I Thought I Heard Goats

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Frogtown, Como, Highland Park     13.77 miles

St. Columba 1

The gorgeous Church of St. Columba,1327 Lafond Avenue, is a Frogtown landmark

The stunning September weather continued for another weekend, bringing enough sun and warmth to almost blot out thoughts of putting my bike away for the season. The points of interest started in Frogtown with the Church of Saint Columba, the iconic Catholic church on Lafond Street. I usually favor the architecture of older, traditional churches but the design and construction of Saint Columba are superb. The distinctive cylindrical spire topped with a silver cross seems to keep watch over the neighborhood. Although not apparent from the ground, Saint Columba is shaped much like a fish.(1) The more you look, the more you see all that makes this church so special.

The steel doors and above them, the stunning gold lettering are strongly set off by the white stone building

The steel doors and above them, the stunning gold lettering are strongly set off by the white stone of the building.

The cornerstone is in Latin.

The cornerstone is in Latin.

The curved chapel is the largest feature of the east side of the church.

The curved chapel is the largest feature of the east side of the church.

Another set of doors, on the east side of the church.

Another set of doors, on the east side of the church.

Windows about two-thirds of the way up the spire.

Windows about two-thirds of the way up the spire.

The cross atop the spire at Saint Columba.

The cross atop the spire at Saint Columba.

I did not go into Saint Columba but all accounts and photos I’ve seen indicate the unique architecture and beauty continue inside.

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The stone United Church of God in Christ is also on Lafond, at Lexington.

The stone United Church of God in Christ is also on Lafond, at Lexington.

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Confusingly, this entrance faces Lexington Parkway, despite the Energy Park address .

Confusingly, this entrance faces Lexington Parkway, despite the Energy Park address.

If you are unhappy with your internet speed (who isn’t?) and concerned about your safety and security and that of your belongings, this building is perfect for you. Officially known as “St. Paul STP-1125 Data Center”, the 113,000 square foot building includes multiple fiber optic providers (super fast Internet!), a large conferencing room, large fitness center next to showers and lockers, office and warehouse space.(3) Not only that, there are as many as 60 indoor parking spots, so there’s more than enough room for you, your family and one hundred of your closest friends or family.

Most recently the building housed a MISO (Midcontinent Independent System Operator) data center, an independent, not-for-profit regional transmission organization responsible for maintaining reliable transmission of power in 15 U.S. states and one Canadian province.(4)

A very serious security fence lines the entire building perimeter.

A very serious security fence lines the entire building perimeter.

A peek between the fencing shows two large, semi-mounted generators ready in case the power goes. Never again will a pesky thunderstorm interrupt your Internet surfing or Netlix.

A peek between the fencing shows two large, semi-mounted generators ready in case the power goes. Never again will a pesky thunderstorm interrupt your Internet surfing or Netflix.

The wonderful back yard of the Karl Wessel Home, 1285 West Como Boulevard.

The wonderful back yard and the back of the Karl Wessel Home, 1285 West Como Boulevard.

Churchill Street, a one-way thoroughfare very near Como Park and Como Lake features some beautiful homes. The largest, which I would call an estate, faces east so the back yard is on Churchill and the house is on Como Boulevard, facing east. The extraordinarily sculpted landscaping and backyard structures made me feel as if I was transported back to the Victorian Era. The home, built in 1902, is known as the Karl Wessel residence.

A long-standing wrought iron fence discourages uninvited guests from enjoying the back yard.

A long-standing wrought iron fence beautifies the neighborhood and discourages uninvited guests from enjoying the back yard.

Peeking through a decorative wrought iron circle on the fence I got a unusual view of the sidewalk between the house and the back yard. The vines hanging on a large pergola confirm it’s autumn.

Peeking through a decorative wrought iron circle on the fence I got a unusual view of the sidewalk between the house and the back yard. The vines hanging on a large pergola confirm it’s autumn.

The size and character of the home becomes apparent when viewed from the side (the north.)

The size and character of the home is apparent when viewed from the side (the north.)

Before I moved on to the front of the Wessel House, I turned to the north and took a few steps across Churchill Street, just into Como Park, to examine an unconventional memorial.

The torpedo was donated by the U.S. Submarine Veterans of World War II in 1965 as a remembrance of those who died aboard subs during that war.(5) A plaque on one side of the memorial lists all who died aboard the USS Swordfish. The other plaque names the 52 U.S. subs lost during World War II.

The torpedo was donated by the U.S. Submarine Veterans of World War II in 1965 as a remembrance of those who died aboard subs during that war.(5) A plaque on one side of the memorial lists all who died aboard the USS Swordfish. The other plaque names the 52 U.S. subs lost during World War II.

torpedo memorial 2torpedo memorial 1

The distinctive wrap-around porch and a turret, the two most interesting features of the Wessel House, came into view as I got close to the front.

The freshly remodeled Karl Wessel House looks very similar from the front as it did in 1905, about three years after being built for $10,000.

The freshly remodeled Karl Wessel House looks very similar from the front as it did in 1905, about three years after being built for $10,000.

Wessle house 1905. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

Wessle house 1905. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

Karl Wessel was an inventor on top of being an architect. His more intriguing inventions include 1902’s “Mattress-Filling Machine”, a “Briquet Machine” from 1906 and two years later, a “Machine for Making Ice Cream Cones.”

A patent diagram of Karl Wessel's Briquet Machine.

A patent diagram of Karl Wessel’s Briquet Machine.

Como Lake and walking and bike paths are on the opposite side of West Como Boulevard.

Como Lake and walking and bike paths are on the opposite side of West Como Boulevard.

There are close to a dozen Victorian-era homes along Como Boulevard. While none are bigger than the Wessel House, nearly all have been restored to their original glory, or at least updated.

In the 1880s, 52 acres of land in this area made up the railroad suburb of Warrendale. One of the developers, Cary I. Warren, lived at 1265 West Como Boulevard.

The Cary I. Warren residence, 1265 West Como, circa 1888. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

The Cary I. Warren residence, 1265 West Como, circa 1888. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

Although significantly remodeled, 1265 Como remains much much of its original Victorian style.

Although significantly remodeled, 1265 Como remains much much of its original Victorian style.

Horton marks the end of West Como Boulevard and the string of Victorian homes.

Horton marks the end of West Como Boulevard and the string of Victorian homes.

On a number of rides I’ve come across someone worthy of a story and interview but the resident or business owner isn’t available. Occasionally I’ve visited two or three times with no luck, so in those cases I’ll make an appointment. That’s the situation today; I have an appointment in Highland Park, so I’m off to Lexington Parkway to go south.

Central Lutheran School, formed by the merger of several Lutheran schools, opened here in 1951. A predecessor school goes back to 1861, just after Minnesota became a state.(6))

Central Lutheran School, formed by the merger of several Lutheran schools, opened here in 1951. A predecessor school goes back to 1861, just after Minnesota became a state.(7))

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Painter Kerry Koenker checks his work above the intersection of Lexington and Thomas.

Painter Kerry Koenker checks his work above the intersection of Lexington and Thomas.

Continuing southward on Lexington, I stopped for a red light at Thomas Avenue. There, in a bucket truck some 20 feet above the street, stood a painter putting a new coat of paint on the stoplight.

painter kerry 2

After a few minutes Kerry Koenker finished one light and pole and moved his truck to the east side of the intersection. The first question I asked Kerry was how he likes painting traffic signals for a living. “I love what I do! I get to be outside. I work hard so I stay in pretty decent shape. The money’s real good.”

Kerry been a “vested union journeyman aerial industrial painter” (that’s his official title) for 25 years. He’s worked for Aerial Painting Inc. for all but about two of those years.

Kerry uses different rollers and brushes depending upon what he's painting.

Kerry uses different rollers and brushes depending upon what he’s painting.

I was surprised to learn that Kerry spent four years at Saint Paul Technical College learning the trade. “Then after the four years you also have to work 6,000 hours to work your way up to journeyman (pay) scale, which is the highest scale.”

Kerry told me it takes him about seven hours to prep and paint one traffic signal like these at Lexington and Thomas. “First of all, we’ll pressure wash the poles and then prime them and then you gotta paint them. We’ll paint the stanchions (vertical post), the heads (stoplight), the pipes, the mast arm, the illuminator, the bases and the buttons. We’ll paint them all.”

Occasionally Kerry is able to get out of the bucket to paint with both feet on the ground.

Occasionally Kerry is able to get out of the bucket to paint with both feet on the ground.

When I asked Kerry whether painting traffic lights is dangerous he answered with a quick and firm, “Very. When we go to do the mast arms we have to literally park in the middle of this busy road; because wherever there are lights, that means inherently it’s busy. So I have to park on the main drag there (Lexington) and then you also have a good chance of being rear-ended.”

Kerry works on the traffic light overhanging Lexington. The only place he can park the bucket truck is in the street.

Kerry works on the traffic light overhanging Lexington. The only place he can park the bucket truck is in the street.

I’ll be right here working on that side of the pole and the traffic comes by and if they’re not careful and I’m not careful, I’m dead.”    Kerry Koenker

Kerry told me about his closest call, which came about when he was painting lights on a freeway exit. A man in a large van drove between Kerry’s truck and a pole Kerry was painting. The van glanced off Kerry’s truck and the pole and crashed. “When the cop came, he’s here talking to me and I said, ‘Do you think if that van had rear-ended me it would have killed me?” And he says, ‘No, I don’t think it would have killed you, I know it would.’”

It was surreal. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was not to be killed.”

Kerry found out later the driver of the van lost control of the vehicle because he suffered a heart attack.

Spray paint is Kerry's tool of choice for the signal shades.

Spray paint is Kerry’s tool of choice for the signal shades.

Aerial Painting Inc. is one of the very few companies in the Metro area doing this specialized painting so Kerry and his bucket truck are occupied spring to fall.

painter kerry 8

My unexpected and captivating visit with Kerry put me about 40 late for my appointment in Highland. Shortly before 3 p.m. I arrived at Luke and Hal’s.

The sound of a barking dog is common; the occasional cat’s meow routine; a chicken cluck infrequent; and most never hear the bleat of goats in Saint Paul-unless you’re near the intersection of Lexington and Juno Street. Lucas (Luke) Clapp and his dad, Hal, have been raising Nigerian Dwarf goats in their backyard at 1086 Juno Avenue for about a year and a-half. Charlotte and Luna are both females that the Clapps bought from a breeder in Orr, Minn.

Lucas (Luke) Clapp, left, pets Luna and holds a container of goat milk. On the right, Luke's dad Hal, holds onto Charlotte.

Lucas (Luke) Clapp, left, pets Luna and holds a container of goat milk. On the right, Luke’s dad Hal, holds onto Charlotte.

“Of course they were in the house for a while with the kids and on the sofas…” Hal said. The goats moved out of the house as soon as Hal built them a barn.

One of the two rooms in the goat barn Hal and Luke built.

One of the two rooms in the goat barn Hal and Luke built.

According to Hal, “What really got us started was Lucas being involved in Future Farmers of America with Highland (Park) High. It’s pretty unique for a metro school to have that program, but they’ve had it for quite some time.”

Luna and Charlotte watch me take a picture of the Clapp's backyard.

Luna and Charlotte go about their business as I take a picture of the Clapp’s backyard.

Prior to the goats, the Clapps had chickens and bees, so unusual pets is normal for them.

Believe it or not, goats and many other hoofed animals are legal to keep in Saint Paul and according to Hal, it’s easy to get the necessary permit, “The City of Saint Paul is pretty flexible on that as long as you have the neighbors’ permission and you’ve got the right sort of space for the animals.”

Luna steps into the barn for some water.

Luna steps into the barn for some water.

Charlotte and Luna are energetic but the Clapp’s backyard has mellowed significantly since spring when Charlotte and Luna gave birth to five kids between them. Luke and Hal sold the kids through an ad on Craig’s List.

The does are more than pets. “One of the things that we said, and he (Luke) agrees with, is if we’re going to have animals they’re going to have to produce something,” Hal told me. “So we have two beehives, the chickens and the goats and I have goat milk in the refrigerator right now.” Hal said he’s about ready to take his first shot at making chèvre (French for goat cheese.)

“People come over all the time; you’ll hear them; they’ll be like, ‘I thought I heard goats!’ ‘Yeah, yeah, you did.”   Hal Clapp on what he overhears people in the parking lot of the nearby Trader Joe’s say.

I asked Luke whether the goats are social. “I didn’t realize how much of a personality they would have and how much they’re like dogs in a lot of ways. They really like people. I thought it would take some training to get them to like people. At first they were a little skittish but almost immediately they warm up to you a lot.”

Charlotte looks for something to eat.

Charlotte looks for something to eat.

Luke told me that like a dog, he tried to take Luna and Charlotte for walks a few times. “One time I had them on a leash and I let them off ‘cause I thought, ‘OK, they’re interested in food.’ They turned around and just sprinted across Lexington and just right home. They wanted to be back.”

Hal mentioned that each goat has a unique personality. “This one (Charlotte) is super, super headstrong and really smart. When I get them on the milking stand and Luna will jump right up and Charlotte will be, ‘I know where this is going. I don’t care how hungry I’m not going up there.’”

Luna, left, and Charlotte investigate my camera.

Luna, left, and Charlotte investigate my camera.

According to Hal, the goats enjoy the backyard. “They’re kind of free range; they’ve been pretty good about staying in their pen but they get kind of noisy and they like to be out. They’ll lounge around in these chairs. They will eat anything they want to, pretty much. So I used to have a pretty nice flower garden back in here around the rain garden…”

Mmmm. Bark.

Mmmm. Bark.

I figure the missing leaves on the shrubs and hedges were the result of two hungry goats, not the autumn weather.

Epilogue: Monday, May 4, 2015

By happenstance, I saw Hal Clapp this weekend and asked how Luna and Charlotte did over the winter. Hal said he and Luke agreed to sell the goats to a farmer before the worst of winter hit to spare both humans and goats hassles of the cold and snow. Hal added that they retain visitation rights.

Click on the following link to see the route of today’s ride: http://www.mapmyride.com/workout/966476039

Footnotes

(1) Church of Saint Columba website, http://turnerscross.com/architecture/barry-byrne/church-of-st-columba-st-paul-minnesota-1949/

(2) Franciscan Brothers of Peace website, http://www.brothersofpeace.org/index.php/faq-sp-442588529

(3) CBRE Digital Realty website, http://www.cbre.us/o/minneapolis/AssetLibrary/1125EnergyParkDrive_InteractiveBrochure_v03_SH%5B3%5D.pdf

(4) MISO website, https://www.misoenergy.org/AboutUs/Pages/MISOFAQ.aspx

(5) page 2, Como Park History Tour: Part 1, http://www.district10comopark.org/uploads/Como+Park+History+Tour+Short+Version+for+D10_2.pdf

(6) p15 The Improvement Bulletin, Oct. 11, 1902

(7) Central Lutheran School website, http://www.clssp.org/history.cfm

On the Edge of Downtown

Macalester-Groveland, West End, Downtown
13.4 Miles
September 20, 2014

It's a buyers market today in Macalester-Groveland.

It’s a buyers market today in Macalester-Groveland.

There are sales galore in Mac-Groveland on this beautiful Saturday.
I made two stops on the same block of Palace Avenue in Mac-Groveland today, both for ornamentation so unusual they could (and may still) be recognized on the “Quirky Saint Paul” page of this blog. First, at 1366 Palace, these two pirate penguins stand guard.

Pirate penguins or penguin pirates? You tell me.

Pirate penguins or penguin pirates? You tell me.

Pirate penguins 2

Ahoy!

Then on the boulevard of 1360 Palace, a tree home for a small mammal or elf.

Could this be the home of the famous Keebler® elves?

Could this be the home of the famous Keebler® elves?

There’s even lawn furniture and a mailbox for the occupants.

There’s even lawn furniture and a mailbox for the occupants.

West End

Today the Schneider-Bolera House is back in

Today the Schneider-Bulera House is back in “like new” condition.

Fast forward to the West End and the historic Schneider-Bulera House at 365 Michigan Street. There is a sizable amount of debate about the history of the Schneider-Bulera House, with most of the disagreement about the home’s age. At one time local historians thought it could be the oldest surviving residential dwelling in Saint Paul but additional research changed that. Now, prevailing opinion is that it is one of Saint Paul’s older homes. The Ramsey County Tax and Property look up website gives an 1865 construction date for the house, with which the owner obviously disagrees.
IMG_8143 - Version 2
I haven’t dug up the full story but the Schneider-Bulera House fell into disrepair and prior to the most recent improvements, was in sad condition.

This is how the Schenieder-Bulera House looked in 2001. Courtesy Dick ??? and MnHS)

This is how the Schneider-Bulera House looked in 2001. Courtesy Dick Anderson and MnHS)

This part of the West End, officially called Winslow’s Addition, has quite a number of older homes, most dating back to 1880 or later. Only 369 Michigan, immediately west of the Schneider-Bulera House, comes close to the same age. Again, according to Ramsey County records, 1870 is the construction date of 369 Michigan.

Hmong archives 1

This brick home at 343 Michigan Avenue has been here for an estimate 135 years.

Several doors to the east, is this brick house, built in 1880. Quite obviously the difference in style and construction material between this home and the Schneider-Bulera House is significant. No longer a single family home, the tree-shrouded 343 Michigan Avenue is the Hmong Archives, a collection of close to 111,000 artifacts.(2) Yuepheng Xiong founded the Hmong archives in 1999 and moved it to 343 Michigan in 2010. The Hmong Archives is open to the public both during regularly scheduled hours and by appointment.

You might want to call before you go to the archives. I stopped three times and never found it open.

You might want to call before you go to the archives. I stopped three times and never found it open.

Dousman Park is half-acre space at Dousman and Goodhue Streets with a small playground.

Dousman Park is half-acre space at Dousman and Goodhue Streets with a small playground.

Downtown – A quick Visit
It’s less than a mile from Dousman Park on the West End to West 7th Street and Kellogg Boulevard Downtown. From there, the layout of some Downtown streets range from puzzling to confounding to mystifying, depending upon your experience and need to find an address.

West 7th Street intersects West 6th, Old 6th and West 5th. North is at the top of the map. Courtesy google.

West 7th Street intersects West 6th, Old 6th and West 5th. North is at the top of the map. Courtesy google.

For instance, West 7th crosses Kellogg, then West 5th, and West 6th/Old West 6th Streets.

One of several Catholic Charities buildings in this part of Downtown is at the corner of Old 6th Street and Main Street.

One of several Catholic Charities buildings in this part of Downtown is at the corner of Old 6th Street and Main Street.

To blur maters more, south of this intersection Main Street becomes Smith Avenue.

To blur matters more, south of this intersection Main Street becomes Smith Avenue.

Several businesses including a credit union and a couple of union headquarters are in the Labor & Professional Centre. This corner is expected to change considerably this summer when construction begins on Catholic Charities replacement for the Dorothy Day Center. The new emergency housing facility will have some 280 beds and close to 200 living units. (4)

Several businesses including a credit union and a couple of union headquarters are in the Labor & Professional Centre. This corner is expected to change considerably this summer when construction begins on Catholic Charities replacement for the Dorothy Day Center. The new emergency housing facility will have some 280 beds and close to 200 living units. (4)

Main Street isn’t; not even close. This picture is looking north from Old 6th Street and Main. The white object at the far end of Main Street is a “decorative” wall for the I-35E/I-94 commons.

Main Street isn’t. And not even close. This picture is looking north from Old 6th Street and Main. The white object at the far end of Main Street is a “decorative” wall for the I-35E/I-94 commons.

Mary Hall, Catholic Charities' rooming house for the homeless.

Mary Hall, a Catholic Charities’ shelter for the homeless.

Catholic Charities owns and operates Mary Hall, a homeless shelter for adults. Built in 1925 or ’26 by St. Joseph’s Hospital, it offered, “a private room and ample accommodations” for more than 200 of its nursing students.

Nurses gathered outside their dorm in 1953.

Nurses gathered outside their dorm in 1953. Look at those hats! Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

Today the entrance looks much the same.

Today the entrance looks much the same.

The one reminder I found of the Mary Hall’s original use is above the main entrance.

The one reminder I found of the Mary Hall’s original use is above the main entrance.

Continuing northbound on Main Street I waded through the St. Joseph’s Hospital campus.

St. Joe’s parking ramp doubles as a billboard for the hospital.

St. Joe’s parking ramp doubles as a billboard for the hospital.

 Now in the midst of the St. Joe’s Hospital campus at 10th Street at Main and looking east. The emergency room is in the foreground and the twin spires in the background belong to Assumption Church and behind it, Travelers Insurance headquarters.

Now in the midst of the St. Joe’s Hospital campus at 10th Street at Main and looking east. The emergency room is in the foreground, the twin spires in the background belong to Assumption Church and behind it, Travelers Insurance headquarters.

From 10th Street I turned south on to St. Peter Street and caught site of the 20 story Gallery Tower building The dull but inoffensive structure has more than 190 condos and first floor office space.

From 10th Street I turned south on to St. Peter Street and caught site of the 20 story Gallery Tower building The dull but inoffensive structure has more than 190 condos and first floor office space.

Looking north on St. Peter Street toward the Capitol grounds. Gallery Tower is on the right.

Looking north on St. Peter Street toward the Capitol grounds. Gallery Tower is on the right behind the skyway.

7th, old 9th and st. peter

Today it’s the intersection St. Peter and West 7th Street but for many years this was 9th Street and 7th Street was two blocks south of here, hence the small Old 9th Street sign.

In 1956 and beyond, Saint Paul's Greyhound Bus Depot occupied the corner of St. Peter and 9th Streets.

In 1956, Saint Paul’s Greyhound Bus Depot occupied the corner of St. Peter and 9th Streets. Today the depot is long gone and so is 9th street.

The Ramsey county Juvenile Detention Center replaced the Greyhound Bus depot on the northeast corner of St. Peter and West 7th street (aka Old 9th Street.)

The Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center opened in the 2000s on the same spot the Greyhound Bus depot stood; the northeast corner of St. Peter and West 7th street (a.k.a. Old 9th Street.)

A couple doors south of West 7th is one of Saint Paul’s most recognized but puzzling establishments. The Original Coney Island Café and Tavern at 444-448 St. Peter Street opened in 1923 and over the subsequent 90-plus years, grew into a Downtown icon. For all practical purposes, the restaurant closed in 1994 when co-founder Frances Arvanitis got sick. After her death, her three children took ownership and open the café now and again for special events.(6) The Coney Island can also be rented for private parties.

The Coney Island Cafe' and Tavern occupy two neighboring buildings.

The Coney Island Cafe’ and Tavern occupy two neighboring buildings.

coney island 2

This building, 448 St. Peter, is the oldest non-residential building in Saint Paul and Minneapolis still in the spot where it was built. (7)

This building, 448 St. Peter, is the oldest non-residential building in Saint Paul and Minneapolis still in the spot where it was built. (7)

A better look at 444 St. Peter Street.

A better look at 444 St. Peter Street.

Heading Home
Ramsey Hill
I was up for a challenge on the way home so as I left Downtown I chose to leave via Ramsey Street – one of the steepest climbs I’ve encountered in Saint Paul. I had barely begun the ascent when I stopped to snap a few pictures of the large house at 319 Ramsey.

Perched over Ramsey Street like a royal overlooking her subjects, 319 is known today as the Arth House. According to myresearch, at least one law firm is located here. A wrap-around porch and three-sided area in the center-front of the house vie for the attention of passers by.

Perched over Ramsey Street like a royal overlooking her subjects, 319 is known today as the Arth House. According to my research, the Arth Law Firm is located here.

A wrap-around porch on the ground floor and three-sided rooms on the second and third floors vie for the attention of passers by.

A wrap-around porch on the ground floor and three-sided rooms on the second and third floors vie for the attention of passers by.

Large vases decorate both sides of the terraced staircase.

Large vases decorate both sides of the terraced stairs.

Then I turned my attention back to the Ramsey Street hill. On this day, it was the hill 2, me 0, meaning I stopped twice on the way up to catch my breath. The Ramsey Hill beat me on this ride, but I’ll be ready next time. The route I took on this 13.4 mile trip is here so please click on Garmin Connect.

Footnotes
(1) Saint Paul Historic Context Study Neighborhoods at the Edge of the Walking City, Prepared for
Historic Saint Paul,
City of Saint Paul Heritage Preservation Commission, and Ramsey County Historical Society
Saint Paul, Minnesota, b
y 
Mead & Hunt, Inc., 2011
(2) Hmong Archives website, http://www.hmongarchives.org/aboutus.html
(3) APALA Asian Pacific American Librarians Association website, http://www.apalaweb.org/about/
(4) Finance & Commerce website, January 15, 2015, Construction near for new Dorothy Day Center, Brian Johnson
http://finance-commerce.com/2015/01/construction-near-for-new-dorothy-day-center/
(5) St. Joseph’s Hospital History website, https://www.healtheast.org/st-josephs-hospital/about/history.html
(6) St. Paul Pioneer Press, Frederick Melo, 03/14/2012
(7) AIA Guide to the Twin Cities, page 337, Larry Millett

Schools, Pools, Beer and Deer

Macalester-Groveland, Highland Park, West End

Saturday, September 6, 2014    11.9 miles:

Randolph Heights Elementary School on Hamline Avenue in Macalester-Groveland.

Randolph Heights Elementary School on Hamline Avenue in Macalester-Groveland.

Students in Saint Paul went back to school this week, making the visit one of my favorite school buildings, Randolph Heights Elementary, apropos. This gorgeous 1916 building has several uncommon and attractive elements. The first is the Spanish-influenced design itself. Lead architect Charles Hausler visited schools in California and adopted qualities (stucco exterior, flat roof, curves and arches) into the design of Randolph Heights. (1)

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The frescoes above the front entrance are the second striking decorative element.  The young man sitting atop books with another in his hand, while the young woman rests upon a bench needlepointing is a great reflection of gender roles 100 years ago. Another atypical aspect to the original design of Randolph Heights is the swimming pool, long since covered, with the space used for other purposes.

Another angle of the front of Randolph Heights.

Another angle of the front of Randolph Heights.

Randolph Heights Elementary School cost $101,356 and some change to build, a premium price for a school with eight classrooms and 320 students. (By my figures, construction of the Randolph Heights classrooms averaged more than $12,600.) The May 1917 edition of the publication “School Education” strongly criticized Saint Paul school officials for their spending.

“The present city policy of erecting school buildings by force account is shown to be extravagant, and the cost of the recently completed Randolph Heights and Como schools is shown to be excessive. The proper unit cost of elementary school buildings is placed at approximately $7,000 per room…” (3)

Randolph Heights Elementary School in 1925. Photo courtesy courtesy Karen Duke and Randolph Heights.

Randolph Heights Elementary School in 1925. Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

On the other hand, the one-story design selected by Randolph Heights architects and the school district started a new trend.

“There is today an awakening on the subject of the one-story school. This volume presents that subject, and asks: ‘Why the peril of the upstairs school?’ As this is written, the school world is throbbing with a menace and its question is ‘Fire!’ The one-story school is one safe answer to that dominant peril of the school. And the one-story school answers other big questions; questions of hygiene, of health, of education.” (4)

From Randolph Heights Elementary I went east to Lexington Avenue. Though tempting, I didn’t take full advantage of the long downhill slope from Jefferson all the way to the intersection of Lexington, Montreal and West 7th. Rather, I weaved in and out among some of the streets that between Lexington and east to 35E. Otto Alaska At Otto and Alaska  I spotted this interesting design in the concrete steps.

The wall resembles Lucky Charms.

The wall resembles the marshmallows from Lucky Charms.

Next, back to Lexington and to a relatively new development of townhomes called Deer Park.

Public streets in Saint Paul feature green and white signs. The black and white Deer Park sign indicates it is a private road. The 11 townhomes here were built in 2003.

Public streets in Saint Paul feature green and white signs. The black and white Deer Park sign indicates it is a private road. The 11 townhomes here were built in 2003.

I stopped at Deer Park because there is a ‘hidden park’ behind the townhomes. (In City lingo it’s called a ‘passive’ or ‘ghost’ park.) Though there is absolutely no signage or other identification of Dawson Park, you’ll find it on some official Saint Paul maps and on the City’s list of parks. Perhaps most surprising is this two acre wooded refuge has been a City park since 1884! (5)

 The hidden park lies on the other side of this fence. I got access by walking through a gap in the fence.

The hidden park lies on the other side of this fence.

Now standing at the edge of Dawson Park looking back toward Lexington, you can see four of the Deer Park townhomes. I cut across the lawn of the townhouse on the left to get to the park.

Now standing at the edge of Dawson Park looking back toward Lexington, you can see four of the Deer Park townhomes. I cut across the lawn of the townhouse on the left to get to the park.

There are some lightly traveled paths through the woods but the brush is frequently thick and the mosquitoes even thicker.

There are some lightly traveled paths through the woods but the brush is frequently thick and the mosquitoes even thicker.

A short distance beyond the line of trees, the terrain suddenly climbs steeply up a bluff toward Edgcumbe Road and Place. Swarming mosquitoes and the bike shoes I wore dissuaded me from attempting to scale the incline, but I’ll be back.

One of few remaining small streams that meander above ground through Highland Park (the neighborhood.) Most of the steams here and elsewhere in Saint Paul were diverted into the storm sewer system years ago.

One of the many small springs that meander above ground through Highland Park (the neighborhood.) Many of the steams here and elsewhere in Saint Paul were diverted into the storm sewer system years ago.

Walsh Park is another hidden park just south of Dawson, according to the Parks Department maps and website but I have yet to search for it.

759 Lexington Parkway South has been Carol Sturgeleski’s home since 1963.

759 Lexington Parkway South has been Carol Sturgeleski’s home since 1963.

Back on the bike and moving north up the Lexington Hill, I stopped to talk with a woman on the sidewalk. Carol Sturgeleski told me she’s lived in Saint Paul her entire life and here at 759 Lexington, for 51 years. The way Carol and her husband, Bernie, found this home where they raised six children, is a story of coincidences. Her brother was selling his house in Eagan. The owner of 759 Lexington bought it. Carol and Bernie learned about 759 Lexington’s availability from her brother and they bought it.

Carol Sturgeleski stands in her back yard amongst the flowers and bird feeders.

Carol Sturgeleski stands in her back yard amongst the flowers and bird feeders.

“These are black walnut trees which are not too nice. Beautiful wood but when those black walnuts fall down they keep hitting my roof.”

At 50 feet wide and 170 deep Carol’s property is larger than the usual Saint Paul lot. Thick brush and woods at the back of the property make it more uncommon. “There’s a fence there. Can you see it right there in the middle part? It goes back there and I think there’s a nine foot easement in between and the people on the hill have the rest of it.” The woods, Carol said, are home to some animal friends like deer and turkey, that occasionally visit her yard, “We’ve had turkeys ‘cause my husband used to always feed the birds. At first it was fun and cute but after a while, they were digging up all my grass. They had such big claws and they just chewed up all the grass and whatever. So I said, ‘That’s enough of that. The cuteness is gone.’”

Carol  back yard as seen from the edge of her property.

Carol’s back yard as seen from the edge of her property.

Carol’s children enjoyed playing on the hill and woods, especially in winter. “When the kids were little they would slide down the hill. It was more open then. I’ll never forget when the second son came down and hit one of the trees. The kids brought him in the house and they brought him in the bathroom. All of a sudden he just collapsed, passed out.” Carol added that her son came to quickly. She also told me she wasn’t very worried because he had teeth knocked out playing hockey.

Today the woods behind Carol's house are choked with brush.

Today the woods behind Carol’s house are choked with brush but when her children were young, they sledded down the hill on the right.

After 51 years, Carol still loves where she lives. “In the middle of the city, it’s beautiful, but there’s a lot of work with this yard.” Fortunately, one of Carol’s sons now cuts the lawn for her and she’s contemplating hiring someone to do some of the other jobs. Just up the block, the home at 687 Lexington Parkway is obscured by a thick growth of bushes and trees but there is no missing it because of two landmarks in front.

Peace.

Peace.

The retaining wall in front of 687 Lex is cheerfully painted, giving the impression of perpetual spring.

The retaining wall in front of 687 Lex is cheerfully painted, giving the impression of perpetual spring.

Today’s second stop for a school is Riverside Elementary. Apparently it is unoccupied or lightly used.

Today’s second school visit is Riverside Elementary, mostly unchanged from when it was built in the 1920s. Apparently it is unoccupied or lightly used.

The Albion Street entrance to Riverside.

The Albion Street entrance to Riverside.

On the side of the building a metal stairway added as an emergency exit allowed me to peek into the second floor of Riverside. The old, maybe original, principal’s office door, is a nice artifact.

On the side of the building a metal stairway added as an emergency exit allowed me to peek into the second floor of Riverside. The old, perhaps original, principal’s office door, is a nice artifact.

Crosby Lake biz center 1

You’ll see this sign when you travel on West 7th Street.

Crosby Lake Business Center is a brownfield turned industrial park just south of West 7th Street in the West End. According to Saint Paul Port Authority figures, up to 400 jobs have been created by the companies that built on the 26-acre site.

It’s ironic that both companies credited with assisting the Port Authority with the Crosby Lake Business Center no longer exist.

It’s ironic that both companies credited with assisting the Port Authority with the Crosby Lake Business Center no longer exist.

Crosby Lake Business Center is nearly filled with businesses including a bakery, brewery, publisher, mechanical subcontractor and a manufacturer of labels and guest checks for the food service industry.

 Oven Hearth Bakery whips up wholesale breads and desserts. When the ovens are on, the smell will make you hungry.

Oven Hearth Bakery whips up wholesale breads and desserts. When the ovens are on, the smell will make you hungry.

EMC, Paradigm and JIST produce text books and related multimedia materials. Specifically, EMC publishes K through 12th grade text books in four subject areas; Paradigm publishes post-secondary text books about technology and science, and JIST publishes career assistance materials.

EMC, Paradigm and JIST produce text books and related multimedia materials. Specifically, EMC publishes K through 12th grade text books in four subject areas; Paradigm publishes post-secondary text books about technology and science, and JIST publishes career assistance materials.

Summit Brewing’s main building which can emit another great smell.

Summit Brewing’s main building which can emit another great smell.

Not only was Summit Brewery Minnesota’s first new brewery since World War II and the state’s first microbrewery, it’s also one of the most successful. Summit began production in 1986 in an old warehouse on University Avenue. (6) By 1997, demand for Summit’s beers grew so large it necessitated the construction of this brewery on Montreal Circle. Summit expanded in 2013 and in 2014, opened a canning facility. (7)

The large Summit logo on the side of the brewery.

The large Summit logo on the side of the brewery.

The entrance and beer garden both sit on the side of the brewery opposite Montreal Way.

The entrance and beer garden both sit on the side of the brewery opposite Montreal Way.

A beer skyway. The series of pipes carries beer from the brew house...

A beer skyway. The series of pipes carries beer from the brew house…

...to the recently completed canning facility.

…to the recently completed canning facility.

Thanks to the pioneering effort of Summit Brewing, new craft breweries now pop like dandelions in spring. There are close to a dozen microbreweries in Saint Paul, not including brew pubs.

The Crosby Lake Business Center has been great for Saint Paul’s economy, but some creativity with street names would have made the development less confusing.

Yes, all the streets in the Crosby Lake development are named Montreal but to confusing matters more, two different streets have the same address number.

Yes, all the streets in the Crosby Lake development are named Montreal but to confuse matters more, two different streets have the same address number. Instead, why not a Vancouver, Halifax, Saskatoon or Moose Jaw?

Back in Highland, just south of Edgcumbe at Montreal Avenue coincidentally, are two City buildings; the Highland Park Aquatic Center and SPPD Western District headquarters.

Back in Highland, just south of Edgcumbe at Montreal Avenue, coincidentally, are two City buildings; the Highland Park Aquatic Center and SPPD Western District headquarters.

The police department’s western district headquarters on Otto Hummer Drive.

The police department’s western district headquarters on Otto Hummer Drive.

Highland Park Aquatic Center sits on Otto Hummer Drive, a street that looks like a parking lot.

Highland Park Aquatic Center sits on Otto Hummer Drive, a street that looks like a parking lot.

Otto Hummer posthumously received the honor of this street being named for him because he volunteered for many City committees and for about a decade with the Highland Business Association. (8) It’s very unusual to see the Highland Park Aquatic Center parking lot busy in September but the unseasonably warm weather convinced City officials to keep the pool open more than a week beyond its usual closing date.

Although not very busy, a few folks are stretching the swimming season out as far as possible.

Although not very busy, a few folks are stretching the swimming season out as far as possible.

This aquatic center opened in August 1979 as the Highland Park Pool and has since remodeled. It is Highland’s second or third pool, depending on your perspective.

The original Highland Park Pool is long gone but significant artifacts remain just north of the aquatic center, across Montreal Avenue at Edgcumbe,  Most windows are covered in peeling plywood and the ones that aren’t have been smashed out. Sections of the Spanish-style terracotta roof tiles have fallen, exposing holes in the plywood deck and vegetation grows out of the building. The allure of the stone structure is obvious, despite the long list of indignities it’s suffered in the decades since closing.

The old Highland Park pool bath house is in desperate need of renovation.

The old Highland Park Pool bath house is in desperate need of renovation.

This is what the original Highland Park Pool looked like in 1935. The building in the background is the golf clubhouse, which still stands. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

This is what the original Highland Park Pool looked like in 1935. The building in the background is the golf clubhouse, which still stands. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

In less than two years the Highland Park Pool underwent quite a change. June 1937 photo Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

In less than two years the Highland Park Pool underwent quite a change. June 1937 photo Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

The original Highland pool bath house, a Works Progress Administration project, remains, albeit in disrepair.

The original Highland pool bath house, a Works Progress Administration project, remains, albeit in disrepair.

Windows and the doors of the bath house are covered in plywood to keep man, beast and Minnesota’s weather out.

Windows and the doors of the bath house are covered in plywood to keep man, beast and Minnesota’s weather out.

You can see the subroof and missing clay tiles.

You can see the subroof and missing clay tiles.

The back or pool side of the bath house. The pool was situated about where the grass is on the right. The round stone structure in the middle of the picture held a large tree.

The back or pool side of the bath house. The pool was situated about where the grass is on the right. The round stone structure in the middle of the picture held a large tree.

In 1962 a good sized tree grew in the middle of the stone planter. St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch photo courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

In 1962 a good sized tree grew in the middle of the stone planter. St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch photo courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

old pool house today 9

What may have been a locker or shower room. To get this shot I had to climb the stone wall and put my camera above my head and shoot through a fence.

What may have been a locker or shower room. To get this shot I had to climb the stone wall and put my camera above my head and shoot through a fence.

An out building that is part of the pool facility. It too was built by WPA workers in 1936.

An out building that is part of the pool facility. It too was built by WPA workers in 1936. It’s held less interest to explorers and vandals.

Today about the only activity around the grounds of the old pool is Frisbee golf and the occasional hiker.

Today about the only activity around the grounds of the old pool is Frisbee golf and the occasional hiker.

The Parks and Recreation Department in 2013 proposed stabilizing the historic bath house and studying its renovation and reuse. However, neither the 2014 or 2015 approved Capital Budget and Improvement Program set aside any money for either, meaning the landmarks deterioration will continue through at least 2015. In that budget, about 80 proposals-fire station expansion, recreation center and playground improvements, street and bridge reconstruction and many other worthy proposals-vie for the limited dollars. Preservation of historic facilities is important but whether it’s a higher priority than fire and safety services, park development or street maintenance and improvement is questionable. With far too little money for too many important projects, funding decisions will continue to be excruciatingly difficult, undoubtedly resulting in the loss of historic structures.

Click on the link to see the route of my September 6, 2014 ride:
www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/668229664

Footnotes
(1) History of SPPS document
(2) Ibid
(3) Page 42; May 1917 “School Education Magazine”
(4) Introduction, Pamphlets on Forest Utilization, Volume 10, February 1917, The One-Story Schoolhouse Idea with Plans of Model Schools, Fitzherbert Leather
(5) The Street Where You Live-A Guide to the Place Names of St. Paul, Donald L. Empson, Page 70
(6) Page 296, Land of Amber Waters, Doug Hoverson
(7) Summit Brewery website, http://www.summitbrewing.com/culture/history
(8) Geni.com website, http://www.geni.com/people/Otto-Hummer/6000000001051774266

Down South In Highland

August 27, 2014 Highland Park 12.1 Miles

When time is limited, Highland Park and Macalester-Groveland are my go-to rides because of their proximity to my house. This time, I rode on streets in the southern part of Highland, around West 7th Street.

It’s obvious that someone at 2039 Bordner Place is returning from a trip and what a nice welcome home it will be. I just hope the door decorations weren’t also an invitation to someone with mischievous intentions.

A colorful and friendly welcome back to some plucky travelers.

A colorful and friendly welcome back for some plucky travelers.

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The zebra-striped mailbox is what I stopped for at 2021 Sheridan Avenue. Louise Langberg was outside doing chores so I asked to take a picture of the mailbox. Louise agreed and said the mailbox used to be a cat, but time, and Mother Nature, did in the wood head and tail, leaving the legs and the rusting torso.

Louise plans to replace the 20 year old cat mailbox. She has the wood but needs a buy a new mailbox.

Louise plans to replace the 20-year-old cat mailbox. She has the wood but needs a buy a new mailbox.

The mailbox led to a discussion about her home, “We moved in late September 1959 and we had six people living here. There was my two parents and four girls. Little by little everybody left beside me.”

Louise has lived in this house since 1959, 55 years.

Louise has lived in this house, 2021 Sheridan, since 1959, 55 years.

Eventually Louise bought the house from her mother, “I like the neighborhood. I knew the neighborhood and I knew the house. I didn’t have to worry about getting into a house and finding any surprises. I knew the good parts and the bad parts. I knew it needed a new furnace. I knew that it needed a new roof. Still, I knew what those problems were.”

Louise Langberg in front of her home at 2021 Sheridan Avenue in Highland Park.

Louise Langberg in front of her home at 2021 Sheridan Avenue in Highland Park.

The roof Louise mentioned; she couldn’t afford to hire someone to do it so she went to how-to clinics at a long-gone home repair store and then bought the shingles there, “I didn’t know that you could have somebody come if you buy shingles and have them placed upon the roof for you.” So Louise lugged bundles of shingles home little by little in her tiny car, “Then as I needed the shingles I would haul them up the ladder and they would just thud, a half a bundle of shingles up there.”

“A lot of the people must have moved in about the same time we did or started their families about the same time our family started, ‘cause there were kids around the neighborhood that were within a year or two of our own ages.”

Louise’s dad volunteered to help her, an offer she couldn’t refuse, “You’d tear off as many shingles as you knew you could replace because we both had work the next day and if it rained all the rain would still keep running off. We did a really nice job!”

“It’s been a nice quiet neighborhood. I remember when I talked to Debbie Montgomery; she was Saint Paul’s first lady cop; she said the cops loved it when they got to patrol Highland Park at night because if anyone else was out at that time of night, they didn’t belong there. So it was kinda quiet.”

That recollection brought another to Louise, “Many, many years ago, this must have been about 40 years ago, the guy was living there (next door), he didn’t have air conditioning and when the night got too hot he would sometimes just set out a cot in the backyard and sleep there. He never worried about anybody coming by and bothering him.”

Louise's dad planted this maple tree in the front yard when she and her sisters were young.

Louise’s dad planted this maple tree in the front yard when she and her sisters were young.

While the Sheridan Avenue neighborhood has seen the usual changes-neighbors have come and gone, houses repainted and trees growing tall-Louise told me it’s still a great place to live; quiet with neighbors who watch out for each other.

I’m exhausted just looking at the roof of this building. With that much venting going on, it had to be a laundry. The view is from Munster Avenue but the address is 2575 7th Street West.

I’m exhausted just looking at the roof of this building. With that much venting going on, it had to be a laundry. The view is from Munster Avenue but the address is 2575 7th Street West.

Frequently known as West 7th Street, it picked up the Fort Road nickname in the 19???? Because it goes past Fort Snelling. In reality, the River Road more closely approached the fort in earlier days.

One of the many apartment buildings, on West 7th at Wordsworth.

West 7th Street picked up the Fort Road name because it was one of the first streets to go from Downtown to Fort Snelling. An earlier iteration known as Old Fort Road traveled along the bluffs. William Davern, in 1891, bestowed the name Wordsworth on this street (avenue actually). Davern taught school at one time and picked the name in honor of poet William Wordsworth. (1)

The southern-most section of Highland Park (between Shepard Road and West 7th  on the north and south respectively and Edgecumbe on the west and I-35E on the east) has been home to immigrants from many countries for 30 or more years. Much of the area consists of apartments, with a smattering of single family housing and light industrial and businesses. woodstone apts

Woodstone is one of the aforementioned apartment complexes. I stopped here because of the Snoopy statue from the 2000  “Peanuts On Parade.” An estimated 450,000 people visited Saint Paul to see the 101 Peanuts statues. (2)

snoopy woodstone

Snoopy rests on his dog house while many Woodstocks peer out the windows.

Youngman Avenue is the north frontage road for Shepard Road.

Youngman Avenue is the north frontage road for Shepard Road.

 Youngman is also part of what some of the area apartment complexes have dubbed “Shepard Park.”

Youngman is also part of what some of the area apartment complexes have dubbed “Shepard Park.”

A block north on Rankin, high tension power lines overhang Stewart Avenue. Looking up  one of the towers, the supports and power lines create interesting geometric patterns.

A block north on Rankin, high tension power lines overhang Stewart Avenue. Looking up one of the towers, the supports and power lines create interesting geometric patterns.

Mickey’s “By Willie” at 1950 West 7th Street.

Mickey’s “By Willie” at 1950 West 7th Street.

Back on West 7th, I paused at the lesser known Mickey’s restaurant. Technically called Mickey’s “By Willie”, it doesn’t have the same visual élan as Mickey’s Diner at West 7th and St. Peter Downtown. Still, it’s open 24 hours, serves a similar menu, is old-55, and is owned by the same folks who have the Downtown diner. (3)

I spotted two old signs on Mickey’s property.

It's rare to see hand made signs like this one hanging outside Mickey’s.

It’s rare to see hand-made signs like this one hanging outside Mickey’s. What great attention to detail!

The payphone is long gone but this once-common sign still hangs on a pole above the parking lot at Mickey’s “By Willie.”

The payphone is long gone but this once-common sign still hangs on a pole above the parking lot at Mickey’s “By Willie.” I wonder how many people know what this sign means?

Tonight’s ride hit more than 20 Highland Park streets. Click on the following link for a map:

http://www.mapmyride.com/workout/edit/913728405/

Footnotes

(1) “The Street Where You Live: A Guide to the Place Names of St. Paul”, Donald L. Empson

(2) http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/saint-paul-kicks-off-encore-to-the-successful-peanuts-on-parade-summer-art-project-82327147.html

(3) http://www.twincitiesfun.com/Mickeys-by-Willy-ID002977.html

What I “Lafond” on Blair

Sunday, August 24, 2014      Mac-Groveland, Hamline-Midway, Frogtown (Thomas Dale)  15.5 miles

The orchestra director manhole cover is one of at least four designs created through the “Hand In History” outreach program, sponsored by the City of Saint Paul and the department of public works. Another of the designs sits near the intersection of Summit and Macalester in the Mac-Groveland neighborhood.

The orchestra director manhole cover is one of at least four designs created through the “Hand In History” outreach program, sponsored by the City of Saint Paul and the department of public works. Another of the designs sits near the intersection of Summit and Macalester in the Mac-Groveland neighborhood.

My irrational fascination with manhole covers prompted the first stop of today’s ride barely two block after starting. This orchestra director cover is just north of the intersection of Cleveland and Randolph. People in several cars watched curiously as I took numerous pictures to get the correct exposure and framing. They likely thought something to the effect of, “Why would anyone stand in the middle of the road and take pictures of a manhole cover?” For more on Saint Paul’s limited edition manhole covers see https://saintpaulbybike.wordpress.com/category/manhole-covers/

The Charles Thompson Memorial Hall at 1824 Marshall Avenue.

The Charles Thompson Memorial Hall at 1824 Marshall Avenue.

Next stop, Marshall Avenue and the historic Charles Thompson Memorial Hall. This building, dedicated in November 1916, was the first clubhouse in the U.S. for the deaf and as you can imagine, was big news in the Twin Cities and around Minnesota. Charles Thompson, from a wealthy banking family, was born deaf. As a result, Thompson financially supported the local deaf community. Thompson’s wife, Margaret, was also deaf and she donated the estimated $30,000 to build the hall in Thompson’s memory. (1) Margaret Thompson hired Olof  Hanson, the first deaf architect in the country, to design Charles Thompson Memorial Hall. About 500 people, most of them deaf, filled every seat in the auditorium at the November 5, 1916 dedication ceremony. (2)

Charles thompson hall paperFront_Cover

The dedication of Charles Thompson Memorial Hall made front page news in The Companion newspaper for the deaf in November 1916.

“As you inspect this fine Memorial Hall, erected to the memory of our friend, Charles Thompson, who was deaf, provided by his widow, who is deaf, planned by a thoroughly competent deaf architect, and under the care and direction of a house committee, all of whom are deaf, it is hoped you will come to feel that the deaf are not the helpless, inefficient and afflicted people they are often supposed to be. It is hoped that you will realize that, given an education and a trade, they are good and useful citizens and a worthy part of any commonwealth.”  J.C. Howard, president of both the Minnesota and National Associations for the deaf, at the dedication of Charles Thompson Memorial Hall on November 5, 1916.

Charles Thompson Hall is still used as a gathering place for the local deaf and hard-of-hearing communities.

Charles Thompson Hall was placed  on the National Register of Historic Places in December 2011.

Charles Thompson Hall was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in December 2011.

charles thompson hall 3

ugly bank 1

The odd upgrades to the exterior of the bank and office building at 176 Snelling Avenue North hide that it was built in 1917.

The bank and office building at Snelling and Selby Avenues is undoubtedly one of the most unsightly buildings in Midway area, if not beyond. It suffers from multiple odd additions and unfortunate aesthetics outside and in. The good news is the cranes in the background portend the imminent destruction of the now vacant building. It’s being replaced by a parking garage, grocery store and condos, all of which are supposed to open in 2016. I cannot imagine a scenario where the new building won’t be a great improvement.

In back, the now-closed “motor bank."

In back, the now-closed “motor bank.”

The disarray inside the old “motor bank” is because of its impending destruction.

The disarray inside the old “motor bank” is because of its impending destruction.

How did they get this safe out?

How did they get this safe out?

The now occupied replacement bank building is just north on Snelling.

The now occupied replacement bank building is just north on Snelling.

LEAP High School, for non-English speaking students, has been in the Woodrow Wilson School building since 2004. It is at 631 North Albert Street.

LEAP High School, for non-English speaking students, has been in the Woodrow Wilson School building since 2004. It is at 631 North Albert Street.

Woodrow Wilson School about two years after its 1924 opening.

Woodrow Wilson School about a year after its 1925 opening.

The Woodrow Wilson School building opened in the fall of 1925 and in the 90 years since, has been home to nearly every type of school program, from early childhood through high school. Over the years and through the changes in schools and programs, the building has always been, and will continue to be, called the Wilson building. That’s because a little-known federal law requires an act of Congress or consent of the Secretary of Interior to change the name of any building, including Woodrow Wilson School, named after a U.S. president. Construction began in 1924, the same year President Wilson died, likely the reason it was named after Wilson. The building opened as a junior high school for the start of the 1925-26 school year.

The school sign above the main entrance on  Street.

The original school sign above the main entrance on Albert Street North.

The conversion to a high school began in 1937 when 10th graders were moved to Wilson. It remained a high school through the 1963-64 school year. Wilson High colors were red and white but had no nickname until sometime after 1942. (4) The details of how Wilson earned its nickname “Redmen” are sketchy, it may be the result of the school newspaper calling the boys basketball team the “Reds.”

Wilson’s main entrance.

Wilson’s main entrance.

Wilson returned to its junior high roots in 1964, and so it remained until 1980. Just a year later the K through eighth grade Benjamin May program moved in and from ’92 to 2003, Expo Middle School relocated to the Wilson building. Finally, in August 2003 the LEAP High School for students who are immigrants or refugees and are not native English speakers, came to Wilson and has been there ever since.

Lanterns on the front entrances of Woodrow Wilson School.

Lanterns on the front entrances of Woodrow Wilson School.

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What was St. Columba Catholic School is now a Korean Immersion school named Sejong Academy.

What was St. Columba Catholic School is now a Korean Immersion school named Sejong Academy.

The former St. Columba Catholic School is slightly more than a block east of Wilson on Blair and Hamline. Built in 1922, it has similar architectural characteristics to Wilson. St. Columba closed as a Catholic school several years ago and now is the site of Sejong Academy, a Korean immersion school. st. columba sejong 2

This meadow was the home to the Wilder Foundation’s headquarters for 38 years. The philanthropic organization moved to a new building in 2007 on University Avenue, just west of Lexington.

This meadow was the home to the Wilder Foundation’s headquarters for 38 years. The philanthropic organization moved to a new building in 2007 on University Avenue, just west of Lexington.

The meadow and the trees in the background are part of what is Saint Paul’s newest park. Frogtown Park and Farm has no facilities yet but those will come sometime in 2015 or 2016 (depending upon funding.) I visited the Frogtown Park and Farm site earlier this year and determined it was worth further exploration, so I came back.

And then there is this curious object sitting in the middle of the meadow.

And then there is this curious object sitting in the middle of the meadow.

The blanket and matted down grass are among the signs of homeless people I saw  while exploring.

The blanket and matted down grass are among the signs of homeless people I saw while exploring.

The oak and cottonwood forest beyond the meadow.

The oak and cottonwood forest beyond the meadow.

Looking toward the south-southeast, the road to the right is the alley behind homes on Lafond Avenue. This hill is a very popular place to sled in the winter.

Looking toward the south-southeast, the road to the right is the alley behind homes on Lafond Avenue. This hill is a very popular place to sled in the winter.

Frogtown Park and Farm is about 12 acres roughly surrounded by Lafond, Victoria, Minnehaha and Chatsworth.

St. Stephanus Lutheran Church at 739 Lafond and Grotto.

St. Stephanus Lutheran Church at 739 Lafond and Grotto.

There is an abundance of churches in Saint Paul and this ride reminded me that some of the most beautiful are in Frogtown. St. Stephanus Lutheran has been at Lafond and Grotto since 1890. Services were conducted in German until 1917, when an English service was added, likely because of anti-German sentiment brought on by World War I.

The original 1890 cornerstone and that of the 1990 addition. The addition was part of a 1990 rebuilding project after St. Stephanus got damaged by high winds.

The original 1890 cornerstone and that of the 1990 addition. The addition was part of a 1990 rebuilding project after St. Stephanus got damaged by high winds.

The gorgeous stained glass window that is part of the 1990 expansion.

The gorgeous stained glass window that is part of the 1990 expansion.

St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church.

St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church.

About eight blocks east of St. Stephanus, at Virginia and Blair, is what had been St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church from 1889 until the end of 2011, when it merged with the Cathedral of St. Paul parish. Since then it’s been officially known as the Saint Vincent de Paul Campus of the Cathedral of Saint Paul.

 One side of the cornerstone placed during construction in 1889.

One side of the cornerstone placed during construction in 1889.

The original congregants were largely of Irish decent and today, most are Hmong, like many of the residents of the neighborhood.

The statue of St. Vincent de Paul, the Patron Saint of charitable societies, watches over those who pass by on

The statue of St. Vincent de Paul, the Patron Saint of charitable societies, watches over those who pass by on Virginia Street.

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The former St. Vincent’s Catholic School building is one of two very early 20th Century school facilities now used by the St. Paul City School. The architectural style, sometimes called “linear plan”, features a hallway front-to-back through the middle of the building with classrooms in wings off the hall. More noticeable is the red brick, narrow vertical windows,  decorative stone above the windows and stone sills below. In some cases these schools have a bell tower.

This vintage school building just around the corner from St. Vincent de Paul is the church’s former school. It opened in 1901 and graduated its last class in 1970.

This vintage school building, just around the corner from St. Vincent de Paul, is the church’s former school.

The fading cornerstone of the former St. Vincent’s School.

The fading cornerstone of the former St. Vincent’s School.

It opened in 1901 and graduated its last class in 1970. Two years later, a Native American-managed school called the Red School House opened in the building. Native parents created the school to combat low student achievement and the high dropout rate among the area’s American Indian students. The curriculum provided academics, Indian cultural studies and support services to pre-school through 12th graders. (5) The Red School House closed sometime in the ‘80s for reasons I’ve been unable to determine.

Today, as you can see, this delightfully designed building at 643 Virginia Street is home to the Saint Paul City School middle school.

Today, as you can see, this delightfully designed building at 643 Virginia Street is home to the Saint Paul City School middle school.

The woodwork inside appears to be in excellent condition. I imagine the interior of Saint Paul City School looks much like it did when it opened more than 110 years ago.

The woodwork inside appears to be in excellent condition. I imagine the interior of Saint Paul City School looks much like it did when it opened more than 110 years ago.

There is so much to love about this school building; from the brick and stone construction, the stylish archways at the entrance, to the extensive woodwork inside. Knowing that this building and the City School’s K through fifth grade school-house are still being used (or used again) must please preservationists, architecture buffs and nearby residents.

Today 631 Dale Street North is an auto repair shop, close to its original purpose as a gas station. The Period Revival-style station opened in 1930.)

Today 631 Dale Street North is an auto repair shop, close to its original purpose as a gas station. The Period Revival-style station opened in 1930.

This fun sign on Minnehaha Avenue between Victoria and Milton, is a great greeting to those who enter Frogtown.

This fun sign on Minnehaha Avenue between Victoria and Milton, is a great greeting to those who enter Frogtown.

wilder coop 1

Wilder Square Co-op sits on the eastern edge Frogtown. The 163 units are for low to moderate income adults and families, but an unusual and interesting aspect of Wilder Square is that residents are shareholders (a.k.a. members) in the corporation that owns the complex. Wilder Square Co-op and Wilder Square Hi-Rise occupy nearly the entire block between Minnehaha and Pierce Butler Route on the south and north, and Victoria and Milton on the east and west.

One of the Wilder Square co-op buildings.

One of the Wilder Square co-op buildings.

Wilder Square Co-op is conveniently just across Minnehaha Avenue from the north side of the Frogtown Park.

This park sign is on the northern-most border along Minnehaha Avenue. The meadow seen in earlier shots of Frogtown Park is beyond the trees on the left side of the picture.

This park sign is on the northern-most border along Minnehaha Avenue. The meadow seen in earlier shots of Frogtown Park is beyond the trees on the left side of the picture.

As I rode toward home I realized I spent the majority of the journey pedaling along only two streets, Blair and Lafond Avenues. I later discovered I had covered 25 of the 28 blocks of Blair-nearly four miles total. My last stop, fittingly on Blair, in the Midway, was at a fence with two paintings on it.

The landscape and still life decorate the fence of the home at Blair and Asbury.

A landscape and still-life decorate the fence of the home at Blair and Asbury.

As I admired the vibrant paintings on the fence, the gate opened and out came the homeowner. David Wald was pleased to talk about his fence art; so delighted that he went into his house to get two more pieces of his work, a landscape and a lion in the wild.

David Wald poses with his interpretation of Hot Springs in Wyoming, which he calls, “the most beautiful sight ever.”

David Wald poses with his interpretation of Hot Springs in Wyoming, which he calls, “the most beautiful sight ever.”

David said he’d been painting about 30 years, and remarkably, learned through internships with artists and plenty of practice, “I started when I was a tiny, little boy; trained myself taking people’s photos to make a portrait on my own paper by charcoal. I was making good money, enough to feed myself. I never went to any school to be an artist.”

David mentioned he can paint without a photo or other visual prompt or he can take any photograph and interpret it, “This one is imagination in the most beautiful state of Wyoming. They have a very beautiful landscape. I used to drive a truck for a coast to coast for a living and I took a photo but the picture is quite different from the photo. It’s a well-known place; Hot Springs.”

Hot Springs painting 1

David spent four to six hours a day for about a week to complete this painting.

David paints four to six hours nearly every day and earns his living as an artist. So how’s business, “I’m still unknown; no one knows what I’m doing. It’s very limited. I starve to death.” Then David let out a hearty laugh followed by telling me he sells prints much more often than one of the originals.

lion painting 1The detail David brought to the lion painting awed me and I asked how he gives it an almost photographic look, “Part is the color; it’s also the contrast; you are just bringing step by step, one layer, then another. One layer, then another. At the end it looks like a photo.” The lion, with all its intricacies, took David a month to complete.

The detail, especially on the fur on the lion's chest, is remarkable.

The detail, especially on the fur on the lion’s chest, is remarkable.

The final question I needed answered related directly to my reason for stopping. Why did David put such nice works of art on his fence? “I was bored seeing this wooden fence; on the whole block there is nothing you can see and then I said, ‘Why not,’ because (otherwise) someone is going to come and put graffiti on the fence.” The fence has been decorated for 10 years and no graffiti, so David’s plan worked.fence landscape 2

fence vase 2

Click on the following link to see the official map of this ride. http://www.mapmyride.com/workout/907270727

(1) Minnesota Historical Society, Placeography, http://www.placeography.org/index.php/Charles_Thompson_Memorial_Hall,_1824_Marshall_Avenue,_Saint_Paul,_Minnesota

(2) Minnesota Digital Library, Minnesota Reflections http://reflections.mndigital.org/cdm/ref/collection/p16022coll16/id/374

(3) Ibid, Charles Thompson Memorial Hall’ article in “The Companion” magazine dedicated Sunday afternoon, November 5, 1916.

(4) LEAP High School website, http://leap.spps.org/leap_high_school2

(5) Cathedral of Saint Paul Parish website, http://www.cathedralsaintpaul.org/svdp-history

(6) American Indian Movement Interpretive Center website, http://www.aim-ic.com/Red-School-House.html

Summer Sites in St. Anthony Park

August 13, 2014

St. Anthony Park, Merriam Park, Mac-Groveland

14.4 miles

An evening ride to St. Anthony Park, the northwest corner of the City. Like scores of Saint Paul neighborhoods, the residential streets in St. Anthony Park are edged with towering oak, maple, elm and pine trees. It is on these thoroughfares that I did most of my biking, but first I had to get past the busy intersection of Raymond Avenue and Energy Park Drive. Usually I blow past this area as quickly (legally of course) as I can for reasons of self-preservation. Tonight, however, I paused for a vibrant bike billboard on the boulevard.

It is impossible to miss this bike.

It is impossible to miss this bike.

Turns out, three St. Anthony Park establishments were publicized on the bike. The first, the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota, was created in 1992 to help Tibetan immigrants from Nepal and India settle here. About 160 Tibetans came to Minnesota. Now, some 3,000 Tibetan immigrants live in Minnesota, mostly in Saint Paul and Minneapolis, the second largest settlement in the U.S.(1)

I didn't know it at the time, but the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota is just across Energy Park Drive from this spot.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota is just across Energy Park Drive from this spot.

The Hampden Park Coop is just south of the  'bike-vertisement' on Raymond.

The Hampden Park Coop is just south of this ‘bike-vertisement’ on Raymond.

"SAP” is more commonly known as St. Anthony Park Elementary, and is north and slightly west on Como Avenue.

“SAP” is commonly known as St. Anthony Park. SAP Elementary is north and slightly west on Como Avenue.

In St. Anthony Park, Hoyt Avenue is the border of Saint Paul and its northern neighbor of Falcon Heights.

The street markers on the Saint Paul side of Cleveland and Hoyt. In the background you can see the Falcon Heights version of the sign.

Border roads like Hoyt apparently require street signs from both cities. The sign on the Saint Paul side of Hoyt is front and center. In the background you can see the Falcon Heights version of the sign.

It’s unexpected to see a college tucked in St. Anthony Park, but Luther Seminary has been a presence here since 1917. It’s roots, however, go back to the United Church Seminary, which occupied the property even earlier.(2)

Three seminaries merged in 1917 to create Luther Seminary. The Norwegian Synod operated the original Luther Seminary elsewhere in Saint Paul; the Hauge Synod operated Red Wing Seminary in Red Wing; and the United Norwegian Lutheran Church operated the United Church Seminary on a portion of the present site of Luther Seminary.(3) Luther occupies roughly a diamond-shaped parcel bounded by Como Avenue, Fulham Street, Hendon Avenue, Branston Street and Luther Place in the north central part of St. Anthony.

The sign says Olson Campus Center parking but the building is the back of Brockman Hall on Como Avenue. Brockman has a collection of uses, including faculty and staff offices, classrooms and dorm rooms.

The sign says Olson Campus Center parking but the building is the back of Brockman Hall on Como Avenue. Brockman has a collection of uses, including faculty and staff offices, classrooms and dorm rooms.

Olson Center at 1490 Fulham Street is the heart of the Luther Campus.

Olson Center at 1490 Fulham Street is the heart of the Luther Campus.

Luther enrolls nearly 700 mostly post-graduate students. The school has adds an international element to Saint Anthony Park with approximately 60 students from 23 countries enrolled. I skirted the Seminary on this ride, missing the bulk of the campus and some historic buildings so I’ll make a return visit when I get back to the area. (3)

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The main entrance of Murray Middle School, added in 1999. The original portion of the building is to the left and a later addition includes the section to the right of the entrance.

The main entrance of Murray Middle School was added in 1999. The original portion of the building is to the left and a later addition includes the section to the right of the entrance.

Less than a block east of the Luther campus is another school, Murray Middle School. Built in 1925, students in kindergarten through third grade and seventh through ninth moved into the 13 classrooms. Growing student enrollment and the need for modern facilities led to additions in 1930, 1939, 1963 (the Baby Boomers), 1977 and most recently, 1999. The 1925 building is another one of architect Cap Wigington’s designs. (5)

Murray’s westernmost addition, built in '99 I believe, shot from Buford Avenue.

Murray’s westernmost addition, built in ’99 I believe, shot from Buford Avenue.

So, here I was, looking at the west wing of Murray, when I heard an unusual bird call that sounded like a turkey. I hurriedly got on my bike and rode west on Buford to Grantham Avenue, where I saw I was wrong. Strutting across some front lawns along Grantham Avenue was not one but a rafter of turkeys-a large tom and five hens following.

turkeys 1

The tom turkey swaggered across lawns, through bushes and down steps, certain he was in charge, with the hens trailing along behind.

The tom turkey swaggered across lawns, through bushes and down steps, certain he was in charge, with the hens trailing along behind.

The turkeys grew tired of me following and dipped into some bushes so I returned to my explorations of Murray Middle School where I spent some quality time with the original main entrance.

Although callously bricked up and used to vent some equipment, the original entrance to Murray remains recognizable.

Although callously bricked up and used to vent some equipment, the original entrance to Murray remains recognizable as you can see in the picture below.

Significantly smaller (and a high school) in 1930, Murray’s main entrance is  in the middle of the picture, just to the left of the cement steps. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

Significantly smaller (and a high school) in 1930, Murray’s main entrance is in the middle of the picture, just to the left of the cement steps. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

I took my time riding around the entire school, exploring many alcoves along the way.

This wing of Murray, added in 1939, includes an auditorium.

The south wing of Murray includes the auditorium.

The woodwork of the outer auditorium doors retain their detail more than 75 years after construction.

The woodwork of the outer auditorium doors retains its detail more than 75 years after construction.

Gazing through the windows of the auditorium entrance, the box office seems to be nearly unchanged from when it was constructed.

Gazing through the windows of the auditorium entrance, the box office seems to be nearly unchanged from when it was constructed.

In 1928 Murray

This photo is puzzling, I believe because it is mislabeled. The photo clearly states it is from 1928. If you compare this picture to the one below, it’s apparent both were taken in front of the auditorium entrance in the south wing. However, several sources, including the Saint Paul Schools’ documents, say this wing wasn’t added until 1930. So either the south wing was built by the time the class of ’28 had its picture taken or this photo is from the class of 1930 or later. Photo courtesy Murray Middle School.

Today, while modified, there is no mistaking the exterior of the auditorium from the previous picture.

Today, while modified, there is no mistaking the exterior of the auditorium entrance from the previous picture.

There was a major renovation going in part of the auditorium wing. With just three weeks until the first day of the school year, it appeared from the outside of Murray that a lot of construction remained.

 Renovations at Murray required the removal of the cafe awning. The ship’s wheel on the awning remains from when Murray High School was known as the Pilots.

Renovations at Murray required the removal of the cafe awning. The ship’s wheel on the awning is a nod to when the building was Murray High School, which was known as the Pilots.

A pennant from the former Murray High School. Courtesy http://www.murrayhighschool.org/

A pennant from the former Murray High School. Courtesy http://www.murrayhighschool.org/

murray 10

More telltale signs of the remodeling are an empty classroom with a freshly refinished floor…

...construction tailings on the window of another...

…grime from construction on the window of another…

...and a dumpster full of debris.

…and a dumpster full of debris.

The houses on the north side of Doswell Avenue, as viewed from College Park.

The houses on the north side of Doswell Avenue, as viewed from College Park.

College Park seemed to pop up in the middle of the neighborhood. It’s almost exclusively single family homes as I rode south on Grantham to Doswell, and east for a block. In the next block homes line the north side of Doswell but across the street is where I saw the very pleasant College Park.

Trees of many varieties are one of College Park’s many draws.

Trees of many varieties are one of College Park’s many draws.

College Park has been a favorite for generations and three memorials in the park reflect that.(6) The Samuel B. Green and LeRoy Cady memorials sit amongst the trees, just west of the tennis courts and playground, while that of Gilbert Gutterson lies very close to the western edge of the park. It’s curious because all three memorials were dedicated on May 11, 1924. That dedication was described in a 1924 edition of Minnesota History Magazine, “In memory of three former presidents of the St. Anthony Park Improvement Association, Professors Samuel B. Green and Le Roy Cady of the University of Minnesota college of agriculture and Gilbert Gutterson, three granite boulders were unveiled with appropriate ceremonies at College Park in the St. Paul suburb on May 11.”

Green, a professor and first head of the Horticulture Department at the University of Minnesota, also wrote many books. Among them, Amateur Fruit Growing, Forestry in Minnesota and Vegetable Gardening.

Green, a professor and first head of the Horticulture Department at the University of Minnesota, also wrote many books. Among them, “Amateur Fruit Growing”, “Forestry in Minnesota” and “Vegetable Gardening.”

college park green memorial 2

LeRoy Cady served as the second leader of the Department of Horticulture. Cady was involved early in several agricultural organizations such as the American Peony Society and the Minnesota State Florist Association, where he was president in 1918-1919.

LeRoy Cady served as the second leader of the Department of Horticulture. Cady was involved early in several agricultural organizations such as the American Peony Society and the Minnesota State Florist Association, where he was president in 1918-1919.

1910 cady and green

Samuel Green, with the mustache, and LeRoy Cady, far right, stand in front of the U of M Horticulture Building in 1910. Courtesy University of Minnesota Department of Horticultural Science.

college park gutterson memorial

For some reason the Gilbert Gutterson plaque has not survived the 90 years-plus since its dedication as well as the two others.

Another of the characteristics that makes College Park popular is more than four acres of open space.

The open space at College Park as seen from the west end of the park, very close to the Gilbert Gutterson Memorial. You’ll have to take my word that the playground and tennis courts are in this picture, far in the background.

Perhaps you noticed the mention of College Park being part of a Saint Paul suburb in the 1924 Minnesota History Magazine quoted above. That’s because, at that time, St. Anthony Park was far away from the heart of Saint Paul’s residents. Railroads served the area, leading to the moniker “railroad suburb.” The railroads made it possible for St. Anthony Park residents to commute to and from Downtown Saint Paul or Minneapolis. (7)

A couple enjoying a picnic. Rising behind them, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, built in 1914.

A couple enjoying a picnic. Rising behind them, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, built in 1914.

The playground bookends two tennis courts.  Shadows from the trees create an unusual pattern on the grass.

The playground bookends two tennis courts. Shadows from the trees create an unusual pattern on the grass.

An odd object I almost literally stumbled upon was a well put in by the State Health Department. According to the “Well and Boring Record,” (it’s really called that!) I uncovered online, the Health Department installed the well in 2011 to monitor the depth of groundwater in the park’s open space.

college park 8 In mid-August, sunset arrives before 8:30 and darkness soon after. The receding daylight forced me to wrap up the tour of St. Anthony Park for this evening. With dozens of streets not yet ridden, it’s guaranteed I’ll be back. To see details of this ride, click on the link: http://www.mapmyride.com/workout/897335651

Footnotes
1. History of Luther Seminary, Luther Seminary website, http://www.luthersem.edu/about/history.aspx?m=3381
2. Ibid
3. Ibid
4. From the Past to the Present-An Inventory of Saint Paul Public School Facilities, Jene T. Sigvertsen, 2000
5. Ibid
6. Minnesota History Magazine Review of Books 1924, page 527  Local History Items
7. Ramsey County Historical Society website, http://www.rchs.com/neighborhoods/saint_anthony.htm

Stone and Diamonds

August 2, 2014

Lexington-Hamline, Summit-University, Midway, Como

14.5 miles

Athletes and sports have played a big part in Saint Paul history. In recent years much of the recognition has gone to those from Cretin-Derham Hall High School. Decades ago, however, several neighborhoods, especially the East Side and the Midway were well-known for their athletes and teams. One of the best baseball players to come out of any Saint Paul neighborhood is not who you think. It happened to be an African-American woman named Toni Stone. I knew a little about Toni Stone and her baseball legacy and I learned more with a stop at the stadium that bares her name.

The plaque posted near the entrance to Toni Stone Field with details about her

The plaque posted near the entrance to Toni Stone Field with details about her

A modest sign welcomes visitors and presents the very basics about Toni Stone.

A modest sign welcomes visitors and presents the very basics about Toni Stone.

Most sources credit Toni (given name Marcenia Lyle Stone) as the first woman to play in the Negro American League, with the Indianapolis Clowns, in 1953.(1) I found conflicting information while researching Toni Stone. Some of the confusion was intentional-to enhance Stone’s appeal to fans. For example, promoters claimed she was 10 years younger than her actual age and was paid much more than she truly made.(2) However, Toni’s given first name is spelled differently on two signs at the field baring her name. Compare the previous two pictures to see what I mean.

Toni Stone in her Indianapolis Indians uni.

Toni Stone in her Indianapolis Indians uni. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

The entrance and bleachers at Toni Stone Field, part of the Dunning Sports Complex.

The entrance and bleachers at Toni Stone Field, part of the Dunning Sports Complex.

Toni was born in Saint Paul in 1921, seemingly on a baseball diamond. By the time she was 16, she was pitching for the men’s semipro Twin Cities Colored Giants. Other stops during her career were with the semipro San Francisco Sea Lions and New Orleans Creoles and the Negro American League’s Indianapolis Clowns and Kansas City Monarchs. After one season each with the Clowns and Monarchs, Toni Stone retired from the Negro Leagues after the 1954 season with a .243 batting average but continued to play amateur ball for many years.

toni-stone-aka-marcenia-lyle-alberga

Toni posed in her New Orleans Creoles uniform. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

The main entrance …

The main entrance …

...and a peek through the gate onto the infield.

…and a peek through the gate onto the infield.

Never having been inside Toni Stone Field and finding the gate locked, I felt it my duty to climb the fence next to the bleachers to gain access, not for me, but for you, the followers of my blog.

A look-see along the bleachers toward the middle of the stadium. The wood table on the right background is the press area.

A look-see along the bleachers toward the middle of the stadium. The wood table on the right background is the press area.

Peering at the field through the foul ball screen.

Peering at the field through the foul ball screen.

As you can imagine, Toni faced the same race-based adversity as male players in the Negro Leagues. But she also endured the hardships of being the only woman on the team, including being shunned by many teammates.

The scoreboard towers above the left-center field outfield fence.

The scoreboard towers above the left-center field outfield fence.

It is 372 feet from home plate to the centerfield fence.

It is 372 feet from home plate to the centerfield fence.

Toni Stone died in California on November 2, 1996 at the age of 75 but thanks to her groundbreaking success in baseball and this field, she’ll be remembered for years.

The Wilder Center, headquarters of the Wilder Foundation.

The Wilder Center, headquarters of the Wilder Foundation. This side faces University Avenue.

The Wilder Foundation headquarters is at the southwest corner Lexington Avenue and University. Wilder is a philanthropic organization started in 1906 by Saint Paul businessman Amherst H. Wilder to “relieve, aid and assist the poor, sick and needy people of the city of St. Paul.” (3)

The entrance of the Wilder Foundation’s headquarters, which opened in 2007.

The main entrance of the Wilder Foundation’s headquarters, which opened in 2007.

In more than 100 years since its inception, the Foundation has provided many health and human services to Saint Paul residents, including some that weren’t available anywhere else in the City. Examples of the Wilder services from the first several decades of the 1900s are public health nurses and the Wilder Baths and Pool, which gave those with inadequate or nonexistent bathing facilities a place to clean up.(4)

Wilder mantras line the exterior of the building.

Wilder mantras line the exterior of the building.

Signatures of several members of the Wilder family were etched into the building facade. This is Amherst Wilder's signature.

Signatures of Amherst, Fanny and Cornelia Wilder were etched into the building facade. This is Amherst (A.H.) Wilder’s signature.

This is  Wilder's signature.

Cornelia Day Wilder, daughter of Amherst and Fanny Spencer Wilder.

The Wilder Center is linked to Saint Paul’s baseball history in that it sits on the spot of Lexington Park, home of the original Saint Paul Saints from 1897 through the 1956 season. (5) A brass marker commemorating Lexington Park sits on the spot of the stadium’s home plate (although I couldn’t find it.)

This areal view of Lexington Park is toward the east. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

This areal view of Lexington Park is toward the north. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

The Minneapolis Millers and Saint Paul Saints get ready to square off in the battle of the Twin Cities at Lexington Park in 1926. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

The Minneapolis Millers and Saint Paul Saints get ready to square off in the battle of the Twin Cities at Lexington Park in 1926. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

(6) The original Saints moved to Midway Stadium for 1957 and the ‘new’ Saints played the last game ever at Midway last August.

Now north of University Avenue, I found Griggs Playground in the midst of renovation at North Dunlap and West Hubbard. (Griggs Avenue borders the western side of the playground, hence the name.

Now north of University Avenue, I found Griggs Playground in the midst of renovation at North Dunlap and West Hubbard. (Griggs Avenue borders the western side of the playground, hence the name.)

With softball season done for most teams, the fields were wide open this beautiful Saturday.

With softball season done for most teams, the diamonds were wide open this beautiful Saturday.

McMurray Athletic Fields are 32 acres of softball, soccer and football fields between Como Avenue on the north, Jessamine to the south and Lexington on the east. Como Avenue separates McMurray from the southern edge of Como Regional Park.

These solar-powered electric car charging stations are something I've not seen at any other public facility in Saint Paul but McMurray.

These solar-powered electric car charging stations are something I’ve not seen at any other public facility in Saint Paul but McMurray.

A close look at the pump-like charger.

A close look at the pump-like charger.

McMurray's soccer fields, which double as the lacrosse fields, are covered in artificial turf.

McMurray’s soccer fields, which double as the lacrosse fields, are covered with artificial turf.

These athletic fields opened in 1927 and named two years later for William McMurray, an Irish-born tea merchant. McMurray was a benefactor of money to many good causes as well as the donor to the City of 25 acres of land along Battle Creek that became part of the park with the same name. (7)

Saint Paul’s Animal Control Center is just across Beulah Lane from McMurray. The old school name for it is the dog pound. According to its website, Animal Control officers respond to violations of animal ordinances, impound stray or dangerous dogs and investigate reports of animal bites.

Saint Paul’s Animal Control Center is just across Beulah Lane from McMurray. The old school name for it is the dog pound. According to its website, Animal Control officers respond to violations of animal ordinances, impound stray or dangerous dogs and investigate reports of animal bites.

I don’t know whether it’s a coincidence or not, but the Saint Paul office of the Animal Humane Society at 1115 Beulah Lane is next door to Animal Control.

The animal Humane Society’s humble home.

The Animal Humane Society’s humble home.

As I rolled by, I met Faith Donovan, a Humane Society volunteer officially known as a “dog adoption support person,” who was walking a puppy named Lexi.

Faith Donovan and ????.

Faith Donovan and four-month old Lexi walk along Beulah Lane and one of the McMurray Park baseball diamonds.

Faith explained reason for volunteering with the Humane Society this way, “In Duluth I have four dogs and I miss them a lot and I can’t have dogs where I’m living currently, so I come and volunteer at the Humane Society. That way I can get my dog fix and then go home.”

Back from her walk, Lexi beckons to me with her puppy dog eyes.

Back from her walk, Lexi beckons to me with her puppy dog eyes.

Faith added, “I just find that animals are really healing and very therapeutic and when you know you’re having a bad day, to just get to walk dogs and play with them, it’s just really relaxing.”

Faith mentioned that the Humane Society started a program for dogs who aren’t ready for adoption. “Walk Stars” go through rehabilitation for behaviors like guarding their food or a history of biting, so ultimately they can be adopted. She added, “…they started up this program so that they could reduce the amount of euthanization that they have to do.”

humane society cat

KotKu waits patiently for someone to adopt her.

humane society cat

Every animal up for adoption at the Humane Society is accompanied by fact sheet like KotKu the cat’s.

The Humane Society takes in and tries to place many animals besides cats and dogs.

The Humane Society takes in and tries to place many animals besides cats and dogs.

Beulah Lane is less than a block long. It runs into Como Avenue and Como Park. That’s where I came upon the obviously new sign for the park’s outdoor classroom.

como woodland 1This seemed like a good place to hop off my bike and on to the outdoor classroom’s trail. A couple dozen steps later I came to a clearing in which stood a sizable stone fireplace.

The stone fireplace, I later learned, is a memorial to Joyce Kilmer , writer,  poet and World War I hero.

The stone fireplace, I later learned, is a memorial to Joyce Kilmer , writer, poet and World War I hero.

I didn’t see any historical marker or other explanation about the fireplace or its significance. Not until I researched the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom did I discover the fascinating account of this monument.

In the 1930s, Saint Paul Parks Department officials proposed setting aside a small slice of woods in the southwest part of Como Park as an arboretum. Parks Superintendent William LaMont Kaufman designed the arboretum, with the stone fireplace and some gentle waterfalls as focal points. (8)

Kaufman and lamont

Parks Superintendent (William) LaMont Kaufman and Parks Commissioner Fred Truax stand in front of the fireplace at the dedication ceremony in 1936. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

In 1935 the United States was still mired in the Great Depression-unemployment sat at just over 20%- so Kaufman sought and got funding from the Kilmer Post of the American Legion for the project. Men in the Works Progress Administration (WPA), part of Roosevelt’s New Deal, began construction of the arboretum, including the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Fireplace, that same year. Less than a year later the arboretum and Joyce Kilmer Memorials were dedicated. Kilmer is best known for his poem “Trees”, which begins “I think that I shall never see / A poem lovely as a tree.”

The chimney of the fireplace has the date construction began and the initials of LaMont Kaufman, Superintendent of Parks, and Park commissioner Fred Truax.

The chimney of the fireplace has the date construction began and the initials of LaMont Kaufman, Superintendent of Parks, and Park Commissioner Fred Truax.

The fireplace and waterfalls, called the Joyce Kilmer Cascade, were very popular and well-used for decades. By the 60s, however, the fireplace and surrounding arboretum became a nighttime hangout for ne’er do wells. Move ahead to the 80s and the Kilmer Cascades had been, for all practical purposes, destroyed by vandals and the arboretum overgrown. The fireplace also showed its age but not to the same extent.

In 2003 local volunteers pitched in to clean up the garbage and invasive species in the arboretum. Three years later planning began in earnest to formally restore the area, but it took until 2010 for the project to land funding. The fireplace rededication ceremony took place on May 19, 2011.

Also on Como Avenue, less than a block east, is the revitalized Como Pool. More a water park than traditional municipal pool, the lively and colorful Como Pool reopened in June 2012. (I would have enjoyed a swim today.)

It's no surprise the pool is extremely popular on days like this, a sunny Saturday with the temperature in the 80s.

It’s no surprise there’s a line to get into the Como Pool on a sunny Saturday with the temperature in the 80s.

The “aquatic climbing wall” and zip line (right) and oodles of lounge chairs are a couple of the reasons for the pool’s popularity.

The “aquatic climbing wall” and zip line (right) and oodles of lounge chairs are a couple of the reasons for the pool’s popularity.

The pergola is one of several that offer some welcome shade.

The pergola is one of several that offer some welcome shade.

The always energetic children’s activity pool.

The always energetic children’s activity pool.

A crowded section of the 400 foot long Lazy River.

A crowded section of the 400 foot long Lazy River.

From the Como Park Pool, I basically went around the McMurray Athletic Fields, continuing east on Como, south on Lexington, then back to Jessamine and west again.

The Como Central Service Facility houses the Parks and Recreation Department’s Operations Division. The address is 1100 Hamline although the building faces Jessamine.

The Como Central Service Facility houses the Parks and Recreation Department’s Operations Division. The address is 1100 Hamline although the building faces Jessamine.

Continuing west, Jessamine ends at Pascal Street where a large parking lot is filled with semi-trailers. Just down the street and around the corner on Brewster Street, there are two unique public charter schools. The first is the Metro Deaf School.

The Metro Deaf School offers a bilingual education using American Sign Language (ASL) and English for primarily deaf, and hard-of-hearing students, according to its website.

The Metro Deaf School offers a bilingual education using American Sign Language (ASL) and English for primarily deaf, and hard-of-hearing students, according to its website.

The Hmong College Prep School is next door at 1515 Brewster.

The Hmong College Prep School is the first Hmong-focused high school in the US and has more than 900 students, according to the school’s website.

The Hmong College Prep School is the first Hmong-focused high school in the US and has more than 900 students, according to the school’s website.

Hmong College Prep Academy is at least the third occupant of 1515 Brewster. Built as an athletic and health club, it was purchased and converted to a film studio in 1995. Energy Park Studios had four soundstages, two of which were 12,500 square feet each and two others which were 5,000 square feet each. “Little Big League,” “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” “Grumpier Old Men,” “Jingle All The Way,” “A Simple Plan,” and “Drop Dead Gorgeous” are among the flicks that used Energy Park Studios for production.(10) Energy Park Studios left the building in the early to mid-2000s.
Trailers line one side of the parking lot at 1102 Snelling Avenue. In the background you can see the Metro Deaf School and Hmong College Prep.

Trailers line one side of the parking lot at 1102 Snelling Avenue. In the background you can see the Metro Deaf School and Hmong College Prep.

Around the corner, on the East Snelling Avenue frontage road, is the lot of semi-trailers and garages filled with school buses.

Shiny new buses sit in the garage awaiting the start of school in about a month.

Shiny new buses sit in the garage awaiting the start of school in about a month.

A third charter school, the Dugsi Academy is on the Snelling Avenue West Frontage road. About 300 students attend Dugsi.

A third charter school, the Dugsi Academy is on the Snelling Avenue West Frontage road. About 300 students attend Dugsi.

The sign on this plain building gives a clue as to what the McDowell Agency does. On either side of the sign, you'll notice, are fingerprints, and the company is a private investigation firm that specializes in background investigations, according to the website. It goes on to say products and services include “criminal background screening” and the nebulous “additional verification services” and “industry specific services.”

Just north of Dugsi Academy is this plain building. The sign gives a clue as to what the McDowell Agency does. On either side of the sign, you’ll notice, are fingerprints, and the company is a private investigation firm that specializes in background investigations, according to the website. It goes on to say products and services include “criminal background screening” and the nebulous “additional verification services” and “industry specific services.”

The ride-by of the West Snelling Frontage Road concluded the discoveries for the ride. The map of the entire journey is here:

http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/642205132

Footnotes

1. Stew Thornley, SABR Baseball Biography Project http://sabr.org/bioproj/park/7a06f6cb

2. Ibid

3. https://www.wilder.org/AboutUs/Wilder-History/Pages/default.aspx

4. Ibid

5. Stew Thornley, SABR Baseball Biography Project http://sabr.org/bioproj/park/7a06f6cb

6. https://www.wilder.org/AboutUs/Locations/Pages/Wilder-Center-Overview.aspx

(7) The Street Where You Live: A Guide to the Place Names of St. Paul, Donald Empson

(8) Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom website http://www.comowoodland.org/joyce-kilmer-memorial-fireplace.html

(9) Kilmer Fireplace Rededication booklet, Sharon Shinomiya, Deb Robinson and Katie Plese; Como Woodland Advisory Committee ©2011

(10) Saint Paul Pioneer Press; January 15, 1995

(11) IMDb, http://www.imdb.com/search/title?locations=Energy+Park+Studios+-+1515+Brewster+Street%2C+St.+Paul%2C+Minnesota%2C+USA