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SPIF Tour of Summit Avenue

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Back To Home Page of Citizens Guide to St. Paul

SPIF Tour of Summit Avenue

Taken from "St. Paul (SPIF) Stories"

If you were riding down Summit Ave with a busload of British E-Democracy experts, what stories about the city and our forum would you tell?

  • You can tell them about how Gorbachev jumped out of his limousine in front of the church at Lexington to mix with the crowds there, on his visit to the Governor's Mansion.
  • Or that Kofi Annan went to Macalester College in the sixties.
  • look in the forum archives for the st thomas expansion. good visual at cleveland and summit now - new building at fin and grand already up - see the interplay between the forum and the expansion.
  • One story you could tell about the Capitol is how St. Peter was almost made the capitol in 1857. I've included a short and long version of the story below (copied from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Peter,_Minnesota and http://www.renne.com/Paternal/LarsHf1c.html, respectively)
  • If you are going down Summit then at some point as you go by the governor's mansion you'd have to do some Jesse stories. I think that campaign was one of the first ones where you could see a candidate get a level of strength of the net. Some of the regular posters became activist in the campaign.
  • You should certainly mention "The Grand Round".
  • You might also mention Sharon S. Anderson's home, contested property of a perenial and current candidate for mayor.
  • And then there is the intersection of Summit and Snelling where every Sunday picketers protest the war or some other important cause.
  • Fragmented thoughts on Summit Avenue:
    • St. Thomas' vast holdings
    • Twin Cities Marathon route (finish)
    • Cathedral's new roof - sales of old copper (crosses)
    • variety of churches, temples, etc.
    • rare roundabout just off Summit near Wm Mitchell/Laurel
    • Summit beer
    • play a Butch Thompson CD (he lives on Lincoln, I believe; Stillwater HS
    • graduate, the birthplace of Minnesota and also almost the capital)
    • stop in Kowalski's and look for Garrison Keillor
    • Uni Club - stop in for a Union Jack and Coke
    • wizard who lived across from McLaughlins', near CVA
    • James J. Hill and his empire
    • look - no fat people! or poor people!
    • carriage house
  • I believe Summit Avenue from the river to the Cathedral is considered the most outstanding example of original Victorian boulevard architecture in the United States. There are two historic districts on Summit, Ramsey Hill at the east end, and the West Summit district from Snelling to the river.
  • I think you can see the tower of the Schmidt Brewery from that overlook on the south side of the street right near the University Club. You know those stories, can tell them a few, and explain why they're not smelling what used to smell. It would be a good place to pull the E-Democracy Limo over for a stunning view of the City. (Another good view of the city is from the West side end of the High Bridge. I always take people there for a sense of how the city is connected to the river)
  • You might have them notice the Short Line (aka Ayd's Mill Road) where it passes under Summit and discuss the controversy surrounding it. That took up some significant space on the forum.
  • You could tell about the Hubert Humphrey Funeral at the House Of Hope Church in I think 1978. President Carter and VP Mondale were there but I think for the first time the entire Senate were gathered together outside of the Capitol Building Ion Washington D.C. Of course you could point out the F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sinclair Lewis homes.
  • Oh yeah, if you go down I-94 into St. Paul be sure to tell your visitors how that strip of freeway used to be Rondo Ave, the heart of the African American Community in St. Paul. How the Urban Planners in the 60's figured if you took out the heart of the black community, that maybe that would disperse the community and would put an end to crime, prostitution, murder, and everything else blacks were blamed for back then (still are really). What they didn't understand was that the homes all around Rondo Ave were owned by African American families that had been here a long time. Their parents lived in the neighborhood, grandparents, children. People grew up and died in the Rondo neighborhood. They could take out Rondo Ave, but they couldn't take out the "heart" of the neighborhood. Many of the families still live there. Divided by the dumb freeway. Tell them how we need to repair the mistakes of rotten urban planning in St. Paul done over 40 years ago.
  • I think that St. Paul might be one of the few cities where one can bike along a boulevard like Summit all the way to a state capitol. I've never been to Portland or Seattle or other transit-friendly places like that, and Madison may have a layout similar to St. Paul (and for all I know, there's a straight shot to Helena along a transit-friendly road in Montana), but it seems to me that state capitols are often in high traffic areas such that you'd never have a wonderful ride like you can make from the Miss. River at one end all the way down to the Capitol Dome at the other--without need of a car or a taxi. Or an SUV.
  • Of course, you could also deter onto Grand Avenue and point out all the small businesses that aren't there any more as chain stores move in, but that might upset somebody at the tourist bureua or the chamber or GABA. And then we might not get a bunch more four story buildings or parking garages there, which would be a real downer.
  • But you should definitely have them tour all the monuments and memorials on the Capitol grounds. It's really quite beautiful and emotional if one takes the time to realize how many people have come before us, and how much Minnesota blood has been spilled in various foreign conflicts, whether righteous or not. This is a beautiful city. (Let's just hope the litter on Summit isn't as bad as Univ. Ave, but that's a topic for another day.)
  • No story about a trip from Mpls to St. Paul, via Summit Ave, should be told without mentioning the Twin Cities Marathon. In only 24 years, this has become an institution. It is probably the most uniting event that there is between the two great cities, and especially the most noteworthly one that is actually called Twin Cities "....". It also attracts one of the largest crowds every year since 1982, when it started. The international flavor of the event is also impressive, not to even mention the great runners and wonderful stories of accomplishment from the many average runners from Minnesota and all over. I was fortunate to run in the first one and in several since.

References:

  • You could refer them to the John Sanford "Prey" book. They do speak to the area around the James J. Hill mansion in early St. Paul
  • St. Paul's Summit Avenue by Ernest R. Sandeen, 1978, who was a professor at Macalester. He's the one who proclaimed that Summit Ave is the best-preserved Victorian Blvd in the US--which may have been parochial overstatement, but not way off base. 97 pages.
  • The Saint Paul Historic Preservation Commission's Historic Context Studies. It's a three-ring notebook report. One of the chapters is on Residential Real Estate Development: 1880-1950. Done in 2001. May not be in libraries, I'm not sure.
  • Claiming the City: Politics, Faith, and the Power of Place in St. Paul by Mary Lethert Wingerd, 2001. 273 pages. Would be too much to read for tomorrow.
 

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