. If you choose to take a boat ride it is interesting to know that the islands have house the Minnesota Boat Club all the way since 1870.
7. Ramsey County Courthouse: Built in 1932, the 21 story Ramsey County Courthouse remains one of the best Art Deco buildings In the Twin Cities. The building had been financed in 1929, but because of the 1929 stock market crash everything ended up being much cheaper so they we able to add a ton of marble, wood carvings, and other fancy details.
Today the main attraction is the amazing Vision of Peace Statue in the courthouse’s Memorial Hall. The Statue depicts Native American man standing a stoically and is the World’s largest carved onyx figure at 36 feet tall and weighing in at 120,000 pounds. Vision of Peace was made as a dedication to the war veterans of the county in hope of everlasting peace. When sculptor Carl Milles completed the Statue in 1936 he said he was inspired by peace pipe ceremony he attended in Oklahoma. We love not only how the huge Statue slowly rotates on a motorized platform, but also how it reflects in the gold mirror ceiling of Memorial Hall.
If you don’t make it to the historic offices on the 2nd, 3rd, and 8th floors at least make sure to take in the hard lines and use of lighting of the Art Deco Architecture. Another great example of this predominate style are the detailed industrial images that almost come to life on the golden bronze doors of the 1st floor elevators. The doors are a highlight of the an visit and worth a closer look before moving on. Visiting Hours: Monday-Friday 8am-4:30pm.
8. Science Museum of Minnesota: While the Science Museum’s huge riverfront location wasn’t built until the 1990s, the museum’s history actually goes back all the way to 1906. At a meeting of the Minnesota Club, business Charles W. Ames proposed holding a series of free lectures on hygiene and sanitation of the city of St Paul. These lectures quickly started covering other areas of Science and they gaining a museum collection in the St. Paul Auditorium. After just one year of lectures the Science Museum was incorporated and had gathered tons of natural science items including a real mummy from Egypt. The Museum continued to grow fast and in 1927 had to move into to the huge Merriam Mansion on Capitol Hill which it completely filled to the brink by 1947. In 1964 the museum upgraded again to the huge 80,000 square foot Science and Arts downtown, but even that space couldn’t hold it. Another huge building next door was added on in 1978 which included one of the World’s 1st Omnitheater. The gigantic double IMAX wraparound screen was designed by Firm Ellerbe Becket which also designed a few of Summit Avenue’s mansions. This huge screen was transferred to the current location in the 1990s along with permanent interactive exhibits ranging from electricity to prehistoric fossils.
Today all of the exhibits are kid friendly but they also include various traveling exhibits such as King Tut, Mayan and the Real Pirates which are enough to entertain any adult as well. One of the coolest collections the Science Museum has came when Bob McCoy willed them items from his Museum of Quackery and Medical Frauds(website) in 2002. While they only display a fraction of Bob’s items it is interesting to still the crazy things that scammers would pass off as medical treatments. Hours: Sunday, Tuesday & Wednesday 9:30am-5pm; Thursday-Saturday 9:30am-9:30pm; Closed Mondays. Cost: Adults $13, Kids $10; Omnitheater and traveling exhibits are extra but if you want to see all the sights and experiences expect $28 for Adults and $19 for kids. Annual Memberships: Annual memberships can cover up to 4 people’s admission for the year for just $99. Museum Website: (HERE).
9. James J Hill Center & Central Library: Although he had no formal education, local railroad tycoon James J Hill was set on making literature accessible in Saint Paul. This drive began shortly after Saint Paul’s 1st public library opened in 1882 as Hill gave a donation to help Macalester College make their library fireproof. In 1909 the City Mayor started a push to build a much larger public library in Downtown Saint Paul and the current Rice Park location was selected. With a funding shortage Jame J Hill stepped in a donated $700,000 toward the project to help break ground in 1914. The start of the new building was perfect timing as just a year later the library it was replacing and its 158,000 books were destroyed in large fire.
The Western end of the Italianate complex housing the new Central Library was the first part to open in 1917. Lined with marble, it is a library meany to impress. Start your visit up on the 3rd floor in the Magazine Room, also known as the Greenleaf Clark Room. Clark was a Minnesota Supreme Court Justice who donated heavily to building the room which has a beautiful ceiling. Heading down to the 2nd floor to see the Nicholson Commons with floor-to-ceiling windows, hand-painted exposed beams, hanging Medieval chandeliers. A special collection includes works by and about F. Scott Fitzgerald and his time in Saint Paul.
One of the most beautiful spaces in the entire Twin Cities is the James J Hill Center on the East side of the library complex. This grand reference library was set to be Hills’ pride and joy, but he died five years before the grand opening in 1921. Hills donations gave him influence on the design which was modeled after the JP Morgan Library in Manhattan. The books one hand focus on business, leadership and entrepreneurship. One step into the spacious book-lined hall and you’ll know why so many weddings are held here. The center is accessible from the 2nd floor Nicholson Commons and 1st floor entrance facing Rice Park.
James J Hill Center Visiting Hours: Monday-Thursday 10am-5pm; Closed Friday-Sunday. James J Hill Center Guided Tours: Free guided tours available every 3rd Thursday at 10:30am. James J Hill Center Website: (HERE). Central Library Hours: Monday Noon-8pm; Tuesday-Friday 9am-5:30pm; Saturday 11am-5 pm; Sunday 1-5 pm. Central Library Website: (HERE).
*Working your way back through West side of the Library you’ll see the…
10. Ordway Performing Arts Center: In 1980 Sally Ordway carried on her father Lucius P. Ordway’s passion for the arts and pushed for a new theater in St Paul. She wanted the new theater to perform “everything from opera to the Russian circus” and knew it would help broaden the City’s culture. Including $7.5 million of her own money, Sally raised $46 million for the arts center’s construction was completed in 1985. Today the Ordway Center is the heart of St Paul’s arts and culture with a 1,800 person theater hosting their biggest events. In addition traveling dance and music shows, the Ordway also host great season of Broadway shows and musicals. Herb statue out front. Sitting right behind the Ordway is the 4,000 seat Roy Wilkins Auditorium which is home to the Minnesota Roller Girls, a semi-professional female Roller Derby Squad which competes in the WFDTA. Theater Website: (HERE).
11. Rice Park: Beautiful Rice Park is commonly called the outdoor living room of St Paul and has the perfect city center location made possible by Henry Rice. Rice had originally come to St Paul in 1839 to work as a fur trader in Fort Snelling. During his time at the Fort he worked with local Native groups to negations important treaties in 1947 which made Rice very wealthy through land acquisition. Among the land he acquired, Rice donated the plot for Rice Park to the City in 1849 and sold other chunks making him rich. The fresh money helped Rice fund runs for political office where he was elected as a Territorial Congressman (1853-57) and fought hard to get Minnesota its statehood. After Minnesota won statehood, Rice became one of Minnesota’s first US senators (1857-63), plus later a regent of the University of Minnesota, President of the Minnesota Historical Society, and Ramsey County Treasurer.
Today Rice Park is mainly covered in concrete with a central fountain which can be kind of blah, but the Park really comes to life in the Winter. Since 1886 Rice Park has been one of the the locations for the St Paul Winter Carnival each January and usually holds many of the festival’s ice sculptures. If you miss the Winter Carnival the sea of Christmas lights added to the Park’s trees December through February a still a real treat. Even in the Summer months take a second to stroll through the park at least to check out the statue of local author F Scott Fitzgerald who wrote the Great Gatsby and the numerous statues of Peanuts characters. Why Peanuts? The creator of the classic cartoon and its characters from Charlie Brown to Snoopy, Scott Schultz, is from St Paul. Park Hours: In an effort to curb homeless squatters, the park is only officially open from 7:30am-9:30pm.
12. Saint Paul Hotel: The Saint Paul Hotel was originally built as the Windsor Hotel in 1878, replacing a previous 60 room hotel that had burned down. Due to poor management issues in the early 1900s, the Windsor was only being used as a theater until Lucius P. Ordway bought it in 1908 and turned it into a luxury hotel. Ordway was a local investor who got super rich when he risked $100,000 to bring struggling 3M from Duluth to St Paul.
Famous early guests of the revamped hotel included James J Hill and Bishop John Ireland. One of the most interesting guests has been actor Gene Autry who, in 1947, checked in for a week with his Rodeo horse named Champion. Even President JFK visited the hotel in the 1960s but soon after the hotel started to quickly decline as the new highway bypassed St Paul. The owners had to start selling everything off from furniture, silverware and more until local investor stepped in to remodel the hotel in 1982. They did a great job during the remodel restoring the Hotel to its glory days of the early 1900s including buying back all the original furnishings. Since then the St Paul Hotel has been a jewel in accommodations for the City with over 3 decades of being a AAA 4 Diamond Hotel. Hotel Website: (HERE).
13a. Landmark Center: The old Federal Courthouse, known as the Landmark Center, is one of the coolest buildings in the Twin Cities and has been a powerful community icon since construction started in 1892. At the time, the City of St Paul was on the edge of the American frontier with dirt roads and small wooden buildings so the Government wanted to make a statement with its new powerful building. Construction started with 12-foot-thick granite walls giving the Courthouse a sturdy base and branched out into tons of hand-carved stonework original and woodwork. The amount of detail used inside and out is mind boggling and it’s now wonder that the building took 10 years to finish the Courthouse. The hand-carvings are so intricate that even some of the smallest ones took up to a week to finish. Our favorite element of the exterior is the huge North Tower which was added during construction because the Federal offices already needed more room. Today the North Tower offers great views of the city. Before going inside, notice how the windows, arches, and tower cones all get smaller each floor you move up which architecturally break up the facade. Through the decades scores of immigrants have looked up at the powerful exterior on their way to take the oath of citizenship which still takes place at Landmark Center today.
Once inside, head right for the huge Cortile room which resembles a large Roman bathhouse. This columned inner courtyard was originally built as the St Paul Federal Post Office and had a glass ceiling so supervisors could watch their workers from the 2nd floor. Also on the 2nd floor are other cool rooms including the 1920s federal courtroom, FBI and secret service offices where many historic laws and court cases (explained below) took place. Sitting above it all, the 3rd floor roof was also made of glass creating a huge skylight shining throughout the building. It was designed like this not only to be pretty stained glass, but also for function as electric lights were new and untested at the time.
In the 1950s the glass roof was covered up and florescent lights were brought in to reflect the style of the day, but it was luckily changed back to the original skylight grandeur during modern day restorations. These modern restorations can on the of the building almost being tore down in the 1970s after it fell in the dumps. It took fundraising of over $10 million to save the despaired building. During the restorations almost everything was brought back to original as they found old photos and 600 detailed drawings in the old post office to serve as a guide. One of the biggest hurdles was replacing the roof tiles, but some home the company that did the original tiles was still in business almost 100 years later and they still had the original tile molds. Restoration took six years from 1972-78 as they had to wash off years of soot that had turned the outside grey, had to restore , restored plaster and woodwork.
Lost in history is the that the Landmark center actually had a twin building finished in 1895 that was used as St Paul City Hall. The building stood at Fourth and Wabasha and replaced a previous City Hall built in 1851. Unfortunately it didn’t have the longevity of Landmark Center as it was tore down in the 1930s to make way for yet another City Hall building. Free Guided Tours: Thursdays 11am & Sundays Noon. Outdoor Staking Rink: Each December and January local businesses sponsor an outdoor staking rink the the plaza next to Landmark Center. Center Website: (HERE).
13b. Famous Court Cases @ Landmark Center: Throughout the decades after it opened, there were a ton of important Federal Laws and court cases with roots at Landmark Center. One of the first major cases at Landmark came in 1902 when James J Hill and JP Morgan tried to join railroads. President Roosevelt thought it was a monopoly and ultimately the court decided the men had to break up the company under the Sherm Anti-Trust Law.
A series of law restricting the freedoms of American citizens also cam from Landmark stating with a push to prohibition in 1917. Congressmen Andrew Volstead (R), who’s office was on Landmark’s 5th floor was the biggest voice in the prohibition efforts. In 1919 the 18th Amendment was established outlawing boozing and shortly after Volstead Act passed Congress which gave the government the means to enforce the Amendment. This anti-saloon bill was named in honor of Congressmen Volstead for his efforts in prohibition and ironically led to an era of bootlegging in St Paul. At the same time the 1918 Espionage Act and 1919 Sedition Acts were passed saying you can’t talk crap about government during War. Teamed with the Red Scare (1919-1920) 1,500 people arrested under the laws but many fought their convictions up to the St Paul appeals court claiming it was freedom of speech. The St Paul court overturned some of these convictions influencing later freedom of speech and appeals process.
St Paul politicians may have led the push for prohibition, but it ended up leading the way for the City’s corrupt police to make St Paul a haven for gangsters and bootleggers. Chief of Police John J. O’Connor let the big criminals live freely in St Paul as long as they didn’t kill or rob anyone within the city limits. Everything actually went surprisingly well until Prohibition was lifted in 1933 and the gangsters broke from bootlegging to more serious crimes. In the same year 4 kidnapping happened which started to unravel the deal the police chief had with the bootleggers.
The kidnappings included brewery owner William Hamm and Edward Bremmer of Bremmer Bank by the Barker-Karpis Gang. Ma Barker used the ransom some money to throw parties for her boys at their White Bear Lake cabin in almost a feat of showboating. Her partner Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, who was #1 on the FBI’s most wanted list was captured in New Orleans and brought back to St Paul for trial before being sent to Alcatraz for his years of crimes. Other gangsters in St Paul included John Dillinger’s (the FBI’s Most Wanted Bank Robber) and his girlfriend Evelyn Freschette. Dillinger escaped in a gun fight from St Paul to Chicago but many others were caught and held in the third floor Detention Room, were tried in Courtroom 317, or faced down J. Edgar Hoover’s G-men on the court’s front steps.
14. West 7th Place: Every Tuesday and Thursday in the Summer (Mid-June through Mid-October) a Farmer’s Market takes place at the 7th Place Mall from 10am-1:30pm. Palace Theater built in 1916, vaudeville theater Charlie Chapman and Marx Brothers, turned movie theater in 1947-1982, rennovated in 2015 to reopen for concerts and movies. Farmer’s Market Hours: Mid-June through Mid-October Tuesdays & Thursdays from 10am-1:30pm.
*One clock West of the Children’s Museums there is no way you can miss the flashing lights of the historic…
15. Mikey’s Diner: In the 1930s Mickey Crimmons and Bert Mattson were at a Restaurant Expo in Chicago when they fell in love a street car display by New Jersey’s Jerry O’Mahoney Company. They ordered one right away and opened their 24/7 malt and burger shop open in 1939. In 1983 Mickey’s became one of the first diners placed on the National Register of Historic Places which helped saved it from relocation during later urban development in St Paul. Hours: Daily 24/7. Restaurant Website: (HERE).
16. Candy Land: Originally opened in 1932 as Flavocorn, Arnie Kelsy took the original popcorn shop over in 1938 and started adding full lines of unique candies. By the 1950s Kelsy changed the named to Candy Land and it became a true staple of St Paul. When Kelsy was ready to retire in 1981 he sold the Candyland to worker Doug Lamb who along with his wife Brenda greatly expanded their reach. Not only have they opened two stores in Minneapolis, and expanded with national online sales, but they have been able to stick to the original recipe while maintaining a mom and pop atmosphere. We love how each location has a Peanuts character statue out front as the creator of the Charlie Brown cartoons, Charles Schultz, was from St Paul. Candy Land Hours: Monday-Saturday 8:30am-10pm, Sunday 10am-9pm. Shop Website: (HERE).
17. Minnesota Children’s Museum: the Minnesota’s Children’s Museum which is connected to the Wells Fargo Building by the Skyway. The Museum is a great stop if you have kids and is rated as a top 10 children’s museum in the United States. Farmer’s Market Hours: Mid June-Mid October Tuesday & Thursday 10am-1:30pm. Museum Website: (HERE).
*While there is no need to go inside unless you are going to a show it is important to add know about the nearby…
18. Fitzgerald Theater: When Lee and J. J. Shubert open this majestic theater in 1910 it was originally called the Sam S. Shubert Theater in memory of their brother. 1910 was squeezed right between the Industrial Revolution and the Progressive Era in a time the common man was feeling the struggles of oppressive big business working them to the bone. Because of this mindset the theater was a huge hit with it’s family friendly show that featured characters that were fighting for social justice and corruption of the press.
Starting in 1933 in the midst of the Great Depression, the theater started showing live movies and was called the World’s Theater for decades. In 1981 local author Garrison Keillor brought his radio program A Prairie Home Companion to the theater and had it re-named in the memory of another local author F. Scott Fitzgerald. The popularity of Keillor’s program helped the theater thrive and it even got back to its root of showing live plays. Out of the new found creativity programs like Mystery Science Theater and Minnesota Public Radio’s popular live Wits Series events have grown from the reborn Fitzgerald. Making the historic theater is more interesting, tickets to many shows are sold with first come first serve seating and the old world atmosphere can’t be beat. Theater Website: (HERE).
Other Nearby Sights:
19. 7th Street Bars & Restaurants: Home to the Twin Cities best St Patrick’s Day Celebration, the bars and restaurants of 7th Street can be a lot of fun. Probably our favorite places to eat on 7th Street is Burger Moe’s which has the best selection of innovative burgers in St Paul and the Eagle Street Grill which has a nice patio and a mobster themed menu paying homage to St Paul’s famous gangsters during Prohibition. Our favorite places to drink are a pair of Irish Pub called The Liffey which has a great rooftop patio, Patrick McGovern’s which has awesome solarium and is the hottest spot during St Patrick’s Day.
20. Irvine Park Walking Tour: One of the better hidden gems in St Paul is taking a stroll around the historic neighborhood of Irvine Park. After the central park was donated to the City in 1849 the area quickly gathered stately homes and notable families from barons to Governors. Over the years some of the wealthy families moved up to Summit Avenue but the neighborhood stayed strong. Once the Great Depression hit, however, the area started a slow decline that climaxed in the 1970s when over 90% of the homes were nearly unlivable. While a number of the mansions where torn down throughout the decades, other historic homes from around St Paul where moved here too fill the void. Today Irvine Park is a pocketful of peacefulness right in the heart of St Paul giving you a small window into its past greatness. And did we mention this walking tour hold St Paul’s most haunted home?
21. Summit Avenue Walking Tour: Littered with historic mansions and lined with lush trees, Summit Avenue in Saint Paul is one of the most impressive residential streets in all of America! The 4.5 miles of Summit Avenue still holds 373 of its original 440 grand mansions built from 1855 through the 1920s. Sitting at the head of the mighty Mississippi River, early day St Paul quickly became a trove of wealth from trading, lumber harvesting, mining, railroad expansions, printing, and many other endeavors. The wealth came so quickly that by 1890 there were already 40 millionaires living near Saint Paul’s Summit Avenue. As the community grew many of the wealthy families worked together, socialized together, and their kids even married one another creating many great storylines.
The main attractions along the impressive avenue are the gigantic Jame J Hill Mansion and the towering St Paul Cathedral. Also mixed into our walking tour are the homes of many influential families and people who have left their marks on the World such as F Scott Fizgerald who wrote the American classic novel The Great Gatsby.
MN History Center:
Wabasha Street Caves: People used to grow mushrooms in the bluffs caves. Most are filled in now
Yoerg’s Brewery built into the bluff nearby dug a mile deeper cave for brewing beer
Castle Royal nightclub (1933 — 1940) was a gangster haven
U of M starting making blu cheese in the caves and when imports from France were cut off in WWII their business boomed to 3 million lbs/year
Land O’Lakes cheese cave from 1940 to 1959 and Kraft even had one here
Swede Hollow Park: in 1884 the city added a ton of earth to raise 7th St by 15 feet to level out the tracks for the Street Car line to connect Downtown with Dayton’s Bluff to the East. The stone arches cut under the road have served as the park passageway since the road was raised
At the north end of the park was the Hamm Brewery which opened in 1865 by German immigrant Theodore Hamm and was a nation brewery until 1997.