Summit Avenue Walking Tour:
Location: Summit Avenue in Saint Paul
Cost: Free, Self-Guided (Optional Fees Listed Below)
Best Time To Go: Try to schedule your visit around the James J Hill House tour hours which is the main attraction. Tours run Wednesday-Saturday 10am-3:30pm; Sunday 1-3:30pm.
Start: Saint Paul Cathedral
Stop: James J Hill House
Walking Distance: 2.7 Miles
Time: 1.5 Hours (+75 Minutes for James J Hill Tour)
Fun Scale: 10 out of 10
Overview of Summit Avenue:
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 Saint 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. Land may have started at only $1 an acre when the building started, but the booming neighborhood of the rich shot up to $500 a frontal foot within just 50 years! As the community grew many of the wealthy families worked together, socialized together, and their kids even married one another creating many great storylines.
While the Cathedral of Saint Paul and James J Hill House are the two biggest gems on Summit Ave, maybe the most influential person was architect Cass Gilbert who designed tons of the properties. He went to MIT and worked for a New York firm before coming to St Paul and partnering with his college buddy James Knox Taylor in 1884. Both men later went back out to the East Coast and Gilbert ended up designing the US Supreme Court, Woolworth Building, The University of Minnesota, and Minnesota State Capital. Another of Cass Gilbert’s college friends, Clarence Johnston, also designed 30 homes on Summit Ave and is know for have designed 3,500 total buildings. As you read through the details on the Summit Avenue mansions you’ll be amazed at how many of their designs were influenced by just a couple of architects.
Summit Avenue Walking Tour:
1. Cathedral Of Saint Paul: With a commanding hilltop view, the giant Cathedral of Saint Paul towers over the city below. Construction on the massive church started in 1907 with the laying of the cornerstone which was attended by over 60,000 people. The Cathedral of Saint Paul’s 1st service was on Palm Sunday in 1915 even though the inside wasn’t all the way done yet, but it was still attended by 7,500. After visiting this impressive church you understand why the Vatican declared the Cathedral the National Shrine of the Apostle Paul.
Entering the main sanctuary through any of the church’s 12 wooden doors you are instantly struck by the 186 feet tall and 76 feet wide dome which covers seating for 4,000 people. The massive dome is not only amazingly beautiful but was designed with the function to give everyone an unobstructed view of the pulpit. We especially love the 24 large stained glass windows sitting on each side of the Cathedral letting in the colorful light as electric lights weren’t added until 1940.
Making your way around the Cathedral of Saint Paul you’ll find statues of the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in each of the 4 corners. You’ll also see massive bronze works and painting honor the life of St Paul, the namesake of the Cathedral. Our favorite hidden feature of the church is the Shrine of Nations in the back of the Cathedral. The Shrine is made up of 6 mini-chapels with statues honoring the Patron Saints of the main 6 European ethnic groups that originally settled St Paul. The first mini-chapel has a statue St. Therese of Lisieux dedicated to the missionaries and it has an awesome plaque pointing out a stone from the castle of Rouen, France, where Joan of Arc was a prisoner in 1431. The Stations of the Cross are posted on each of the round columns and tell the story of Jesus and the cross.
Cathedral Hours: Typically open to walk around Daily 7am-7pm. Free Guided Tours: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 1pm. Visit our Cathedral of Saint Paul Page Here.
2. Stanford Newel Castle (251 Dayton St): The core of this impressive limestone castle was built in 1864 for a local moneylender named Lasher. When attorney Stanford Newel bought the property 1886 he quickly added the powerful tower and castle-like battlements on the roofline bringing the house up to 8 bedrooms. If you look closely at the limestone you can tell the finish is a little different on the original blocks near the center of the house compared to the ones added in 1886. Standford Newel quickly gained a foothold serving on the Saint Paul’s first City Parks Board and also served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands from 1897 to 1906. A park in Newels honor currently sits in St Paul’s Midway neighborhood. Photo of the Home in 1941: (Click Here).
3. James J Hill Carriage House (260 Maiden Lane): The delightful brick laid Maiden Lane is a charming alley straight out of the late 1800s. We love the crooked barn sitting toward the beginning of the alley and it quickly leads to the vine-covered James J Hill Carriage House. If it seems kind of weird that there would be a carriage house for a mansion over a block away, you’re right. Shortly after building his mansion in 1891, Hill realized the slope by his house was too steep and needed a new carriage house. In an effort to recycle, Hill used bricks from one of his prior mansions to build the huge carriage house you see before you. Expect the beautiful carriage house to be engulfed by vines.
4. Laurel Terrace (286-94 Laurel Ave): This huge Romanesque Style row house was built in 1887 for Will Ryley as an early version of modern townhomes. We love the carved stone detail on the different units and the large and the round Gothic tower that first greets you. The complex is so big that is covers 286-94 Laurel Ave, 123-27 Nina Street, and 297 Maiden Lane. The grandma to author F. Scott Fitzgerald lived for a while in number 294. Historic Photo: (Terrace in 1884).
5. 3 Sisters Kit Houses (313, 311, 309 Laurel Ave): This row of 3 brightly colored homes were built for 3 sisters around 1887. They may seem pretty plain but they were actually Sears & Roebuck Kit Homes ordered out of a catalog. In a new fad you would pick out what you wanted and everything you needed to build your home was delivered to you. We couldn’t find the names of the sisters by the one who lived in 313 married a man named Nathaniel Langford Jr whom she lived here with.
Virginia Street Church (170 Virginia): Built for the Swedenborgian Congregation in 1887 which many of St Paul’s wealthy residents from Boston belonged to. It was designed by local architect Cass Gilbert as one of 6 wood churches he created. While the Virginia Street church is rather small we like its house-like appearance, its tower, and the mesh of paint colors they used on it. Church Facebook Page: (HERE).
6. Blair Flats & Albion Hotel (165 Western Ave N): Blair flats was built in 1887 as an apartment building and hotel by architect Herman Kretz. Although the outside is pretty, Ketz actually did a poor job designing the building as over 40% of the inside taken up by hallways. Ironically his revival architect Cass Gilbert lived here for a time after getting married and really disliked Kretz. Also in 1887 the cross street of Shelby Ave got Saint Paul’s first cable car line which was electrified 10 years later. This new transportation caused a building boom and the bustling drew in so much commerce that some nearby blocks had 26 businesses on them. After WWII this section of the neighborhood hit a steep decline and many of the businesses and homes were abandoned. Luckily in the 1970s some smart business people started to revive the area back into a great place for visits, now considered Restaurant Row.
One popular place on Restaurant Row is right in front of you at Nina’s Cafe named after the Nina Crawford who you will learn about soon. The cafe sits above Garrison Keillor’s bookshop called Common Books (website). Garrison is famous for from Prairie Home Companion. The neighboring WA Frost Building (366-374 Selby Ave) is a beautiful brownstone building originally called the Dacotah Building when it was built in 1889 but the WA Frost name stuck as it was the name of the old Pharmacy on the 1st floor. WA Frost Restaurant (website) gains a lot of ambiance from the historic build, has a great patio, and is consistently named one of the best restaurants in town. Other nearby popular restaurants & bars are Moscow on the Hill (371 Selby Ave, website), the Muddy Pig (162 N Dale Street, website), and the Happy Gnome (498 Shelby Ave, website). Historic Photo: (Blair Flats in 1889).
7.The “Sunflower” House (118 Virginia Ave): This cute little house was built for Daniel Dickinson in 1883 with elaborate sunflower details carved all over the eves, trim, and railing. For whatever reason, the next owners in the early 1900s painted and sided over all of the sunflowers and they were forgotten about. When later owners went to remodel the house in 1975 they found all the original sunflower details and knew they had to restore it. They worked really hard to make sure that every last item carving was brought back to life in historical fashion to meet preservation standards. The only problem with their restorations was that they wanted to add a front porch but had no idea which side the original porch was on as it had been removed decades earlier. Luckily when they started digging they quickly found the original footers buried underground and were able to place the new porch exactly where the first one had been.
8. Theodore Schurmeier Mansion (110 Virginia Ave): Theodore L. Schurmeier got wealthy as a partner in the dry goods firm of Lindeke, Warner, and Schurmeier, but he still managed to marry up. His wife, Caroline Gotzian, daughter of Conrad Gotzian who owned the huge shoe manufacturing company C. Gotzian & Company. The Schurmeier is well known as one of Cass Gilbert’s first projects as an independent architect, but also because it was later moved here from its original location at 189 Virginia Avenue.
In 1887 Schurmeier hired a new architect Clarence Johnston to build him a 2nd house at 5 Crocus Hill. At the same time, Johnston won the contract to build the Aberdeen Hotel and decided to build it where Schurmeier’s 1st house sat at 189 Virginia. Instead of tearing the home down they took it from its foundation and moved it here replacing a home built in 1885 for Q.F. Peet. There was no love lost when Schurmeier switched architects for his second home as Gilbert was childhood friends of Johnston and Johnston was good later going on design over 3500 buildings.
9. Charles P. and Emily Noyes House (89 Virginia Ave): Built in 1887 for Charles Noyes who owned the wholesale drug firm of Noyes Brothers and Cutler that sold to tons of pharmacies. Noyes was wealthy and had already had two other homes on Summit ave but wanted one that related more to his roots in New England. The Noyes ancestral home in Massachusetts dated back to the 1630s so he had this one built in its honor as one of the city’s 1st Colonial Revival houses. Adding his own twist on the style Cass Gilbert put the front door off-center even though the porch is centered to balance out the home’s porte-cochere. You likely won’t notice the door placement until you compare it with the central window right above the porch. Look closely at it and the great colorful details above the windows and entry.
Noyes was an important Gilbert client. Gilbert built a cottage for him at Manitou Island (1884), and Noyes largely funded the German Presbyterian Bethlehem Church (1890) that Gilbert designed at 311 Ramsey. The brick alley across from is original.
10. Albert W. Lindeke Home (345 Summit Ave): Cass Gilbert designed the first home was built here in 1882 for Augustus K. Barnum in the spooky Second French Empire. Later on, Barnum had the house moved near Irvine Park and sold the lot to Albert W. Lindeke. Albert had just taken over his dad’s dry goods firm of Lindeke, Warner, and Schurmeier and had the current home built in 1909 as a Tudor Revival.
The new home was designed by Cass Gilbert’s childhood and college friend Clarence Johnston as Gilbert focused his later work in NYC. Johnston was accomplished designing over 3500 buildings and later helped design buildings for Cass Gilbert got the job to design the University of Minnesota. The garage wasn’t added until 191 but the interesting and worn brick alley next to the garage is the original Maiden Lane dating to the 1800s. Historic Photos: (Original Home in 1902).
11. Livingstone-Smith Home (339 Summit Ave): 1898, This home was built for Crawford Livingston who was the president of the Saint Paul Gas Light Company which became Northern States Power (NSP) and later Excel Energy. What was kind of odd about it is that Livingston never actually lived here as he stayed in his home at 432 Summit (mentioned later) and let his friend C.H.F. Smith live here instead. Smith was a businessman who worked at the NYSE. It is hard to say is Livingston loved his other home to much to move or if he just didn’t like the new European style home.
Cass Gilbert designed the home while on a trip to Europe in 1897. He modeled the porch like a gondola landing in Venice where boats would pull off the Grand Canal as he envisioned Summit Ave as St Paul’s Grand Canal. If you have ever been to Venice you’ll recognize the style as the front of the house is flat to the edge of the porch giving it one flush line. While it may look plain at first glance, we love the details on the porch from the short Corinthian Roman columns to the triangle designs above each porthole. Historic Photo: (Home with neighbors in 1902).
John H Allen House (335 Summit Ave): Queen Anne built for John Allen in 1892 who was a partner at the wholesale grocer Allen, Moon & Company. Instead of a regular house architect, Allen chose J. Walter Stevens who had designed many of his warehouses. Next door at 329 Summit Ave is a nice Victorian built in 1899 for local surgeon Charles A. Wheaton.
Edward N. Saunders House (323 Summit Ave): The 1st home on this lot was built out of stone in 1863 and was replaced by this one in 1892 for Edward N. Saunders who was the President and Treasurer of the Northwestern Fuel Company. We love the bright red brick and curved driveway of this massive home. Interesting to note that after Saunders’ death the home became a convent for the St Paul Cathedral.
12. William B. Dean House (353 Summit Ave): William Dean and his wife Mary had this home built is a unique mix of Queen Anne and Victorian styles in 1882, Halt Timber added to make it a Tudor when style fell out of favor, was restored to old-style again in 2001. William Dean House was a successful St Paul businessman, banker, and later a state senator. Historic Photos: (Original home in 1895, Home Before Current Restoration in 2005).
13. Mrs. J. W. Bass House (365 Summit Ave): Built in 1891 for Mrs. J.W. Bass, this massive Cass Gilbert designed home was originally built as a Queen Anne Victorian style home. By 1903 the family got sick of the house and swapped homes with wealthy wholesale grocer Chauncey Milton Griggs. Griggs quickly remodeled the home into a Colonial Revival style removing the corner tower, wrap-around porch, and adding the powerful Roman column outcrop with 3 roofline windows. You can still see signs of the original design not only from 1891 on the 3rd-floor gable, but also from the bay windows that travel the height of the home’s right side which used to form the corner tower.
14. Cochran Park (375 Summit Ave): The triangle-shaped Cochran Park has been a lush playground for kids to gather and play since the late 1800s. Even local boys like F Scott Fitzgerald often played football here in the early 1900s although it didn’t officially become a city park until 1924. Emilie B. Cochran was the driving force behind the park when she presented the land in 1923 to the city in memory of her husband Thomas Cochran who was a lawyer and real estate investor. The couple moved to St Paul from New York in 1867 and raised 5 kids in their home at 59 Western Ave near the park. Being in real estate, the family also owned another large home at 299 Summit which is now the parking lot to St Paul Cathedral. Thomas was very staunch Protestant and would have been furious knowing that his former home was the parking lot for a Catholic Church, but the Cathedral wasn’t built until 9 years after his death in 1915. It had already been a big dividing line in the family when Archbishop John Ireland converted the couple’s daughter Emily to Catholicism against their wishes.
In designing the Park to honor her husband, Emily chose Gilbert Cass’s understudy to do the park’s shelter, curved paths, and fountains after being inspired by the City Beautiful movement. He did a great job on the design but unfortunately died before it opened. Wanting to put his own stamp on the park the Cochran’s son Thomas III had St Paul native Paul Manship add the sculpture of the Indian Hunter and his dog to the fountain surrounded by 4 bronze geese. You may not know Manship’s name, but he is best known for his sculpture of Prometheus for Rockefeller Center in New York City. The fountain became a huge hit not just with local school kids and most who were going to play there would say “Meet you at the Duck Pond” not knowing statue birds were really geese.
By the 1960s the homes around the park became pretty run down and the sculpture of the Indian Boy was vandalized causing the city to move it to Como Park Conservatory for safekeeping. A fiberglass copy replaced the original until the 2000s when residents petitioned the city to flip-flop their location and get the real one back in Cochran Park.
Commodore Hotel (79 Western Ave N): Built in 1920, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda lived in the hotel when their baby girl, Scottie, was born. The couple reportedly spent a lot of time drinking and partying at the hotel bar.
15. Nathan Hale Park Statue (401 Summit Ave): The Nathan Hale Statue was commissioned in 1907 by the Daughters of the American Revolution to honor this American Patriot. Hale was born in Connecticut in 1755 and had an extremely promising future as he was already going to college at Yale by age 13. When the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775 Hale quickly volunteered to his local militia and started taking on assignments behind British lines. Just one year into the Revolutionary War Nathan Hale was captured and hung to death at just age 21. Hale’s bravery and lack of fear in the face of death became famous and it’s said his last words were “I only regret having one life to lose for my country”.
The statue was done by famed American Sculpture William Ordway Partridge who was known for doing numerous busts at National Monuments. He was a fitting choice to do the sculpture as he had studied Hale and in 1902 Partridge published a book called Nathan Hale, The Ideal Patriot. That statue depicts Nathan Hale during the Revolutionary War with his hands tied behind his back, boldly waiting to be hung at the scaffolds by the British with no fear. The statue does send a bold Patriotic message, but we feel the placement could have been better. The Daughters of the American Revolution were quick to tout it as the 1st monument in honor of the Revolutionary War West of the Ohio River, however, if they would have placed it just a couple of miles always it also could have also been the 1st one West of the Mississippi River.
Edwin W. Winter Residence (415 Summit Ave): Edwin Winter had this big grey and white home built int 1880 around the time he became the President of the Northern Pacific Railway. Four years later he had Gilbert and Taylor remodel it including raising the roof to add a floor.
16. Edward T. Buxton House (421 Summit Ave): The first house on this lot was constructed in 1882 for Joseph Wheelock but when Edward Buxton bought the lot in 1912 he had it demolished to build the current house. We love this house for the 3rd floor which was added in modern times. Seeing how the 3rd floor has been worked into the architecture of the original house lets you see how far they go to preserve the historical nature of historic home while preserving the of these mansions when altering them.
17. Madame Nina Clifford (435 Summit Ave): The main attraction isn’t the tiny home but instead the chainsawed burr oak statue out front. The wooden lady holding a parasol portrays Madame Nina Clifford, the owner of one of St. Paul’s early brothels located in a nearby neighborhood. The rambler home itself was built in 1954 as the 3rd house on the property. The 1st house was built in the 1870s and was replaced but a Gothic and Queen Anne mix in 1890 by owner George T. Slade. After Slade’s death, the house sat vacant and was tore down in the 1930s by Olson Wrecking. While we aren’t a fan of the 1950s rambler it is important to remember that it was built in the style popular in its day just like the homes before it was built in the styles popular in their day. Historic Photo: (2nd House on the property in 1912).
18. Shipman-Greve House (445 Summit Ave): In 1882 Henry Shipman starting building this beautiful Queen Anne house but quickly ran out of money. A year later Herman Greve bought the home from Shipman and finished constructions. It is considered both the first and best example of the style in St Paul. Traditionally the style has a steep roof, dormer windows, gabled eves that stick out along the entire roofline, and a mixture of building materials. The exterior materials go from stone on the bottom to stucco and timber on the 2nd floor, to slate on the top floor. In 1912Frank Ford bought the home and added the left-wing, blending it seamlessly into the Queen Anne style. Later Alexandra Kalman and her husband, who were lifelong friends of F Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, moved here. Historic Photo: (Home in 1888).
Lamplighter Statue (461 Holly Ave): One block to the North is a beautiful wooden chainsaw statue that pays respects to the local street lamps showing an 1800s lamplighter getting a little help from his daughter. The Houses behind it are Edward Sawyer House (461 Holly) from 1891 and the E.H. Bailey House (459 Holly) from 1885. The pretty red vine-covered house across the street is the George Grant House (462 Holly) from 1883. The big stone house at 472 is the William George House built in 1890, was home to Scott Fitzgerald’s grandmother Louisa McQuillan.
19. William & Bertha Constans House (465 Summit Ave): Built for William & Bertha Constans in 1886. William moved to St Paul from France in 1850 and became work as a clerk. He quickly noticed that there was a lot of money to be made if he clerked for many successful businesses at once and started his own firm. Around the same time, he started buying up land in St Paul even in the year his business wasn’t making much money but it paid off. Land prices started to skyrocket in St Paul and William found himself worth almost $1 Million. We find his house to be the perfect balance of elegance and power. This stout mansion blends a number of styles and brings it together with a bold contrast of red brick and white accents.
Do you notice how the left side of the house sticks out way farther toward the road than the right? That is because the home was originally a mix of Queen Anne Victorian and Second French Empire with a huge 5 story tall square tower on the right side above a wrap-around porch. After Constans’ death in the early 1900s, the new owners removed the tower and porch to make it look more like a Colonial style. Local folklore also says that the new owner was the local casket maker who marked his profession by adding the casket-like top to the roofline. Historic Photo: (Home with a tower in 1890).
James Gamble House (475 Summit Ave): Built in 1883 for James Gamble. In the early 1900s, it was home to one of F Scott Fitzgerald’s best friends, Marie Hersey. Fitzgerald noted in his writings that when he was 11 he fell in love with Hersey’s cousin Ginevra King. Next door at 485 Summit Ave (J. A. MacLeod Home) is a cute cottage-like Tudor home that was built for J. A. MacLeod in 1907. If you look close the front door seems really short and we’re not sure if it was because MacLeod was a small man, or because he felt the small doors made the mansion appear bigger.
20. Cyrus B. Thurston House (495 Summit Ave): Built for Cyrus B. Thurston in 1881 and is a pretty mansion made of red brick with a great contrast of bright blue trim although it was originally painted all white. Was one of the first Victorian Queen Anne homes on Summit which is basically a Queen Anne with bay windows and porches that stick straight out. If you look closely around the corner bay window and front door you can see the old roofline from a porch that originally wrapped around the left side of the home. We assume the current owners have names that start with an S & R given the artsy family crest painted above the door.
21. George W. Freeman House (505 Summit Ave): This is a melting pot of styles designed by architect Gilbert Cass for George W. Freeman in 1884. The blended style of the orange stone home is called Romanesque Revival, but they took it to a new level replacing stone columns with white Corinthian period Roman columns and even capped it off Spanish style red terracotta roof. For its day the blending of this many differing styles must have made the house a great statement piece of art. Some places it is listed as the Everett W. Kroeger House, but he didn’t move in until the mid-1900s. Historic Photo: (Home in 1898).
22. Mrs. Porterfield’s Boarding House (513 Summit Ave): Built for W. W. Bishop in 1891, this boarding house was home to some of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary friends. It is one of our favorite mansions with plum colors and cool tower. We love the attention to detail as every eve and piece of trim has a different purple and white pattern.
23. Secret Garden (525 Summit Ave): Now a beautiful garden, the lot once held a home built for Bainbridge H. Evans in 1902 which was torn down in 1970. With the house gone the neighbors behind the parcel at 526 Portland bought the empty lot. They wanted to build a huge private pool but it didn’t fit the historical building code so they built the garden instead. The Secret Garden is private, but you can see well into its beautiful depths. The iron cast lion headgate and standing lion statues help add a flair of stateliness to the mysterious garden.
The Colonial (579 Summit Avenue): This great Antebellum-style mansion with grand pillars and a double level front porch is called the Colonial and was built in 1896. The large Colonial looks even bigger sitting next to the tiny cottage-style home half covered in vines at 573 Summit.
24. The “F. Scott Fitzgerald House” at Summit Terrace (587-601 Summit Ave): Built as an early form of townhomes in 1889, these row houses were once home to famed author F Scott Fitzgerald. While the family moved around a lot and there is no official F. Scott Fitzgerald House, 599 Summit is one of only two houses with a plaque commemorating Fitzgerald.
Here are some examples of F.Scott Fitzgerald moving around over the years. The Fitzgerald family moved from Saint Paul to Buffalo NY for a while but returned in 1908 when F.Scott Fitzgerald was 12 years old. In 1918 F. Scott Fitzgerald was living in NYC trying to make it as a writer, but struggled causing his fiancee Zelda to call off the engagement for a while. Due to his struggles F. Scott Fitzgerald’s parents let him move in with them to this row house at 599 Summit in 1919. The following spring Fitzgerald married Zelda and his first novel “This Side of Paradise” got accepted for publication giving him instant fame.
Mrs. Backus’ Boarding School (586 Holly Ave): Built in 1890, this is where F. Scott Fitzgerald took dancing lessons as a boy. Next door at 596 Holly Ave is a very colorful Queen Anne Victorian style home with a great tower built in 1884. Historic Photo: (School in 1922).
25. Former St. Paul Academy (25 North Dale Street): The old Saint Paul Academy is where local author F Scott Fitzgerald went to school from 1908 to 1911 and published some of his first short stories in the school magazine. The experience was a great foreshadowing that Fitzgerald was destined to be a great American writer. The building now serves as an office building for the Academy and the front steps holding a playful statue of a young Fitzgerald by Aaron Dysart.
William Kirke House (629 Summit Ave): This whimsical home was built by William Kirke in 1896 as a mix between Queen Anne and Gothic. Their architect Clarence Johnston seems to have been inspired by Hansel and Gretel with all the witch-like details. These details start with the witch hat tower, and flow into the gingerbread trim on the eves and even to spiderweb-like bars on the front door windows. Across the street on the corner is 624 Summit Ave (Charles H. & Elizabeth Schliek House) built in 1899 as a Queen Anne Gothic.
26. “Residential” Apartments (610 & 616 Summit Ave): The owners of this land wanted to build an apartment building here for a long time, but local mansion owners strongly objected. They wanted their neighborhood to keep a certain prestige and petitioned to have the Summit Avenue be one of St Paul’s 1st residential-only neighborhoods. It took them until 1920 to get the ordinance passed and only single and double-family homes could be built. Strangely this double apartment building was able to be built in 1927 because the landowners of this and a few other lots managed to get themselves out of the agreement.
27. The Greve & Lillian Oppenheim House (590 Summit Ave): Built 1913 for Greve who was a wealthy real estate investor and the son of a lawyer. Check out the view from the left with the Japanese gardens. Designed by Firm Ellerbe Becket who also designed the Omnitheater double IMAX screen at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Was modeled after Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie-style using flat line and horizontal space which looks more modern than other old houses as it plays off lines instead of decoration. Big lack of curves. Only 1 of 2 true Prairie Styles on Summit.
28. The “Angled Drive” House (534 Summit Ave): This unique home was built in 1884 for Walter J. S. Traill who was a grain dealer that got his start at the Hudson Bay Company. The slanted home was later owned by Homer Clark who was the President of West Publishing which is now part of Thomas Reuters. This one of a kind mansion will definitely get your attention.
29. William Butler “Lemon Meringue” House (516 Summit Ave): This 1914 mansion is nicknamed the Lemon Meringue House for its yellow brick and white fluffy looking quioned corners (pronounced coined). It’s a mix of Italianate and Mission Revival styles with a low pitched roof, fancy brackets on the eves, and quioned corners. Author Sinclair Lewis lived here from 1917-1918 and was rumored to be writing a book on James J Hill. Sinclair, like F Scott Fitzgerald, was born in MN and considered one of the top 5 American Writers off all time. In 1930 he was the 1st writer from the United States to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. His biggest successes were Main Street, Arrowsmith, Elmer Gantry and many of his books were transformed into award-winning movies.
30. Addison G. Foster Home (490 Summit Ave): Built for lumberman Addison G. Foster in 1883 this huge mansion has a lot more of an open side yard than most in the neighborhood and almost takes up two full lots. This is striking because high demand for real estate along Summit Ave forced sellers to start selling by frontal foot instead of acres meaning the wider your lot on Summit Avenue the more expensive. The home has an excellent roofline with a stepped appearance called crowstepped gables and beautiful windows that mix squares, arches, and circles. Foster left the home to be a US Senator in Washington State, but the current owners always show a lot of pride and have lawn chairs set up in the summer with their house number printed on each one. Historic Photo: (Home in 1888).
31. The “1930’s Art School” House (476 Summit Ave): After he got rich from investing in coal and lumber with James J Hill, Chauncey W. Griggs had this awesome mansion built for himself and wife Martha in 1883. We love the powerful stone blocks and a large tower, but the giant glass skylight is its most unique feature. The huge skylight was added in the 1930s when the home was used as the St Paul Gallery and School of Arts. Later when you get to the James J Hill house notice how it also has a similar skylight above its art gallery wing. If we had to describe this Richardson Romanesque style home is three words it would be Gothic Stone Castle. Historic Photo: (Home before skylight in 1895).
32. Burbank-Livingston Griggs “Cupola” House (432 Summit Ave): This unique mansion was built in 1862 for $22,000 which was a fortune at the time. The home was equipped with the latest technology of the day including gas lighting plus hot and cold running water. It is the 2nd oldest house still standing on Summit Ave and at the time it was built there was only the Outlook Hotel and 6 other homes on the street. In total 5 homes on Summit built in this Italianate Cupola style, but only 2 remain. The style is known for its cupola watchtower, low-pitched roofs, large decorative brackets under the eves, and tall skinny windows with curved tops. The overall look is meant to be square and balanced.
The 1st owner James C. Burbank was into steamboats and stagecoaches as a businessman. He had Cass Gilbert design the home as one of his first professional works. The 2nd owner Livingston was the president of the Saint Paul Gas Light Company which became Northern States Power (NSP) and is now known as Excel Energy. Livingston only lived here for 8 years before moving to 339 Summit Avenue. The 5th owner was Mary Livingston Griggs, who in 1925 began to make significant changes inside the mansion. She added a lot of European decorations inside as well as a large art deco ballroom. Griggs went so far to purchase entire rooms from French and Italian mansions being demolished in Europe and move everything inside to Saint Paul. Today the Cupola House is an upscale apartment building and has a beautiful greenhouse garden area in the back. Historic Photo: (Home in 1880).
33. The University Club (420 Summit): The University Club marked a changing of the guard from between the generations of wealthy Summit Avenue residents. The original families moved in largely in the 1880s and when their sons were ready to strike out their own lives in the early 1900s they wanted more. Part of this change of was the building of the University Club in 1912 molded after other university clubs in London the Eastern United States. These exclusive fraternal clubs often required invitations and always require a college education. The funny thing about this is that many of the first generation men including James J Hill himself couldn’t attend as he had no college education. Most of the self-made 1st generation didn’t even have high school degrees. People with no college ed can now join with a special application. Women can also join now.
The huge University Club was designed by Allen Stem of the Saint Paul firm of Reed and Stem, who designed over 100 railroad stations and depots, St Paul Hotel and Co-designed Grand Central Station in New York City. The distinctive style called Tudor Revival is known for a central entrance with large wings and a steep roof that has predominate upside-down, V-shaped gables. Historic Photos: (Back of the Club in 1912, Postcard of the Club from 1920).
34. Overlook Park: In 1859 the Carpenter’s Lookout Hotel was built on this unique triangle lot sitting on the bluff looking down over the Mississippi River. At the time St Paul was as far up the Mississippi that boats could go so it became a hot stop for hotels to accommodate wealthy travelers from the steamboats. Being up on the bluff prior to the streetcars it wasn’t very easy to get to the hotel, but they did a great job of marketing it as a classy destination with a view.
The Lookout Hotel was built right on the edge of the Bluff with a large stone retaining wall helping to create the road up Ramsey Hill below. The owners really took advantage of the bluff location by building the Hotel with a 2 story basement that had windows cut right into the cliffs retaining wall. The entire building was capped with a large observation deck. The hotel had a fire in the mid-1880s and shortly after the owner died so the city had it tore down and turned into a public park in 1887.
The ornamental rod iron fence and retaining blocks on the cliff side of the grounds are original to 1887 when it was transformed into a park and the retaining wall was re-built. The large statue of an eagle holding a Serpent was created by artist Louis Saint-Gaudens for the New York Life Building in 1890 making it the oldest sculpture in St Paul. Louis originally carved the entire statue out of marble and then made the Bronze cast you see today. The statue sat at the New York Life Building in Saint Paul until it was torn down for urban development in 1967. From there the statue went to the Pioneer Building and switched places with each new building owner including spending time in a parking garage! The eagle was finally placed into its final home at Overlook Park in 1999, but we find it really odd that they didn’t set the statue facing out toward the bluff. Historic Photo: (Lookout Hotel in the 1880s).
35. Rice-Ordway Home (400 Summit): It is hard to imagine that this huge bright yellow home with white quoined corners was originally built as a mix between Queen Anne and Gothic styles in 1882 for a man named Auerbach and was later bought by Henry M Rice as a gift for his daughter. Residents of St Paul will know Henry’s last name because of Rice Park in Downtown St Paul, but there is a lot more to know about the man. Rice came to Minnesota in 1839 before it was even a state and worked as a fur trader at Fort Snelling. He gained the trust of local Native Americans and helped arrange a peace treaty with Ojibwe Indians in 1847. Rice later became the Congressional Representative for the Minnesota Territory, was vital in gaining Minnesota’s statehood in 1857, and then served 3 terms in the US Senate. Henry was passionate about education and not only served on the Board for the University of Minnesota but also as the President of the Minnesota Historical Society.
In the 1920’s Lucius Ordway moved in and did a ton of remodeling including adding a ton of stucco on the house. Ordway had been the owner of plumbing supply company Crane and Ordway and took many risky business moves that made him beyond wealthy. The biggest move came in 1904 when he invested $100,000 of his own money to bring the struggling Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company from Duluth to the Twin Cities. The company was close to running out of money and had heavy debt, but after being brought to Saint Paul, they made a quick turnaround. By 1916 the company, know today as 3M, had over $1 Million in annual sales from big breakthroughs with sandpaper technology. 3M continued to be innovative by creating famous products including masking tape, Scotch Tape, and Post-It-Notes. By 2011 3M had grown to over 84,000 international employees and over $30 Billion in annual revenue. With a huge family fortune Lucius Ordway and his daughter Sally were committed to giving to the arts in St Paul and today the cities main theater bears his name.
36. J. R. Mitchell House (370 Summit Ave): Built in 1909 for J. R. Mitchell, this brick Georgian Revival-style home has a beautifully curved pillar entryway. Mitchell was the President of the Capital National Bank of St. Paul and later played a huge role in bringing the Federal Reserve Bank to St Paul. Designed by Clarence H. Johnston who put his own touch on it by creating a set back on the left side of the home when most Georgians had a perfectly rectangle layout. In another twist, Johnston designed in a huge vault in the basement to fit Mitchell’s banking history.
After Mitchell’s death construction giant Patrick Butler bought the house and moved in with his wife Aimee Mott. Aimee came from a ton of wealth as her dad Charles Mott was one of the richest men in the World from the 4 Million early shares he got in General Motors after helping to get the company off the ground. The two of them went on to make huge strides in helping people in Saint Paul who suffered from Alcoholism and Patrick was often called the Saint of Summit Ave by the people he helped. Mitchell House Website: (HERE).
37. Rachel Hill House (366 Summit Ave): In 1884, local Dr. Daniel R. Noyes built a huge mansion here which was later bought and tore down by James J Hill’s daughter Rachel. In 1928, Rachel Hill and her husband Dr. Egil Boeckmann built the house you see today. The couple, who married 3 years before her father’s death in 1916, had previously lived in numerous homes along the avenue including a few years at the main Hill mansion taking take of her mother Mary before she passed away. Rachel Hill inherited a nice chunk of the family fortune, but her husband was also successful on his own right. Boeckmann was a football star at the University of Minnesota, became a renowned surgeon, and later founded the Ramsey County Medical Society. In 1967, Rachel passed away in this house at the age of 86, outliving all of her siblings.
As you look at Rachel Hill’s house looks a ton like the neighboring house you just passed at 370 Summit until you look closely at its details. No expense was spared on the construction as the roof is made out of slate stone and it has a ton of white marble including the frames around all the doors and windows. Another neat thing is the subtle quoining of the home where the corners stick out. Most quoined homes, like the yellow one at 400 Summit, use an accent color to frame the house, but the Rachel Hill House uses the same brick throughout making it a textured experience. While many people would call this a Georgian-style home, but it is actually considered a variation called Federal because of its distinguished details. Historic Photo: (Previous Home in 1898).
38. The “Eyesore” Double House (362, 364 Summit Ave): Locals didn’t want this built in 1977 when the new owners were replacing a rundown 1860s mansion, but there were no preservation rules yet so they protested. They didn’t like the driveway in front or its flat, modern look. The compromised and put the fence and shrubs out front although fences and shrubs were also taboo was everything wanted the houses to be grand and visible to the street. They did keep the original carriage house which can be seen far down the drive on the left.
39. Watson P. Davidson House (344 Summit Ave): In 1886 a big stone house was built on the right side of this lot with a large lawn on the left. When Watson P. Davidson bought the property in 1914 he decided to build the current house on the left lawn and tear down the old home, essentially flip-flopping the home/lawn placement. Davidson’s Beaux Tudor-style mansion was designed by Thomas Holyoke, who had been Cass Gilbert’s protege from 1884 to 1904, and it is considered the best work on Holyoke’s solo career. The mansion is surprisingly 14,000 square feet even though it looks smaller from the road.
Davidson was known widely for his love of gardening and had one of the largest gardens on Summit Avenue. Below are a couple of photos of the garden from 1949 include one of Watson hard at work. In the early 2000s the mansion served as the College of Visual Arts which closed in 2013. Historic Photos: (Previous home in 1888, Current Home in 1916, Garden in 1949, Watson in his Garden in 1949).
40. Thomas B. Scott Home (340 Summit Ave): Thomas B. Scott had this mansion built in 1894 for himself and wife Clare on a skinny lot so the home had to be built sideways. It is mainly in the Italian Renaissance style but as a lot of added carving details and the stone is smoothed dress stone which was new at the time. Inside the Scott’s home has a grand sweeping staircase like that on Gone With The Wind. This unique home was designed by Allen Stem of the Saint Paul firm of Reed and Stem who designed the St Paul Hotel and Co-designed Grand Central Station NYC, and the U Club St Paul.
41. The “Hitching Post” House (332 Summit Ave): Known as the Hitching Post House, this beautiful home was built for Edgar C. Long in 1889. At the time Long was the general manager of the Railway Supply Company where he made his fortune. The iconic horse post in the front of the house was added in the 1990s as a replica of one that stood here when the home was first built. Staying with the horse theme, the garage on the left side of the house was originally a drive-through, covered portico to drop off visitors coming by horse carriage.
The Hitching Post House is considered the most expensive home that famous architect Cass Gilbert designed in Saint Paul at $40,000. The home was inspired by a similar house Gilbert designed in Maryland in 1882 which was also in a Queen Anne style with a corner tower. Historic Photo: (Home in 1890, Home in 1898).
42. Lightner-Young Double House (322-324 Summit Ave): This large brownstone house was built as a double house in 1886. Attorney Will Lightner lived in the left side (322 Summit) and his law firm partner George Young lived on the right side (324 Summit). Lawyers Charles McKim and Stanford White got their start working for Lightner and Young before branching out into the famous firm McKim, Mead & White.
The home was designed by Cass Gilbert and partner James Knox Taylor, as one of their first times teaming up. The Richardsonian-style of the mansion is named after architect Henry Hobson Richardson’s death who died the same year as this house was built. The style incorporates a lot of patterns into the design from red stone, to brick and marble. Richardson’s influence on an entire generation of architects was profound and the year before his death 5 of his buildings made the 10 best in America by his peers. Historic Photo: (Home in 1888).
43. William H. Lightner Home (318 Summit Ave): In 1893 Attorney Will Lightner got bored of his half of the double home next door at 322 Summit Ave and had Cass Gilbert build him a brand new home. This new mansion was done in the same style, but is considered the most Richardsonian of Gilbert’s home designs. By 1893 the Richardsonian style was overused and starting to go out of style, but Lightner preferred the beauty over being trendy. We love the contrast of stone colors with purple Sioux quartzite accented with red Kettle River sandstone. A unique aspect of the time was the arched entryway being flat to the house as an elegant decoration instead of jutting to block the rain and snow from the front door.
44. The Old Smith “Vine” Mansion (312 Summit Ave): This amazing vine-covered mansion was built back in 1858 for David and Mary Stuart making it the oldest house on still standing on Summit Ave. David died the year the home was finished and it ended up slipping into a sheriff’s auction in 1860. Because of the turmoil of the Civil War hit the next two owners were foreclosed on from financial hardship. The next owner was General Haupt who was the general manager of the Northern Pacific Railroad when architect Cass Gilbert worked there from 1878 to 1883.
In 1887 former president of the Bank of Minnesota Robert A Smith bought the home fresh off of being elected Mayor of St Paul and hired his friend Cass Gilbert to remodel it. Frederick Driscol of the Pioneer Press, mentioned at 266 Summit Ave, later bought the home and had Cass Gilbert’s understudy Holyoke do further remodeling. Historic Photo: (Home in 1888, 1st 6 houses on Summit in 1859 – 312 is on the far left).
302 Summit Ave (Forepaugh’s 2nd Mansion): Queen Ann Style in red stone. Joseph Forepaugh (pronounced 4 Paw) owned the biggest dry good warehouse in the Midwest and got super rich off of sell goods to the Union Army during the Civil War. He got so rich that he was able to retire in 1868 only at the age of 34. As a showpiece of his wealth, he completed a huge mansion near Irvine Park that still stands today and has been converted into the award-winning Forepaugh Restaurant (website). The family decided to build a second house here on Summit Ave which was finished in 1889, but Joseph didn’t get to enjoy it. Fresh off a trip to Europe in 1892 Joseph, age 58, shot himself at the Irvine Park Mansion in a fit of depression leaving his wife Mary and two daughters to move in by themselves. Within days of Joseph’s death, one of their maids named Molly hung herself from a 3rd-floor chandelier at the Irvine Park home sparking rumors that she was pregnant with Forepaugh’s baby.
Joseph’s wife and daughters held the Summit Avenue house for nearly 50 years, but after the depression, large home was turned into 19 apartments. Today the large brick mansion has 6 condos taking up the right side and a single townhome/condo taking up the entire left side. Look closely at the cast-iron details at the top of the tower beautifully mixing curved floral designs in green, black, and red.
45. Germanic American Institute (301 Summit Ave): The 1st house on this lot was built in 1882 by local doctor Alexander Stone. In 1903, Dr. Stone had his home moved to 107 Farrington Street in Saint Paul where it still sits today. Two years after the move, a real estate agent and insurance salesman named George W. Gardner acquired the land and had architect Thomas Holyoke build the current stone mansion. In 1948, the Sisters of Saint Benedict bought the home and turned it into Saint Paul’s Priory. In 1965 the Volksfest Association, now called the German-American Institute, took the house over and has used it for offices and classes ever since. Institute Website: (HERE).
Albert & Louise Lindeke Home (295 Summit Ave): This Victorian Mansion may be one of the most visually impressive with a contrast of red limestone, its beautiful curved tower, and accents of yellow and blue paint. It was built in 1885 for Albert H. and Louise Lindeke who were owners in the dry goods firm of Lindeke, Warner, and Schurmeier. Unlike many Summit ave mansions that would change hands many times, the Lindeke’s lived here all the way until the 1930s. They chose Architect Augustus Gauger to design their home as he had built some warehouses for them Downtown. 11-12 foot ceilings throughout. The home’s tower was actually first built in the center of the facade, but in 1903 the Lindeke’s had firm Reed & Stem re-design it to add a porch and mimic the popular Queen Anne-style corner tower placement. Reed & Stem were a pretty big time firm to have redo your porch as they later went on to co-designed Grand Central Station NYC.
From 1974 to 1986 the Society of Friends or Quakers used the Mansion as a meeting hall and school before deciding it was too large to maintain. From 2006-2009 the entire home was gutted and resorted to its later 1880’s glory with extreme attention to detail. Historic Photo: (Home in 1902). House Website: (HERE).
46. George F. Lindsey’s Lumber House (294 Summit Ave): In 1859 a grand Italianate stone home was built here, but when George F. Lindsey’s bought the property he rebuilt the current home out of lumber. Since Lindsey had gotten rich off lumber he was kind of obligated to build out of wood instead of stone or brick-like most of Summit’s other mansions. It is considered either a Georgian Revival or Colonial depending on who you talk to. The large neighboring building at 280 Summit Ave wasn’t built until 1996 and was 4 separate $1 million condos.
275 Summit Ave (Summit Manor): Charles Schuneman had this home built in 1901 to replace that burned down here in 1895 and it has a great blend of yellow stone with white Corinthian period Roman columns. Today the home is called Summit Manor (website) and used for weddings. Next door to Summit Manor is Creepy Peet (271 Summit Ave) was originally built for Joshua Sanders who was president of the Northwestern Lime Company in 1882. Just 5 years later Emerson Peet bought it and remodeled it to the current and creepy Second Empire style with a Mansard roof. Historic Photo: (Manor with extra tower window in 1888).
47. Driscol-Warehouser House (266 Summit Ave): Built by Frederick Driscol of the Pioneer Press Newspaper in 1884 and is 11,000 sq feet with 8 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms. The Queen Ann Gothic-style mansion has an awesome tower and is one of our favorite houses on Summit Avenue. Driscol had moved to Minnesota from Boston in the 1850’s and in 1860 only at the age of 26, he was elected as a State Legislator. More impressive than how young he was elected was the fact that he was elected as a Republican in Scott County which was as close to 100% Democrat as it gets at the time. Around the same time in 1861, Driscol bought Moribund Newspaper, renamed it the Scott County Journal and quickly renamed it again as the Union Newspaper while it quickly grew.
As the 1862 Governor’s Race heated up, two Republican candidates arose and Driscol’s Union Newspaper choose to back Congressman Cyrus Aldrich of Minneapolis while his competing newspaper The Press backed the current Governor Alexander Ramsey of Saint Paul. After Ramsey won the re-election, Driscol’s Union Newspaper struggled and had to merge with The Press in 1863 to create the Saint Paul Daily Press. It also created a partnership between The Press’ editor Joseph A. Wheelock and Driscol. With Wheelock’s writing and Driscol’s business sense, they turned the Daily Press into a powerhouse and by 1875. They quickly bought out pretty all of their competition including the Morning Tribune and the Evening Mail in Minneapolis creating a strong monopoly. With the St. Paul Evening Dispatch left as pretty much the only competitor they changed the name of their new powerhouse one last time to the current name of the Pioneer Press in 1875. They gained a lot of wealth and influence as their office became the finest building in St Paul and they helped get Governor Pillsbury elected to 3 terms in a row.
Mansion of bought by Fred Warehouser who owned the largest lumber company in the World. Warehouser’s biggest break came when he bought 9 Million acres of prime timberland in the Pacific Northwest from railroad tycoon James J Hill. This land sale by Hill was the start of what later became US Bank. Historic Photo: (Home in 1888).
48. Louis Hill House (260 Summit Ave): This huge, brick Georgian-style mansion was built for Louis “Louie” W Hill in 1902 as a wedding gift from his father James J Hill. The original part of the house is the large barn-shaped section in the back overlooking the Mississippi River. When Louis Hill who took over for his dad as the president of the Great Northern Railroad in 1913 the front was added on almost doubling the size of the mansion. When you look at the home from the side you can really visually separate the original barn-shaped part in the back and the 1913 addition. It is interesting to note that they retained the original column portico when doing the addition and simply moved it forward. Louie and his wife Maud were definitely socialites and F Scott Fitzgerald writes about going to a costume party here in a short story called The Camel’s Back.
255 Summit Ave: Finally a High Victorian Gothic Style home that looks pretty instead of scary! Built in 1884, this bright purple double home has whimsical landscaping and a very inviting appearance. The old stone home to the left at 261 Summit was built in 1891 for James H Weed who had his own insurance brokerage and loan office. While it looks old, to us it lacks the personality of the surrounding homes.
49. Horace P. Rugg House (251 Summit Ave): 1887, Horace P. Rugg owned Horace P. Rugg and Co which sold both plumbing and railroad supplies. Rugg had early served as a Lieutenant Colonel leading troops in the Civil War in 1864. We love this home for its Decorative covered entryway on the right of the house. It has topless women lusting playing music on either side of it capped with two angel-like child figures playing along with the women. The carvings continue along the side of the house but a have not been as well maintained as the front and appear worn. Historic Photo: (Home in 1891).
50. James J Hill House (240 Summit Ave): Overlooking the Mississippi River from a 3-acre lot, the James J Hill House is the jewel of Summit Avenue and the largest home in Minnesota. This massive 36,500 square feet stone mansion was built in 1891 for railroad tycoon James J Hill. The 5-story Richardsonian Romanesque-style mansion cost over $930,000 ($19 Million today) and spared no expense. Elaborate mahogany woodwork fills the mansion complete with 13 bathrooms, 22 gas-lit fireplaces, 16 custom chandeliers, an 88-foot reception hall, and a 3 story pipe organ with 1,006 pipes. Rare for its day the 42 room James J Hill House had central heating, central ventilation, full electricity with gas backups for the lights, full plumping for hot and cold running water, and even had a greenhouse on its upper level. The floor of the greenhouse was later opened up to the study below and is now used an art gallery flooded with light. We love the elegant stairway with a large dance hall at its base and a huge stained glass wall at its back. The James J Hill House is impressive now, but in its heyday, it was so grand that representatives of the Vatican and even President McKinley visited it.
To truly understand this powerful home you must know a little about its owner James J Hill. Known as the Empire Builder, Hill was a true rag to riches story born in Canada to immigrant farmers. He was self-educated after the 8th grade and moved to St Paul to seek his fortune in 1956 at just the age of 17. The frontier of St Paul was as far up the Mississippi River as boats could travel at the time and James J Hill saw a huge opportunity with railways. As a full-blown workaholic, Hill worked his way into ownership of the Great Northern Railway. The rail lines were quickly expanded North up the Red River Valley to access grain and lumber to ship back to the water-powered mills in St Paul.
The Minnesota wilderness gave James J Hill’s railroad access to some of the best natural resources in the country (iron ore, lumber, and grain) giving his business a huge advantage to grow. With the building of the Hill’s Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis, he was able to funnel even more of Northern Minnesota’s resources to sell to brand new mills. The saw and grain mills quickly grew to be the highest producing in the World. The company then set its sights on moving West, hit copper mines in Montana and hit pay dirt when they found the Marias Pass over the Rocky Mountains. By 1893 the Great Northern Railway was transcontinental from St Paul and Minneapolis to Seattle, the same year a huge financial depression hit the United States. All of the other transcontinental railroads went bankrupt from the depression as did 50% of the Nation’s banks, but the Great Northern lived on.
In 1901, Hill and investor JP Morgan bought the Northern Pacific Railroad and the Burlington lines which gave them control of 1/4 of all the Nation’s rail lines. When he tried to merge all three under a single company name he was found in violation of the Sherman Anti-trust Act but President Roosevelt and forced to break it all up. Hill was worth $63 Million with a total of $200 Million in assets in deserve lines which he continued to run with great success, all though he felt personally crushed. One of his last deals was selling 9 million acres of timberland which set the foundation for what later became US Bank.
James J Hill died in the home from a long bout of untreated hemorrhoids in 1916 at the age of 77. He sought help late with a home visit by the famous Mayo Clinic brothers but by that point, his condition was too far gone. Surprisingly, the very detailed-driven Hill died without a will and when his wife Mary died just 5 years later she also did not have a will prepared. This created a lot of issues for the couple’s 10 children who bought the home in 1925 and donated it to the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul. In 1978 the Minnesota Historical Society acquired the home and has been giving year-round tours ever since. You can still see James J Hills influence directly around the Twin Cities from not just the Stone Arch Bridge and Libraries he built, but how his work helped the entire metro to grow and be what it is today.
House Tour Hours: Wednesday-Saturday 10am-3:30pm; Sunday 1-3:30pm; Closed major holidays. House Tour Cost: Adults $9, Seniors & Students with ID $7, Kids $6. Art Gallery Hours: Monday-Saturday 10am-4pm; Sunday 1-4pm; Closed major holidays. Historic Photo: (Home in 1891, Greenhouse in 1891, Home in 1895, Home in Winter of 1895, Postcard of the mansion in 1907). James J Hill House Website: (HERE).
Other Nearby Sights: (Update In Progress)
1. Old Street Car Tunnel: When Streetcars were added to Selby St in the 1890s they had problems with the steep grade of St. Anthony Hill (Cathedral Hill) in the Winter and the Selby tunnel was built going under the hill and the cars ran here until they service stopped in the 1950s
3 lines ran down Grand, Selby, and Rondo Avenues.
1. MN History Center:
1. MN State Capitol:
1. Downtown St Paul:
1. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Birth House (475-481 Laurel Ave): These apartments are known as San Mateo Flats and were built in 1893. In 1896 when Fitzgerald was born here, at home, in the second-floor apartment on 481. one of two houses with a plaque commemorating FSF.
He was named for his famous distant cousin on his father’s side: Francis Scott Key, who course composed The Star Spangled Banner.
Only lived here for 2 years before his dad lost his job and they had to move to NYC where they stayed until 1908 when they came back and rented a house on Summit Ave. Behind the apartments is the St Paul Curling Club (470 Selby Ave) where residents have been using sliding and sweeping stones across the ice since 1912.
1. Grand Avenue: http://grandolecreamery.com/
1. Governor’s Mansion (1006 Summit Avenue):
Across the street is great chainsawed wooden statue of a maiden hold a water jug
2.The “Dentist Cottage” (161 Cambridge Street): Hidden 3 blocks south of Summit lies one of the most romantic houses in St Paul. This farm style home was built in 1887 for Dentist David McCourt. It was similar to the layout of a Queen Anne with a corner tower, but the house was shaped like a barn with a silo-shaped tower. It was the first house built around Macalester Park and was the start of a very cute neighborhood with winding roads. Even though the home only cost $3,000 McCourt had to sell the home in 1897 to one of his neighbors G.O. Somers after he ran into bad money problems. Somers looked the farm theme and had a new Carriage House built behind the home also shaped like a barn.
On your way to Shadow Falls check out the Pierce and Walter Butler House (1347 Summit). It is a huge French chateau-like brick mansion.
1. Shadow Falls & Mississippi Lookout:
On your way to Shadow Falls notice the huge mansion on the north side of Summit with has a curved driveway at 1855 Summit.
1. William R. Marshall House (496 Marshall Ave): To amazing Queen Anne style homes side by side with. This home was built for William R. Marshall in 1891 who had served as MN’s Governor from 1866-70 fresh off of serving in the Civil War. The street bears his name.
Neighboring 492 was built for Captain J.W. Jacobs in 1891 who is said to have served with Marshall
One block to the South is the Judson Bishop (193 North Mackubin St) which was built in 1882 by local engineer Judson Bishop who managed the St Paul Railroad and lived in the home with his wife Mary. Looks very similar to the Norman Bates Motel from Hitchcock’s thriller Psycho. This style of home is called Second Empire Style and was inspired by the French with a Mansard roof and central tower.
One block North you’ll find the quaint stone David Luckert Home (480 Iglehart Ave) which was built for David Luckert way back in 1858 making it one of the oldest homes in town. In the time it was built the road was called Saint Anthony Road and was the main carriage route from Saint Paul to Saint Anthony Falls in downtown Minneapolis.
Stepping stone theater now a church