June 16, 2015 – Highland Park, West End/West 7th, Downtown – 16.2 miles
It was fabulous to be back on my bike. First, it had been almost two months since my last ride due to a medley of out-of-town travel, bad weather and a non-biking related injury. Second, it got me out of work on a spectacular June afternoon. Third, my primary destination, Downtown, and the story to come with it, were arresting.
I took Montreal Avenue east, down the hill toward West 7th Street. The stoplight at Montreal, Lexington and West 7th was red so, as I waited, I studied two public works employees re-striping the crosswalk on the opposite side of Montreal. One worker muscled the obviously bulky road striping machine while the other struggled to protect herself and her partner from inattentive drivers.
I take self-preservation seriously on each and every bike ride. Frequently, therefore, I’ll opt for an indirect, even serpentine, route along lightly traveled side streets (called non-arterial streets in public works lingo.) Instead of riding along the occasionally perilous West 7th Street, I followed Montreal east through the Crosby Lake Business Center and into the Victoria Park neighborhood in the West End, where Montreal almost magically becomes Adrian Street. Two blocks east, at Perlman, Adrian Street is forsaken for Kay Avenue.
The signs make it look as though three streets intersect here. In reality, Adrian Street undergoes a name change to Kay Avenue. I’m wondering if the Perlman family has or had members named Adrian and Kay? Neither street existed when the latest edition of “The Street Where You Live” by Don Empson, was published.
The Sholom Home East at 740 is the only address on Kay Avenue. Richard Shaller owned and operated Big Wheel Rossi, a chain of auto parts stores, for more than 30 years. (1) Rossy was his wife.
The Sholom East Campus on Kay Avenue provides short-term rehabilitation to long-term care and specialized end-of-life care.(2)
The gaudily painted garage belonging to 881 Otto Avenue appears to have been self-tagged.
The engrossing array of colors, images and symbols up close.
As a car guy, I’ll always brake for classic American metal like this ’58 Chevrolet Biscayne.
The dual headlights and toothy chrome grill of the classic 1958 Chevy.
Some ’58 Biscaynes have the exterior mirror unusually placed forward of the windshield.
Taken from Randolph Avenue facing southwest; West 7th is just out of the picture on the left; Oneida Street parallels the sidewalk on the right.
There is an odd little triangular spit of land at the intersection of West 7th, Jefferson and Oneida Street. The green space is not labeled on any official city map, nor is it among the designated parks on the City of Saint Paul website.
Standing on the edge of the triangular green space, the Schmidt Artists Lofts dominate the center of the picture.
So what is this place? Who owns it and maintains it? And what are the sandstone formations? Those questions remain unanswered for the time being.
Although tough to tell from here, the Paulina Flats building is triangularly shaped.
This building at along West 7th and Leech Street on the western edge of Downtown intrigued me enough to pause. Among the curiosities of the building known both as the Paulina Apartments and Paulina Flats is its address. Ramsey County tax records declare the address as 6 Leech Street, which jibes with the entrance on Leech. However, on 7th Street, the ground floor unit nearest Downtown is posted as 327 West 7th.
Paulina Flats or Apartments, built in 1902, has retail and apartments. The Leech Street entrance, and above it, the address.
Construction holds a special allure for men. Several are watching the crew demolishing the building that held 7 Corners Hardware for decades.
It’s the demolition of the landmark 7 Corners Hardware, which will be replaced by a building combining the ubiquitous “ground floor retail”, with a hotel and apartments above.
Now in the heart of Downtown, I stopped and locked my bike at the corner of St. Peter Street and Kellogg Boulevard, next to the Art Deco wonder that is the Saint Paul City Hall and Ramsey County Courthouse. There I waited for Ramsey County Deputy Sergeant John Eastham and John Siqveland, County Public Communications Director, who were going to take me on a tour of the shuttered former Ramsey County Jail, officially called the Adult Detention Center. (Be aware that I’ll use Adult Detention Center, ADC and jail interchangeably.)
The Adult Detention Center, or ADC for short, opened to ‘customers’ in 1979 and was used 24 years. Sergeant Eastham worked at the ADC from 2000 until its 2003 closure.
Prior to becoming part of the Ramsey County Government Center West, these buildings were Drover’s Markets (left) and West Publishing (right). Taken in December 1960, West’s building was newly renovated. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.
We entered the jail through the attached Ramsey County Government Center West building at 50 West Kellogg Boulevard, in actuality several buildings that housed West Publishing until its 1991 move to Eagan.
The first item of interest Sergeant Eastham pointed out was a sign for the 6 and ½th floor. He explained that the floors in the jail were at different levels than those in the old West Publishing building. After Ramsey County bought the West building and removed walls to connect it to the ADC, the West structure’s extra level between the Jail’s 6th and 7th floor became the 6 and 1/2th floor.
Nicknamed ‘the pillbox,’ this is the only part of the old ADC above Kellogg Boulevard. Many people have no idea that a jail sat below.
The ‘pillbox’ sits near the southwest corner of Kellogg Boulevard and Wabasha Street. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.
The 7th floor is the upper-most level in the building. Simply known as “The Floor” by jail staff, the 7th story primarily held offices.
The entrance to the sheriff’s department on the 6th level of the former jail.
The magnificent view from the 7th story office of the sheriff in the old ADC spans more than 90 degrees. That’s Shepard Road in the foreground and the Smith Avenue High Bridge in the distance.
Harriet Island and the Wabasha Avenue Bridge dominate the southerly view from the sheriff’s office.
Two other offices have a similar view, toward the west, as the sheriff’s office.
Between the era in which the ADC was built and the building’s use, I wasn’t surprised by the austere, even grim interior. What is surprising is the jail received a National AIA Honor Award for its design. Perhaps it was based upon the exterior design and unusual location.
Even empty, marks on the carpet clearly show a cube farm once sat here.
“I told people I did five years in the jail…eight hours at a time.” Ramsey County Sheriff’s Deputy John Eastham on his time working at the old county jail on Kellogg Boulevard
Prisoners were brought into the Ramsey County Jail through two entrances. Those who arrived in a sheriff’s department vehicle rode in via a driveway off Kellogg Boulevard that dipped from street level to one story below.
At the bottom of the picture, the ramp disappears under ground on the way to the sally port. Kellogg Boulevard is roughly in the middle of the shot and the building at the top is the Ramsey County Courthouse/Saint Paul City Hall. Aerial image courtesy Google Earth.
According to Sergeant Eastham, “The paddy wagon would come in here and this is where they would do ‘the dump,’ where they would bring the prisoners in and transfer them from the annex and then they would come into the jail population.” This spot is called the sally port.
The sally port, a secure, below-ground entrance where some prisoners entered the ADC.
Other prisoners were escorted from the courthouse to the jail via a tunnel which ran underneath Kellogg Boulevard.
The two tunnels between the courthouse and the former jail are partially exposed because of the demolition. Prisoners were always escorted by deputies through the tunnel to the left. The public, including family members and attorneys, came to the jail from the courthouse via the right tunnel.
Dust from demolition hovers in the air around the tunnel that connect the Courthouse to the ADC.
“This, said Sergeant Eastham, is the door that led to the staircase that went up to the inmate tunnel. All the prisoner transports between the main courthouse and the adult detention center took place through this tunnel. So literally thousands of inmates over the life of this detention center were walked underneath Kellogg Street and nobody ever knew that we were even doing it.”
We then stopped in the ADC Master Control center, where I learned about two Master Control stations, ‘Buttons’ and ‘The Pad’, worked by deputies. Sergeant Eastham explained that ‘Buttons’ controlled access to the main doors in the jail, “Somebody would call you on an airphone (an intercom), push a button, a light would light up; you would see what button was activated. You push the number in for the door. You talk to the person; the person would say open up, you’d push the button and it would cycle open.”
The original design called for a computerized system for ‘Buttons’, but technology hadn’t caught up to aspirations. Elevator controls are among those in this picture.
Buttons for the main access doors which are (were) organized by floors and locations.
‘The Pad’, meanwhile, used no technology whatsoever. Almost inconceivably, according to Sergeant Eastham, details about all the inmates were hand-written on a pieces of paper. “We had to hand-write (the name of) every inmate that came in and keep track of them. You would keep track on a little piece of paper all the stuff about the inmates-who they were, what their charges were, the date they came in, the property number and you’d write it all down and then you’d have a metal flip page with a whole bunch of little slots where you’d put the paper in. It was for every physical cell inside this entire facility.
“You’d have to write on the pad who went out to court, when they came back, what happened with them when they came back, who left bails, bonds, all that stuff to keep track of every inmate in custody.“
Sergeant Eastham talks about his jobs when he worked in the control room.
Sergeant Eastham’s first assignment at the ADC was ‘Buttons’ and then ‘The Pad.’ “I worked the Pad two and a-half years and in my two and a-half years I never had an errant release; I never had any mistakes and actually caught four or five before the guys walked out of the door. I was pretty proud of that.”
It is astonishing that inmates weren’t mistakenly released daily with this archaic system. Kudos to Sergeant Eastham and the others on ‘The Pad’ for their organization and focus.
Added Eastham. “These two spots (Buttons, the Pad) were the most difficult spots in the entire facility.”
After Master Control, we walked to the elevator. The first thing Sergeant Eastham pointed out is that there are no buttons inside, one of many security measures in the jail. The Sergeant went on to say, “(The elevator) was run by the Button person. Usually 12 to 15 inmates could fit in an elevator with one deputy. You’d pack ‘em all in, tell them to make some space and stand right here (in front of the doors). You’d face them and the door would shut behind you. The elevator would go down, As soon as the door would open up you’d back out.”
The button-less elevator for moving inmates to different levels.
Surprisingly, neither Sergeant Eastham nor any other deputy were attacked on the elevator by an inmate. “You never, ever went on an elevator like that with anyone that previously had shown any hinky behavior. Everybody in the elevator knew there was no way out. Once you’re in here, what are you going to do? You’re going to run to one side of the building and you’re going to get tired and that’s all that’s going to happen.”
Sergeant Eastham mentioned that transporting inmates in the jail elevator changed how he rides public elevators, “You get on the elevator and everyone else would face toward the door and you’d face toward them. Then you wouldn’t push the buttons because here, when you walk by you tell person running the Buttons, ‘I need to go to floor three,’ or whatever. So you’d stand there and you’re staring at them AND you’re not pushing any buttons so you automatically ride down to their floor. So there were a lot of civilians that were freaked out.”
You might notice the two bunks are different. The plan for the ADC was to house one inmate per cell. However, not long after it opened in 1979, the jail filled to capacity, necessitating adding a second bunk to cells.
Inmates tried to escape from the Kellogg Avenue jail only two times. The first, in the early 80s, was discovered because of plumbing problems. The inmate attempted to tunnel his way out of the ADC by scraping away grout and cement from the blocks in his cell. He flushed the debris down the toilet, eventually amassing enough to obstruct the plumbing.
The other breakout attempt came one night as Sergeant Eastham worked the sixth floor. He heard loud pounding. “The thing about this building is that it reverberates because it’s just metal and brick. It was really hard to get a bead on where it was coming from.”
Eastham and a sergeant searched one section of cells (called a pod) and found nothing amiss.
Pod 5D, like the other pods in the old jail, occupies two stories. Each level had cells, and tables and stools (both bolted to the concrete floor) for inmates to use when not locked up.
The second pod, said Eastham, was a different story. “As soon as I looked in, it just didn’t look right. So I called for the door to be opened and walked in and all the inmates came to ask me a whole bunch of questions so I knew something was up.”
The situation crystallized for Eastham when he walked to the entrance of a cell and saw jagged cracks and pits in the window.
Perhaps, the window was never replaced after the early 2000s escape attempt to remind ‘guests’ how difficult is was to leave on their own.
At the time, Eastham didn’t know what the inmates used to try to break the window but he knew he needed help. “The first thing I thought of was that if they got something that can do that to the window I don’t want to be in here by myself.”
Inmates were ordered to return to their cells and that’s when Eastham figured out there was no way the man assigned to the cell with the damaged window was involved in the escape attempt. “I knew the guys that were working on this had been working hard and he didn’t have any sweat. Found out that two guys lived in that room,” he said, pointing over to a nearby cell, “actually were breaking out his window and threatened him.
“They also had about 100 feet of bed sheets tied end-to-end; they had shoved all the sheets up into the wash bucket when it wasn’t being used… So their goal was to break the window out, tie off and shimmy down.”
The special security windows, Eastham told me, had a strong poly sheath sandwiched between two pieces of glass, stronger than, but similar to, tempered glass in vehicles. That’s why the window cracked but wouldn’t break, even under assault from the sharp corner of a metal stool.
The stool that was used in the attempted escape was never put back. Inmates repeatedly beat the window with the square base of the stool which is the same shape but smaller than the table base in this shot.
This spiral staircase, a quick and secure way for deputies to move between floors during emergencies, connected the control rooms and housing areas of the 4th and 5th floors to those on the 2nd and 3rd.
Architects and jail officials made some significant changes in the design and construction of the new Adult Detention Center because of incidents in this facility. For example, cells in the new jail have windows but they’re frosted, which has eliminated ‘mooning’ by inmates.
The most notable change is the location of deputies’ desks-in the middle of the pod, giving jail staff almost continuous access to the sights, sounds and smells. Direct supervision, as it’s called, has become the preferred design for jails.
In the old ADC, deputies watched over each pod from above from a secure control room. Not only couldn’t they directly interact with inmates from the there, deputies couldn’t hear much of what the inmates discussed.
In what is a remarkable engineering achievement, the old jail literally clings to the bluff above Shepard Road. It is attached to the cliff by hundreds (or more) thick bolts that were pounded into the rock below Kellogg Boulevard. Concrete was poured for a structural wall, supported by the bolts, nuts and metal plates. The building is also supported by the by the foundation on the ground about 100 feet below Kellogg Boulevard.
The bolt sticking out of the wall is one of many that were pounded into the bluff to keep the ADC from falling off the cliff.
John Siqveland, Ramsey County Public Communications Director, also on the tour, related a practical joke a former maintenance man-turned-deputy pulled on new jail employees. “He’d have his big wrenches and he would go back here and start banging around and making a bunch of noise. The new employees would say, ‘What are you doin’ back there?’ And he’s like, ‘You know, it’s bolted into the cliff so every month we have to do an inspection. I gotta tighten up the bolts to make sure it doesn’t fall down onto Shepard Road and into the river.’
Siqveland continued, “When he (the maintenance man) finally gets his promotion to deputy, one of the guys, he never quite caught on, says, ‘Well, who’s going to check the bolts? How are we going to keep from falling into the river?’”
“The huge windows were a great idea, but not such a great idea all at the same time.” Ramsey County Sheriff’s Deputy John Eastham on the expansive and exposed windows at the old county jail on Kellogg Boulevard
Though he worked in a jail, there were some interesting, unusual and humorous happenings. The large south-facing widows encouraged creativity among some inmates and family members. As Deputy Eastham recounted, “Most people realize that taking off clothes for strangers ain’t a good idea. If it was somebody who just couldn’t figure out that clothes weren’t really optional we’d take ‘em off the prime real estate where they had opportunities and we’d move ‘em to a spot where there were no opportunity.” While every cell had a window, a few offered obstructed views.
As for family members, Eastham recalled, “They’d stand on the Wabasha Street Bridge with posters (like) ’love you’, so it was cool but you’d have to go out there and say, ‘you can’t do that.’”
“This is the only place I ever saw a full contact chess game.” Sergeant John Eastham, recalling a fight between two inmates over a chess match
Another time, Eastham recalled, a fight broke out over a chess match. Two inmates were playing as a third watched. One of the players castled, the only chess play when more than one piece can be moved in a turn. Eastham continued, “The guy (who castled) looked up when he (the observer) pointed at him, as soon as he looked up, punched him and knocked him out colder than a fish. I went in there and I put the guy up against the wall and handcuffed the guy like I was supposed to and I’m like, ‘What on earth did he say to you?’
“’Nothin’, man, he was cheatin’!’
“And I go, ‘What do you mean he was cheatin?’
“He goes, ‘He moved two pieces at once!’
“I looked down at the board and I go, ‘That’s a castle. That’s a legitimate move.’
“And he goes, ‘No, really?’
“I’m like, ‘Yeah.’ And he goes, ‘Ah man, sorry. My bad.’”
My tour guide, and former ADC jailer and current Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department and Public Information Officer (PIO), Sergeant John Eastham.
Sergeant Eastham paused for a photo on Kellogg Boulevard, just outside to closed jail, to wrap up the fascinating tour. Getting permission to tour the riveting former ADC took months of negotiating. For that I offer sincere thanks to John Siquiveland, Sergeant John Eastham, Ken Iosso, Commissioner Raphael Ortega and several other Ramsey County employees.
The entrance to 345 Cedar Street.
After my release from the ADC, my jaunt continued Downtown with a stop at 345 Cedar Street, the soon-to-be the former home of the Pioneer Press newspaper. Originally built as the headquarters of Minnesota Mutual Life Insurance Company, 345 Cedar was constructed in 1955. The Pioneer Press replaced Minnesota Mutual as the tenant in 1984.(3)
Two skyways over Cedar Street. The skyway in the foreground connects the Pioneer Press building with the St. Paul Athletic Club. Nearly all the skyways in Saint Paul are identical to these two.
The College of St. Scholastica, based in Duluth, has a satellite site at 340 Cedar Street.
340 Cedar is also the address of the St. Paul Athletic Club and Hotel 340, the east metro’s first boutique hotel, according to its website.
A close look at the ornate awning over the entrance of the St. Paul Athletic Club/Hotel 340.
The original part of the St. Paul Athletic Club building.
From Cedar Street, I went south to Shepard Road to look at the old jail from ground level.
The entire former Ramsey County Adult Detention Center is best seen from Shepard Road. The pillbox is the upper-most part of the ADC, above the tree farthest to the right.
The ‘pillbox’, again, from Shepard Road.
The former office of the sheriff is behind the widows in the middle of the picture.
The damaged window of the cell from which two inmates tried to escape in the early 2000s is plainly visible.
At least three of the bygone Ramsey County West (and before that, West Publishing) buildings are evident while a corner of the jail is visible on the far right of the picture.
Now looking northeast from the Samuel Morgan Trail (which parallels Shepard Road), the size of the closed government center, previously West Publishing, is more easily seen.
Here’s a similar view from 1965. Notice the space to the right of Booth Cold Storage. That’s where the ADC was built. Nearly every building in this picture still stands. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.
At one-time this lower parking lot was used for the Government Center West and the Jail; now it has been all but forgotten. It’s located just north of Shepard Road.
Although West Publishing moved to Eagan in 1991, one of the company’s signs remains nearly 25 years later. Only when the building comes down will the sign do so.
Weeds reach skyward from cracks in the pavement at a vacated entrance.
These arches haven’t always been sealed with bricks. Were they loading docks to move ink, paper and other supplies into and finished law books out of the plant?
The old jail induces an ominous feeling from this angle.
Resuming my eastward travel, I saw some grocery carts parked amidst some bushes growing out of the bluff.
Almost certainly the belongings of some homeless folks, authorities have “red tagged” them, a warning to move them or lose them.
A clear and concise warning from authorities.
Continuing east in the parking lot, it merged with 2nd Street as I neared Jackson Street. As I explored, I went the wrong way on two one-way streets; first Jackson and then 2nd. My reasoning – that turning around and riding the correct direction would add at least a mile and some valuable time to my ride. I was unwilling to sacrifice time with the sky portending rain.
In the lower left corner of this picture you can just make out where the parking lot meets 2nd Street. Second Street, running along the edge of the building (the Ramsey County Government Center East), seems to disappear into darkness as it dips under the viaduct.
In reality, there is plenty light as 2nd Street passes under the viaduct.
The pitch of Jackson Street is obvious in this shot. It must have been an unusually difficult assignment for the bricklayers and masons who built the building.
Determining the exact history of the building that now is the Ramsey County Government Center East has been elusive.
This is the front of the Ramsey County Government Center East which is at 160 East Kellogg Boulevard. While I’m nothing near an architectural expert, something about the windows at the Government Center doesn’t feel right.
A better view of the entrance to the Government Center.
The west side of the Government Center- there’s an expansive lawn here, most of which is not visible in this photo.
The landscape on the west side of the Government Center is a public area, part of which is The Saint Paul Cultural Garden. There is no prominent signage pointing that out, only a granite block with a metal marker. Dedicated in 1993, the Saint Paul Cultural Garden was created by 10 artists(5) for the 150th anniversary of the naming of the City of Saint Paul.
(click on any thumbnail to enlarge the images and see the captions.)
Grass, trees, art and comfortable places to sit make this a great green haven in nice weather. The Government Center is to the right.
Created long before the Cultural Garden, a memorial marker honoring the first Swede to settle in Minnesota…
…has a prominent spot on the lawn.
This is the only explanation of the Cultural Garden that I found.
I mni za ska, the Dakota name for Saint Paul, or white bluff (5)
The Dakota word for Mississippi River(6), Ha-ha wa-kpa (literally ‘river of the falls’), is carved into granite blocks, images representing the Mississippi and native plants, are in the fence and the Mississippi itself flows in the background.
According to the Saint Paul Foundation, the garden consists of six separate displays of sculpture and poetry featuring historically significant cultural groups.
This colorful conic sculpture with an embedded poem about the Mississippi River is my favorite.
The Saint Paul Cultural Garden looking northwest.
Leaving Downtown, I saw how drastically the demolition of 7 Corners Hardware alters the area.
Seven Corners without 7 Corners Hardware is like someone without their front teeth.
A portion of one building is all that remained of the iconic hardware store.
Girders from the store are piled to the side in preparation for recycling.
Nearly every bike ride is an adventure. This one is stands out because of the visit to the former Ramsey County jail. It was a fun and educational experience; one that I was very lucky to have. I hope you’ll felt some of my enthusiasm as you read this post.
Click HERE to see the map of this ride.
- Richard B. Shaller obituary; http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/twincities/obituary.aspx?pid=153192581
- Sholom Home online brochure; http://www.sholom.com/assets/documents/facility-brochures/shirley-chapman-brochure.pdf
- Minnesota Mutual Building and Saint Paul Urban Renewal Historic District: National Register Evaluation; Metropolitan Council website; http://www.metrocouncil.org/METC/files/92/92bc5727-84d3-4256-84a5-469209a57fe2.pdf
- St. Paul Foundation website; http://www.saintpaulfoundation.org/_asset/wz4n0b/
- Grammar and Dictionary of the Dakota Language: Collected by the Members of the Dakota Mission; Minnesota Historical Society ©1832