Remnants of Stonebridge

May 20, 2016     Macalester-Groveland, Desnoyer Park     10 Miles

Stonebridge Boulevard runs north and south between St. Clair Avenue and Jefferson Avenue, which were also the north-south boundaries of Stonebridge estate.

Stonebridge Boulevard runs north and south between St. Clair Avenue and Jefferson Avenue, which were also the north-south boundaries of Stonebridge estate.

Stonebridge. Today, it’s little more than a two block long street in Macalester-Groveland. From the 1910s into the early ‘30s, however, Stonebridge was the grandest estate in Saint Paul. To this day, the mystique of Stonebridge remains fascinating to local historians because of estate’s size, extravagance and relatively quick demise.

A 1910 photo of Oliver Crosby, co-founder of Amhoist, one-time manufacturing giant in Saint Paul. Photo courtesy MNHS.

A 1910 photo of Oliver Crosby, co-founder of American Hoist and Derrick, one-time manufacturing giant in Saint Paul. Photo courtesy MNHS.

Oliver Crosby, an inventor, and co-founder of American Hoist and Derrick, purchased a large piece of land (28 or 40 acres, depending upon which article you read; I calculated its size as 38 acres.) in 1907 for his new estate.

The 1908 the H.M. Smyth plat map of the part of Macalester-Groveland that includes the large Oliver Crosby parcel, which is in the upper right corner.

The 1908 the H.M. Smyth plat map of the part of Macalester-Groveland that includes the large Oliver Crosby parcel, which is in the upper left corner.

A 1910 photo of Oliver Crosby, co-founder of Amhoist, one-time manufacturing giant in Saint Paul. Photo courtesy MNHS.

A close-up of the 1908 H.M. Smyth plat map showing the Crosby property.

The Stonebridge property extended from St. Clair Avenue on the north, south to Jefferson Avenue, and from Montrose Boulevard (now Mount Curve) on the east to Mississippi River Boulevard on the west.

It is impossible to get a sense of the size of the Stonebridge mansion from this shot from April 1932. Courtesy MNHS.

The mansion was given the address 302 Mississippi River Boulevard. An obviously large home, its true size isn’t discernible from this shot from April 1932. Courtesy MNHS.

The Stonebridge mansion, designed by Clarence H. Johnston, was properly large – 20,000 square feet, 24 rooms – and finely decorated, but it was the grounds of Stonebridge that were the most spectacular feature of the estate.

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Among the amenities, according to separate articles by Jay Phaender and Larry Millett, were two man-made lakes (one of which Crosby named after his wife, Elizabeth), waterfalls fed by a reservoir on the property, at least one large sunken garden, a greenhouse, and a 100 foot long pergola. Crosby, an early lover of cars, had a nine-car garage built to house his Stutz Bearcat and other vehicles.

Lake Elizabeth reflected the Stonebridge mansion on a calm day. There are two boats in the lake. Photo courtesy http://homesmsp.com.

Lake Elizabeth reflected the Stonebridge mansion on a calm day. There are two boats in the lake. Photo courtesy http://homesmsp.com.

Oliver Crosby and his wife Elizabeth moved into Stonebridge in 1916, nine years after purchasing the property. I haven’t been able to determine why it took so long for the family to move to the estate.

The Stonebridge pergola, left, and a small section of the gardens. Photo courtesy http://homesmsp.com.

A Stonebridge garden party. The pergola, left, and the garden mall. Photo courtesy http://homesmsp.com.

The Crosbys entertained regularly, according to reports, often outside amongst the lavish gardens and pergola.

Scenes from at least one movie were shot at the magnificent Stonebridge Estate. The Society Page of the July 14, 1921 edition of the Minneapolis Morning Tribune (below) mentions the shoot for the silent film “Free Air”, written by Sinclair Lewis, a short-time resident of Saint Paul.

Stonebridge Sinclair Lewis shoot story

Oliver Crosby’s time at Stonebridge was short – only six years – as he died in 1922 at the age of 67. Elizabeth remained for six more years, until her death, in 1928.

The mansion sits in the middle of this aerial photo from about 1930. It appears parcels of the former estate had been sold off by this time. There are a couple of other homes in the lower left corner of the picture. Photo courtesy MNHS.

The mansion sits in the middle of this aerial photo from about 1930. It appears parcels of the former estate had been sold off by this time. There are a couple of other homes in the lower left corner of the picture. Photo courtesy MNHS.

Author Larry Millett says in “Once There Were Castles” that in 1928, nearly all of the Stonebridge land was sold. Only three acres around the mansion, and the house itself, remained with the Crosby family. Son Frederic Crosby and his family were the last to live at the estate. They moved to Stonebridge shortly after his mother’s death, and lived there for seven years. After that, the vacant mansion slowly decayed. Ownership fell to the State of Minnesota in 1944 for failure to pay taxes. Several times the legislature considered making Stonebridge the Governor’s residence, but the proposal never passed. The end came for Stonebridge in June 1953, a mere 37 years after its completion.

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There are a few remnants of the Stonebridge Estate that you can see if you know where to look. The most prominent and apropos is the stone bridge, after which the estate was named. It is easily seen from Mississippi River Boulevard. The bridge sits on the driveway for 280 Mississippi River Boulevard, just beyond two white brick pillars.

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The original stone bridge has been fixed and remains part of the driveway at 320 Mississippi River Boulevard.

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With the visit to the former Stonebridge complete, I went north on Woodlawn Avenue to Goodrich, then Cretin and to Summit. At Summit I went left, and investigated the western-most block of the city’s premiere street. There are a dozen homes of disparate styles and eras on the long block between Cretin and Mississippi River Boulevard.

This house, 2183 Summit, is on the corner of Cretin and Summit. The Mediterranean-style home is in immaculate shape, with nothing out of place on the house or property. What has always grabbed me, however, is the pure white color of the stucco.

This house, 2183 Summit, is on the corner of Cretin and Summit. The Mediterranean-style home is in immaculate shape, with nothing out of place on the house or property. What has always grabbed me, however, is the pure white color of the stucco.

Several doors west is the English Tudor home at 2215 Summit.

Several doors west is the English Tudor home at 2215 Summit.

2279 is the western-most home on Summit. It is the only single story home on the block that is not a rambler i.e. ranch house.

2279 is the western-most home on Summit. It is the only single story home on the block that is not a rambler i.e. ranch house.

This block of Summit, like all the others west of Lexington Parkway, is divided by a grass boulevard between the east and west bound lanes. There are many interesting items in the boulevard, including benches, memorials, markers and monuments.

Looking east from Summit’s terminus at Mississippi River Boulevard. The grass boulevard is to the left.

Looking east from Summit’s terminus at Mississippi River Boulevard. The grass boulevard is to the left.

This bench faces Mississippi River Boulevard. I noticed it because of its different look from the usual benches in Saint Paul parks.

This bench faces Mississippi River Boulevard. I noticed it because of its different look from the usual benches in Saint Paul parks.

The first was an off-kilter bench with weathered wood slats and rusting, fading green cast iron.

Bench Manufacturing Company of Woodstock, Vermont (which is no longer in business) made the bench.

Bench Manufacturing Company of Woodstock, Vermont (which is no longer in business) made the commemorative bench.

I was quite surprised to see the mention of the 1977 Women’s National Marathon, a race I’d never heard of, forged into the cast iron. An Internet search turned up only two stories about the Women’s National Marathon Championship, which was held on October 23, 1977. The race was a really big deal because it was the first marathon championship in the U.S. solely for women. According to an article by Sarah Barker in the September 29, 2017 edition of the StarTribune newspaper, 88 women from across the country ran the historic race, 79 of whom finished.

Three runners, including Jan Arenz of Minnesota, in the Women’s National Marathon Championship on October 23, 1977, in Saint Paul. Photo courtesy StarTribune.

Three runners, including Jan Arenz of Minnesota, in the Women’s National Marathon Championship on October 23, 1977, in Saint Paul. Photo courtesy StarTribune.

womens-marathan-leal-ann-reinhart-winner-by-bernie-friel.jpeg

Leal-Ann Reinhart of California is cheered on by spectators. Photo courtesy Down the Backstretch Blog.

The Marathon started several yards from this bench, on Mississippi River Boulevard at Summit. The course stayed within Saint Paul’s borders except for a couple miles along the East River Road and Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis. Leal-Ann Rinehart of California won the historic race.

Running 1970's

Leal-Ann Reinhart, wearing number 644, after she won the 1977 Women’s National Marathon Championship. Photo courtesy StarTribune.

A short distance from the commemorative bench is a boulder affixed with a small plaque.

The plaque salutes the Junior League of St. Paul’s 60th Anniversary fundraising campaign to replace trees in the city claimed by the devastating Dutch Elm disease epidemic.

The plaque salutes the Junior League of St. Paul’s 60th Anniversary fundraising campaign to replace trees in the city claimed by the devastating Dutch Elm disease epidemic.

The Junior League raised more than $40,000 for 350 new trees, including 60 that were planted along Summit Avenue, according to an article in the Spring 2017 edition of Ramsey County History magazine.

The Junior League raised more than $40,000 for 350 new trees, including 60 that were planted along Summit Avenue, according to an article in the Spring 2017 edition of Ramsey County History magazine.

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A memorial plaque, next to a different bench in the same area.

A memorial plaque, next to a different bench in the same area.

 

An official City of Saint Paul survey marker sign.

Also in the same area, an official City of Saint Paul survey marker sign.

Six feet away, at the bottom of the shot, is the survey monument itself. A survey monument was originally placed in this spot in October 1887 by J.H. Armstrong, according to the Saint Paul Public Works Survey Division.

Six feet away (at the bottom of the shot) is the survey monument itself. A survey monument was originally placed in this spot in October 1887 by J.H. Armstrong, according to the Saint Paul Public Works Survey Division.

 

Moving back east along Summit toward Cretin Avenue, I rode past the Saint Paul Seminary, which since 1987 has been the Divinity School for the University of St. Thomas. The Saint Paul Seminary website says that James J. Hill, a Methodist, donated half a million dollars to build and endow the school to honor his devoutly Catholic wife, Mary.

 

Architect Cass Gilbert, designer of Minnesota ‘s stunning State Capitol, included St. Mary’s Chapel in the 1891 plan for the Seminary. However, Minnesota architect Clarence H. Johnston ultimately got the commission for the Chapel, which was completed in 1905. St. Mary’s Chapel remains in daily use by seminarians, priests and others. More than 3000 priests have graduated from the Seminary in more than 100 years.

St. Mary’s Chapel was built between 1901 – 1905 for the Saint Paul Seminary. This structure of Kettle River sandstone

St. Mary’s Chapel was built between 1901 – 1905 for the Saint Paul Seminary. Kettle River sandstone is the primary material used on the exterior.

St. Mary's Chapel is nearly indistinguishable from when it was built in the early 1900s.

St. Mary’s Chapel is nearly indistinguishable from when it was built in the early 1900s.

Loras Hall, originally called North Dormitory, was another Cass Gilbert design that was built in 1894 as a residence for Saint Paul Seminary students. Over its 120 plus-year history, Loras Hall also has been a residence for St. Thomas Academy high school students. The College (now University) of St. Thomas took possession of Loras Hall in 1982. Since its remodeling in the early 1990s, Loras Hall has housed University offices. (Thanks to Pat Sirek, UST, for this correction.)

Loras Hall, originally called North Dormitory, was another Cass Gilbert design that was built in 1894 as a residence for Saint Paul Seminary students. Over its 120 plus-year history, Loras Hall also has been a residence for St. Thomas Academy high school students. The College (now University) of St. Thomas took possession of Loras Hall in 1982. Since its remodeling in the early 1990s, Loras Hall has housed University offices. (Thanks to Pat Sirek, UST, for this information.)

North Dormitory as photographed in 1895, a year after construction. Courtesy University of St. Thomas archives photo collection.

North Dormitory as photographed in 1895, a year after construction. Courtesy University of St. Thomas archives photo collection.

There is a Historical Walking Tour courtesy of the University of St. Thomas.

The Frey Science and Engineering Center dominates the southwest corner of Cretin Avenue and Grand. It opened to students in the fall of 1997.

The Frey Science and Engineering Center is two buildings, O’Shaughnessy Science Hall and Owens Science Hall, which share this entrance.

This sign and one on the opposite side of the sidewalk that reads “University of St. Thomas” were hand-chiseled.

This sign and one on the opposite side of the sidewalk that reads “University of St. Thomas” were hand-chiseled.

Artwork near the entrance of the Frey Science and Engineering Center.

Artwork near the entrance of the Frey Science and Engineering Center.

I finished this leg of the ride at 8:11, giving me another 30 minutes until the 8:41 sunset. Plenty of time to explore more, so I rode north to St. Anthony Avenue in Desnoyer Park – I-94’s south frontage road. Because of it’s relative seclusion, train cars here get tagged almost nightly, something I noticed as I drove to and from work each day for many years. I looked forward to seeing this up close with all the colors, angles and photo opps.

I pushed through the brush by following a narrow path off St. Anthony and Clifford.

I pushed through the brush by following a narrow path off St. Anthony and Clifford. The path I took is beyond the storm drain on the road.

Most of the railroad cars have been tagged, many on both sides. The smokestack on the far left of the picture is the WestRock plant.

Most of the railroad cars have been tagged, many on both sides. The smokestack on the far left of the picture is the WestRock plant.

I can appreciate the artistry of some of the tags and taggers. Still, I don’t approve of the vandalism.

I can appreciate the artistry of some of the tags and taggers. Still, I don’t approve of the vandalism.

Rustoleum is the number 1 choice of graffiti artists here.

Rustoleum is the number 1 choice of graffiti artists here.

 

Interstate 94 goes past the north side of the railroad tracks, on the other side of the fence. Lightly traveled St. Anthony Avenue and brush border the south side of the tracks.

Interstate 94 goes past the north side of the railroad tracks, on the other side of the fence. Lightly traveled St. Anthony Avenue and brush border the south side of the tracks.

Bridges are more protected than the train cars and get their share of spray paint.

Bridges are more protected than the train cars and get their share of spray paint.

There’s not much blank space on either the bridge or hopper car.

There’s not much blank space on either the bridge or hopper car.

The extent of the graffiti on the railroad bridge is apparent when I looked between two hopper cars. Above is the Pelham Avenue bridge over I-94, railroad tracks and St. Anthony Avenue.

The extent of the graffiti on the railroad bridge is apparent when I looked between two hopper cars. Above is the Pelham Avenue bridge over I-94, railroad tracks and St. Anthony Avenue.

The bridge is covered in “art” but most of the hopper cars here are unscathed.

The bridge is covered in “art” but most of the hopper cars here are unscathed.

A close look at bridge graffiti.

A close look at bridge graffiti.

 

Apparently Rustoleum lasts no more than four years on railroad cars.

Apparently Rustoleum lasts no more than four years on railroad cars.

My favorite work of art this evening because of the well-executed 3D look, blending of colors and overall creativity.

My favorite work of art this evening because of the well-executed 3D look, blending of colors and overall creativity.

Another impressive work. I wonder what inspired it?

Another impressive work. I wonder what inspired it?

The view from the Pelham Parkway bridge. From here there’s no doubt how prevalent the tagging of the railroad cars and bridge is. The black car is traveling on westbound 94.

The view from the Pelham Parkway bridge. From here there’s no doubt how prevalent the tagging of the railroad cars and bridge is. The black car is traveling on westbound 94.

I didn’t expect to meet a graffiti artist since it was still light and relatively early. I’d love to talk with someone who has tagged these train cars, the bridges, or others. It would be a fascinating story for the blog.

Now at 9:11 – 30 minutes after sunset, light continued to cling to the horizon. It doesn’t look like it but I did need to turn on my head and tail lights as I headed the two miles home.

Here is the route for this ride.