Irvine Park Walking Tour - St Paul MN
Irvine Park Walking Tour - St Paul MN

Irvine Park Mansions Walking Tour:


Location: Irvine Park St Paul, Minnesota
Tour Cost: Free, Self-Guided (Optional Fees Listed Below)
Start: Upper Landing Park
End: 7th Street Restaurants & Bars
Walking Distance: 0.9 Miles (Assuming a complete loop)
Time: 30 Minute Walk (2-3 hours with restaurant stops)
Fun Scale: 8.5 out of 10


Overview of Irvine Park:

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 has St Paul’s most haunted home?

Irvine Park Walking Tour Sights:

Irvine Park Walking Tour Map, Saint Paul Mansions, Upper Landing Park

*Walking down toward the Mississippi Rivers brings you to…
1. Upper Landing Park: The story of St Paul’s growth really starts at Upper Landing which served as center of shipping and cargo for the growing city in the mid 1800s.  Because of rapids further down the river St Paul was once as far up the Mississippi River that large boats could go, making it the gateway to the lumber and minerals in the North.  The areas near Upper Landing quickly grew into working class immigrant neighborhoods from German, Italian, Irish, Czech and more.  The Little Italy neighborhood just South of Upper Landing, know the Levee, was one of the quickest to grow.

As regional rail lines became stronger and river traffic ventured further North past the rapids, business at Upper Landing strongly declined in the early 1900s.  Many of the immigrants residents of Upper Landing’s river front stay until constant flooding in the mid-1950s finally ended the Landing’s run.  Since the 1950s, the Upper Landing has received a full makeover into a pleasant river front park and it proudly the best place in the Twin Cities to watch the 4th of July fireworks.  Alternate Starting Point: If you are also doing the Downtown Walking Tour, consider picking this tour up right after the Science Museum who’s mini-gold course (website) sits right next to Upper Landing Park.  A series of steps lead down the backside of the Science Museum right to the Park.  Historic Photos: (Flooding in 1952).

Irvine Park Walking Tour Map, Saint Paul Mansions, James Armstrong Mansion

2. James Armstrong Mansion (225 Eagle Parkway):
James Armstrong originally had this large home built for his family in 1886 right in the middle of Downtown St Paul (233-235 West Fifth Street).  Just nine years later James built a new family home on Grant Hill near Summit Avenue and gave his Downtown home to his son John Milton Armstrong, who was just 20 years old.  John turned the massive red brick mansion into a money making duplex which it remained for decades before being turned into the Quinlan Nursing Home in 1940.

By 1988 the Armstrong Mansion was slightly run down and bought by the State to be used as an arts school, but the school never opened.  The home continued be lack proper maintenance, sat vacant for years and was scheduled to be torn down in 2000 with the opening of the Excel Center next door.  Luckily a local investor bought the mansion and moved it to Irvine Park to become the 4-plex of condos it is today.  The investor basically lucked out that the home had been added as a Saint Paul Heritage Preservation Site in 1982 with made to city look for buyers before knocking it down.  Imagine what it must have been like as a single family home. Historic Photos: (Home at old Location in 1949).

Irvine Park Walking Tour Map, Saint Paul Mansions, Eagle Street Plaza Charlie Brown Statue


3. Eagle Street Plaza:
As you head up Eagle Street Parkway make sure to take in the views to the West of the beautiful St Paul Cathedral preached high above the city.  Before taking a left on Ryan Street make sure to check out the tiny park sitting almost in the middle of the street called Eagle Street Plaza.  Almost hidden in the bushes a cool bronze statue of Charlie Brown which is a homage to Charles Shultz, the creator of the Peanuts characters who grew up in St Paul.

Next to the statue is a plaque in honor of the Italian immigrants of early day St Paul who came here to pursue the American dream.  Knowing no one in a new land they sacrifice they sacrificed so the next generations of their family could have better lives.  These immigrants mainly lived in St Paul’s Little Italy near the River called the Levee which was formed in 1900s.  They were joined by Bohemians, Germans, and countless other groups that made up emerging St Paul’s working class helping the  city to grow.

Irvine Park Walking Tour Map, Saint Paul Mansions, Charles Symonds House


4. Charles Symonds House (234 Ryan Ave):
Built in 1850, this home is often incorrectly called the oldest home standing in Saint Paul.  The Henry Knox Home on the opposite side of Irvine Park is actually the oldest from 1849.  The homes’ first owner, Charles Symonds, was a sea boat captain who often worked out of the nearby Upper Landing and wanted to live close by.  His home was originally built two blocks closer to the Mississippi River, but was moved here after the Upper Landing area started having flooding issues decades later.

Sitting right next door, the Humphrey-Willis House (240 Ryan Avenue) is tied as the 3rd oldest house in Saint Paul from 1851.  The plain white cottage is rather plain compared to its neighbors and was moved here to preserve it.

Irvine Park Walking Tour Map, Saint Paul Mansions


5. Irvine Park:
As some of the first settlers in St. Paul, fur traders Henry Rice and shipping magnate John Irvine gave the city land for two of its best parks.  The two friends worked together getting their park downtown established as the Saint Paul’s 1st park in 1849, the same year the land was donated.  This downtown park, which now bares Rice’s name, was officially established 7 year before New York City’s central park was.   At the same time, the men also got working on another green space on land Irvine owned near his Upper Landing boat dock.  While they left the central area an untouched wooded square, Rice and Irvine got busy plotting out the surrounding neighborhood to make way for the large stately homes you’ll see today.

The newly plotted neighborhood quickly attracted wealthy residents, but it took until 1872 for the area to finally gain official park status.  To make it a proper park the wooden square need to by leveled out and all the underbrush removed which took over a month because it was so wild.  The final touch to the park came when the Pendergast family added a beautiful 3-tiered fountain in 1881.

As the Great Depression hit the city no longer wanted to maintain the park so they scrapped the fountain, added some equipment and stripped its park status in favor of a playground.  This move, along with hard times, and many of the neighborhoods wealthy moving elsewhere like Summit Avenue, lead to a slow decline of the Irvine Park Neighborhood.  Many of the homes were divided into multiple unit rental homes and their maintenance was ignored.  By the 1970s over 90% of the homes were declared inhabitable by the city and the playground was a rusted waste of space.  Luckily in 1978 the City of St Paul got involved deciding to turn the area back into a park and revitalize the neighborhood.  The rusty playground equipment was removed and a replacement fountain was made to match the original for $40,000, a far cry from the original’s $900 but still ad beautiful.  Over the decades the revitalization has worked as the neighborhood as hit a renaissance and the park has become the most popular park for weddings in St Paul.  We love sitting in the park’s gazebo on Summer’s evenings while doing nothing at all.  Historic Photos: (Fountain in 1885 | Park in 1888).

Irvine Park Walking Tour Map, Saint Paul Mansions, Justus Ohage Mansion


6. Justus Ohage Mansion (59 Irvine Park):
Dr Justus Ohage built this large three-story home for his wife Augusta in 1889.  It was just 3 years earlier that the successful Dr. Ohage performed the Nation’s 1st successful gallbladder surgery.  The home’s yellow bricks and tower were supposed to be like Augusta’s childhood home, but she died right before moving in leaving the Doctor to raise their five children alone.

As the creator of St Paul’s Public Health Service, Ohage was really into the promoting the general health of St Paul and in 1900 he donated the land of Harriet Island to the City to become a Park.  He felt that it was important to have access to healthy living in the center of town and the park’s bath houses (which no longer exist) thrived for years before closing from bouts of river pollution.  Today the Ohage family home serves as a vacation rental and the road on Harriet Island bares the Dr’s name.


7. John McDonald House (56 Irvine Park):
Sitting next to the yellow Ohage Mansion is an even brighter colored blue home was built by architect John McDonald.  McDonald was a skilled craftsman who also built nearby homes at 39 Irvine Park which has since been tore down (photo) and also the beautiful home still at 35 Irvine which you will see shortly.  The details of the paint and woodwork combined with the interesting architectural lines of the home in front of you make it our favorite one facing Irvine Park.  If you peak around the side the house it is over two houses deep and seems to go on forever.

Irvine Park Walking Tour Map, Saint Paul Mansions, John McDonald House

This blue beauty wasn’t always at Irvine Park as McDonald actually built it at 362 Smith Avenue in 1871, but its move to the current location made it a legend.  During the home’s relocation to its current lot in 1978 it sat overnight on a flatbed semi where it got a ticket for being illegally parked.  This was the only time a Twin Cities home (excluding trailer homes) has ever received a parking ticket.  Knowing the history of the house make is almost ironic that there is a no parking sign on the street nearby.  Historic Photos: (House in 2001 before painted details added to white trim).


53 Irvine Park
(Eaton-Myler Home):
Red brick home was built by Alonzo Eaton in 1853 on the corner the Excel Center now sits (190 West 7th Street).  James and Catherine Myler bought the home in 1882 and ran it as hotel for a couple decades.  The Salvation Army later purchased the lot in 1979 and was going to tear down the house until Lance Belville bought it and moved it to its current location in Irvine Park.

Irvine Park Walking Tour Map, Saint Paul Mansions, Henry Horn House


8. Henry Horn House (50 Irvine Park):
Before you even check out this house head right for the awesome carriage step with the house number in is near the curb.  Because most of the homes near Irvine park were built before the common use of cars, they all had their own roadside step to help visitors get into and out of their carriages.  This interesting home itself was built in 1869 for pastor David Riddle Breed and was originally twice as big with a front door facing the river.  Pastor Breed only lived here for 5 years before selling it to military surgeon Jacob H. Stewart who served 5 terms as the mayor of Saint Paul (1864-65, 1868-69, & 1872-75).  Stewart moved in during his last year as Mayor after which he was also elected for a term as a US Congressman (1877-79).  In 1881, Stewart sold the home to his neighbors Henry and Fanny Banning Horn and left public service to get back into his medical practice which he did until his death in 1884.

Irvine Park Walking Tour Map, Saint Paul Mansions, Henry Horn House Horse Carriage Step

The Horns, who previously lived in a home where the neighboring red brick house sits today, are the ones responsible for the current playful look of the house.  Henry Horn, who was a local attorney, made a ton of improvements to the home from adding the ornate carved woodwork to the exterior to moving the front door from the River side to the Irvine Park side.  Henry’s wife Fanny is the one that split it into a double house up and down apartments after Henry died.  Unfortunately the back half of the home burnt down in the 1980, but the half they saved is huge, and a ton of the colorful woodwork is still visible from Horn’s original renovations.  Historic Photos: (1888 | 1972).

Irvine Park Walking Tour Map, Saint Paul Mansions, Wright-Pendergast House


9. Wright-Pendergast House (223 Walnut Street):
Built in 1851, this is the oldest home in the Twin Cities still sitting at its original location.  In a park surrounded by an eclectic group of architectural styles, this White House-like home with its large Greek columns is one of the most unique.  Canadian carpenter Isaac Wright built this distinguished home in 1851 and he lived here until his death in 1906.  It might not seem like a big deal, but in a neighborhood of constant turnover, it is amazing that Wright stayed in one house for 53 years.  The side-lawn or Wright’s mansion served as the 1st tennis court in St Paul when it opened in 1885 thanks to the Delta Lawn Tennis Club.

After Wright passed away the home was sold to local plumber James Joseph Pendergast.  The Pendergast family was well known in St Paul and James’ uncle was the one who installed original fountain in Irvine Park in 1881.  James drastically changed outside of the home after buying it by rotating the whole thing 90 degrees and adding the huge Greek column portico to the front.  Notice the second floor balcony that was part of the original river-facing facade.  In addition to the front of the home, Pendergast also re-did much of the interior with parts of other Saint Paul mansions from the 1800s that were scheduled for demolition.  Because of his connections as a plumber, Penedergast had leg up in picking the best items from the other mansions.

Many of the new interior elements came from the inside of the Kittson Mansion which was being tore down to make way for the St Paul Cathedral on Shelby Hill (now called Cathedral Hill).  Kittson had served as the Mayor of  Saint Paul and is home had been considered one of the finest in Minnesota before his death in 1888.  Our favorite item salvaged from the Kittson Mansion is a beautiful stained glass window depicting Arachne the Weaver from Greek mythology.
In 2013 the Dornhecker family bought the home for $412,000 becoming just the 3rd family to own the property.  If the longevity of previous owners holds up they will be here a long time.  Historic Photos: (Home in 1936 | Tennis Club in 1885 | Another Tennis Club Photo from 1885).

Irvine Park Walking Tour Map, Saint Paul Mansions, William Spencer House


10. William Spencer House (47 Irvine Park):
Built in 1861 for lawyer William Austin Spencer, this green house with its white balconied porch has 10 foot tall windows in front.  The home was actually built on part of the foundation of a previous house that burned down in 1857.  During his life, Spencer and his wife Marie Antoinette Langford started the Republican Party of Minnesota it got William rewarded an appointment to be Clerk of the US District Court by President Lincoln.  The family lived a prestigious life mixing with high social circles and even sending their son Edward to Yale University.  After Williams death in 1897 the home started to decline greatly and while it is still in desperate need of some TLC, the house was in even worse shape in the 1970s.

Irvine Park Walking Tour Map, Saint Paul Mansions, Robbins-Semple House


11. Robbins-Semple House (40 Irvine Park):
Built for Elizabeth Robbins in 1887, this mansion has been extremely well taken care of over the years. We love the single siding on the second floor and the modern paint colors of the home.  Here is a Photo of the house while it was owned by Louis Johnson in 1911.  Because the home as been so well kept it doesn’t look as old as the others in Irvine Park.

On the empty corner lot next door, there was once another large home at 39 Irvine Park that was tore down in 1968 (Photo).  At the same time, a huge Queen Anne mansion from 1857 called the Eaton- Smyth House that stood at 38 Irvine Park was also tore down (Photo from 1919).  A new home was then moved here from the East side of Saint Paul which burned down in 1979.  The following year, the current yellow Wagner-Marty House, which was built in Woodbury in the 1850s, was transplanted here.  Historic Photos: (Home in 1911 | 39 Irvine in 1968 | 38 Irvine in 1919).

Irvine Park Walking Tour Map, Saint Paul Mansions, Murray-Lanpher Mansion


12. Murray-Lanpher Mansion (35 Irvine Park):
  The wealthy barrel maker Michael Murray had John McDonald (56 Irvine Park) build this Queen Anne-style home for his family in 1887, but he died of pneumonia right before they could move in.  Murray’s wife Ellen and their six kids still moved in and quickly turned it into a make shift boarding house to make extra money.  The next couple owners included a guy named Lanpher, sadly neglected the home’s maintenance turning it into an almost unlivable dump by the 1970s.  The home was in such bad shape that the top of the large corner tower was missing and it had horrible patchwork siding almost made it unrecognizable from the beauty it is today.  Luckily the couple who bought the the old Murray home in the 1970s had a wonderful eye for detail and did a great job restoring the home to its former beauty.  Today the Queen Anne style shines through and little things like the vines on the steps leading to the front door will make you love the house.  Historic Photos: (1919 | 1986).

Irvine Park Walking Tour Map, Saint Paul Mansions, Charles L. Wood & Parker-Marshall Houses


*Moving on from the Murray Mansion you’ll find two former neighbors reunited…

13. Sherman Street Neighbors: While there is no longer a 250 block of Sherman Street, two of its neighboring houses from the 1850s have been reunited as neighbors once again at Irvine Park. The first is the Federal-style Charles L. Wood House (32 Irvine Park) on the corner which was originally built in 1854 at 255 Sherman Street.  The Wood’s home was moved here in 1978 and we like its yellow columns contrast the red brick.  Next door is the Parker-Marshall House (30 Irvine Park) which was originally built at 250 Sherman Street in 1851 for Rodney and Elizabeth  Parker who managed a local hotel.  William Rainey Marshall who was the 5th Governor of Minnesota (1866-1870) rented a room in the home from 1877-1880.  This pretty plain home was moved once in 1883, then again to the current location in 1976, finding its place once again next to its old Sherman Street neighbor.

Irvine Park Walking Tour Map, Saint Paul Mansions, Henry Knox House


14. Henry Knox House
(26 Irvine Park): Built in 1849 this is the oldest home standing in St Paul and tied with Minneapolis’ Ard Godfrey House as the oldest in the Twin Cities.  For some reason many websites have this house listed as 1860, but the plaque on the outside and historic records we’ve found both say 1849.  This spooky home was built by brothers Henry M. and Jay Knox who were successful bankers in the early days of the city.  We find the home to have the creepy exterior mainly due to the dark green paint and super old windows.  The creepy vibe actually makes the home charming and we love the weathered look of its wood steps and old world front door.  To get an idea of how old the home is, check out the vertical plank siding which is very unique compared to other old homes in the area.  The old siding was actually hidden for years until layers of stucco and was discovered during a renovation.  The Knox House is the only Gothic Revival-style home in the neighborhood and like many of the Park’s homes, was relocated here to preserve it.

Irvine Park Walking Tour Map, Saint Paul Mansions, Forepaugh's Mansion Restaurant


15. Forepaugh’s Mansion Restaurant (276 South Exchange):
Joseph Forepaug owned the biggest dry good warehouse in the Midwest and got super rich selling to the Union Army during the Civil War.  Forepaugh, pronounced 4 Paw, got so rich that he was able to retire early in 1868 at only age 34.  To show off his wealth, Joseph had this huge mansion built in 1870 which which is one of the most beautiful and spookiest homes in Saint Paul.

It true drama started when Joesph started falling into depression early into his young retirement.  It’s said that to help cope with his depression, Forepaugh started having affairs on his wife Mary.  One of these affairs led to him falling for a house maid named Molly which Joseph’s wife quickly caught on to.  After making him break off the affair, the maid Molly hung herself to death from the mansion’s 3rd story chandelier.  Making matters worse the family found out that Molly the Maid was pregnant with Joseph’s baby when she died.

Irvine Park Walking Tour Map, Saint Paul Mansions, Forepaugh's Mansion Restaurant

As you can imagine the whole situation created problems so the family decided to quickly sell their home to General John Hammond in 1886.  General Hammond was long time friends with Joesph and had been General Sherman’s Chief of Staff during the Civil War.  With the home sold the family went on a very long vacation in Europe  while a new home was built for them on St Paul’s Summit Avenue.  The Forepaugh’s new family home at 302 Summit Avenue was completed 3 years later but things didn’t get better.  Joesph’s new Summit Avenue mansion didn’t make him forget about the Molly the Maid and remained depressed.  Everything got worse in 1890 when General Hammond whom they sold the Irvine Park mansion to died.  It all came to an end in 1892 when Joesph walked down to the Irvine Park mansion you see before you and shot himself in the lawn.  Rumor has it that he did it while starring up at the chandelier where Molly hung herself.  You can still see the fixture today in the 3rd floor window of the mansion’s tower.

Since its creepy past, the mansion has been converted into the award winning Forepaugh Restaurant and is a real treat to dine at.  Even if you aren’t looking to eat, the patio area built above the large car port is one of the most unique places in the Twin Cities to grab a drink, just watch out for ghosts.  Restaurant Website: (HERE).

Irvine Park Walking Tour Map, Saint Paul Mansions, Alexander Ramsey House


16.
Alexander Ramsey House (265 S. Exchange Street):
  This large home was built for Alexander Ramsey in 1872.  Ramsey was appointed Minnesota’s first Territorial Governor by US President Zachary Taylor where he served from 1849-53.  He was selected after having a very important role in executing treaties with the Dakota Indians and it kicked off a long political career.  As Minnesota was granted statehood, Ramsey ran for Governor, but lost to friend Henry Sibley.  He filled the time by serving as St Paul’s Mayor from 1855-57 and the regional Indian Agent before being elected as Minnesota’s 2nd Governor from 1860-63.

While Ramsey was the 1st Union Governor to send troops to fight in the Civil War that broke out in 1861 he also waged a bloody 6 week campaign the following year to eliminate any of the Dakota Indians still living in Minnesota called the US-Dakota War.  It may seem weird that Ramsey, a guy who previous worked on treaties with the Dakota people, acted in such a genocidal way later on, however, his treaties were actually a little corrupt from the start.  In 1851, while serving as the local Indian Agent, he approved the $475,000 meant to go to the Dakotas for their land to his friend Henry Sibley on a settlement claim instead.  Ramsey’s approval to eliminate the Native groups in 1862 came directly from President Lincoln after 5 white settlers were killed by starving Natives searching for food after being confined to a reservation.  Lincoln told Ramsey, “Necessity needs no law” and to “attend to the Indians”.  At the end of the Dakota War, Ramsey had 38 Natives hung as the largest mass killing in United States history and the remaining 1700 prisoners were put into a concentration camp below Fort Snelling.  By 1963 all of Sibley and Ramsey’s treaties with the Native groups were voided and the Dakotas were forced to move out of the State to a reservation in the Dakota Territory.  To learn about the campaign against the Dakota the State of Minnesota has set up this website with lot of info on the tragic events of 1962.

Irvine Park Walking Tour Map, Saint Paul Mansions, Alexander Ramsey House

With his time as Governor ending, and the Dakota War behind him, Ramsey successfully ran for US Senate which he served from 1863-75.  Because his time as Governor wasn’t quite over before his Senate term started, Ramsey served as both for over 100 days.  Alexander and his Wife spent most of his years as a Senator living in Washington D.C.’s National Hotel so they could stay active in political and social events.  Halfway through his stint in the Senate the Ramsey’s started work on their huge French 2nd Empire-style mansion in St Paul.  It took 4 years of building until the home was finished in 1872, but it was a masterpiece from the slate roof, to large carriage house, gas lighting, running hot water and tons of interior woodwork.  The home was a far cry from a modest home they originally built on the lot in 1850, but Alexander’s wife who had always dreamed of having a mansion finally got her way.

A total of 3 generations of Ramseys lived in the mansion before it was willed to the Minnesota Historical Society in the 1960s.  Today it give a great glimpse into 1870s life with thousands of preserved period items and pieces of furniture.  Once a month over the Christmas Season they have open History Happy Hours and are available for traditional public tours.  Historic Photos: (1888 With Carriage Step Out Front).  Guided Tours: Are available for per-arranged groups year round and to the general public through the Christmas holiday season.  Restaurant Website: (HERE).


17. John Matheis House (307 North Walnut Street):
Known as the John Matheis House, this brightly colored home was built in 1852 for President Millard Fillmore’s sister-in-law Julia Fillmore.  Carpet dealer John Matheis bought the home in 1868 and remodeled it into a Second Empire-style with a Mansard roof and the large central tower.  In 1873 Matheis was hired by his new neighbor Alexander Ramsey to carpet the then ex-Governor’s entire mansion.  The carpet was installed on the tail end of a shopping spree by Ramsey’s wife where she bought over two full boxcars of stuff to lavishly fill the ex-Governors mansion next door.  The tower of the Matheis home was late removed sometime after Matheis’ death but has since been restored. Historic Photos: (In 1966 Without the Tower | In 2001 With the Tower Restored).


18. 7th Street Restaurants & Bars:
  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 (website) which has the best selection of innovative burgers in St Paul and the Eagle Street Grill (website) 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 par of Irish Pub called The Liffey (website) which has a great rooftop patio, Patrick McGovern’s (website) which has awesome solarium and is the hottest spot during St Patrick’s Day.


Other Sights Near Irvine Park:

19. Downtown St Paul Walking Tour: info coming soon


20. 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 Fitzgerald who wrote the American classic novel The Great Gatsby.


21. High Bridge Park:
The High Bridge park was established in the 1990s to celebrate the West End neighborhood’s first Bohemian residents.  The Bohemians (Czech & Solvac) made up an important part of St Pauls early working class from the 1840s on and today the park holds many symbolic statues.  A lot of the heart for the park comes from the Czech Slovak Society which has been around since 1887.  They have been running the Czech Slovak Festival every Fall since 1989 which currently takes place on their grounds on at the International Institute near the Como Zoo.  Favorites at the festival are the bigger than life puppets often at Czech festivals in MN are called Jarda and Jirka (Judy and Jerry) and are in traditional dress.

The first art piece you come to at the High Bridge Park is the Community Gate salvaged gate from the Saint Stanislav Kostka Church built in 1872 for both Polish and Czech immigrants.  The Gateway, added in 2004, and the stones around it are meant to represent the gateway to the West End neighborhood which was a way to a better life for the new immigrants.  The white marble cap on the piece have carvings from Antonín Dvořák’s famous Slovakian opera called Rusalka. The right side is meant to show a Rusalki water fairy and the left side the forest where the fairies would meet men.  The large central Peace Pole was once of the first pieces when it was added in 1997 with the inscription “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in 4 languages (Czech, Hmong, Spanish, English).  The wave-like stone statue is called The Watcher and is meant to represent the park being a living breathing thing.  Our favorite piece is the huge Big Green Chair which was originally part of a 1995 exhibit at the Walker Art Center.  The chair weighs over a ton and is always a fun place to take photos.

The nearby 160 foot tall Smith Avenue High Bridge was built in 1895 and rebuilt in 1987. Mayor Robert A. Smith was the man you made the bridge happen and was also a banker, postmaster, city councilman, state representative, senator, in addition to being St Paul’s longest-serving mayor of fifteen years.  Below the bridge is a 7 acre dog park on land given to the City when a coal plant was removed. Crossing over the High Bridge to the South brings you up a bluff to some amazing panoramic views of the City along Cherokee Ave, Prospect Park & Blvd.


22. Harriet Island:
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, and the first health director of St Paul who wanted the land to be a park 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 the early 1900s many changes have happened at Harriet from extensive clean up and restoration to the east side channel being filled in 1950 connecting the Island to the main land.  Because the island is now connected to the land, many people mistake Raspberry Island just to the East of it as Harriet Island.  Raspberry is a former Naval training center and has a cool, modern bandshell that is fun to take photos at.  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.


Wabashaw Street Caves
:
Was home to the Castle Royal nightclub from 1933-1965. oriental carpets, crystal chandeliers, and seats for 300 revelers. Cab Calloway preformed here. Gangsters Ma Barker, Baby Face Nelson and John Dillinger all hung out here.Anthony Yoerg House, 215 West Isabel Street, 1875, he had MN’s 1st brewery

Archive photo searchhttp://greatriversnetwork.org/index.php?q=mcdonald+Smith+Avenue&websites=no&imagesonly=no&count=100&displaymode=list&field=q&historicgroup=all&sort=deschttp://uneedahome.com/idx/mls-4401252-59_irvine_park_st_paul_mn_55102