April 27, 2013
It was after 1 o’clock, I’d been riding for more than two and a-half hours and I felt my blood sugar dropping. I had no luck finding a place Downtown where I could pick up a quick energy boost so I pushed on to the near east side. I do my best to spend money at small businesses but today I had to settle for the Holiday Station on East 7th and Kittson Street. I bought some dried fruit and something to drink and came out of the store to see this:
I was one of several gawkers eyeballing the car with a mixture of confusion and wonder. Over the next several minutes, customers repeated the scene as I looked on and ate. Then two guys came out of the store and walked up to the car. I boldly assumed the one who went to the driver’s side was the owner,which he confirmed.
His told me his name is Rob Lombardi so I had to ask if he was a member of the famous football Lombardis. “I wish! Every time I get checked for my ID I get that.”
People notice his custom Pontiac Sunfire wherever he goes but bus riders react most conspicuously, Rob told me.
“They usually seem to crowd around, everybody stands up, just looking out. Same thing at bus stops. It’s just something interesting to look at. It takes you a minute to figure out what’s happening on it.”
Rob added, “It definitely grabs attention. I just wished it ran as good as it looks. She’s worn out but she looks good.”
I questioned Rob about the symbolism of the artwork, which he said is esoteric but contains elements of the solar system, clouds, a sunset and sand dunes. Rob’s artist friend Greg, aka ‘Garvin’, created the design and did most of the painting, while Rob assisted with prep work.
According to Rob, the paint job was laborious, “The prep work took more effort than the actual painting ‘cause we had to first start off…the car was white in the beginning and we just started the pencil outline. We had to go color by color except for the fade here. We did that in kinda a one shot. We did the fade back here first and then we pencil outlined over it in the rear. Started with that and then we had to mask it off and then cover it with plastic and go color by color so the lines would be crisp.”
Rob added the he’s in a band called “The Friendly Beers” and you can hear some of their tunes and learn about upcoming gigs at http://www.reverbnation.com/thefriendlybeers
From Kittson and East 7th it was only a couple of blocks to Payne Avenue and the Railroad Island neighborhood, so named because of the……..railroads.
Railroad Island is bounded by tracks to the west, and to the north along Phalen Boulevard, by East 7th Street on the south and Swede Hollow to the east.
I really enjoy investigating neighborhoods to which I’ve never been-there’s a surprise in almost every block. Railroad Island is one such place. The southern-most portion is an unusual mix of light industrial buildings and single family homes.
One unexpected gem of a house is the obviously old brick home at 485 Kenny Road at Brunson Street. Not until I got home did I learn that this charming house, constructed in 1855, is one of the oldest surviving homes in Saint Paul and is on the National Historic Register.
According to Larry Millett’s AIA Guide to the Twin Cities, Benjamin Brunson and his brother are attributed as having made the first land survey of Saint Paul in 1847.
Potholes have been prolific this spring, as you know. The public works department is working hard to catch up by sending crews out on a rare Saturday shifts. I met a crew repairing potholes on Desoto Street between North and Tedesco.
One of the workers told me the heavy snows exacerbated the pothole problem in two ways; first, by adding to the freeze-thaw cycle that causes potholes and second, by interrupting the patching process.
Still, there are signs that better days are ahead for the neighborhood.
This house is being renovated under the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Federal grands fun the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which is targeted toward vacant homes and residential properties in neighborhoods most affected by the recent mortgage foreclosure crisis.
With that, it was time to return to my headquarters, with a few stops Downtown first. Tenth and Wacouta is an intersection that most have little reason to visit, though there is a lot to see.
This is the secondary cooling plant for District Cooling St. Paul, part of District Energy St. Paul. (The primary plant is on Kellogg Boulevard) According to Nina Axelson, Director of Public Relations for District Energy St. Paul, the building holds electrical chillers to cool water for distribution to more than 100 Downtown buildings. These buildings receive chilled water primarily for air conditioning. Nina Axelson told me in an email that utilizing chilled water from District Cooling St. Paul eliminates the need for buildings to rely on on-site air conditioning.
This tank stores 4 million gallons of chilled water for air conditioning. The water in this tank is “charged” overnight during off-peak electricity hours, which keeps costs down and cuts the load on the electrical grid.
Built in 1914 as the O’Donnell Shoe Factory, by 1928 it was Minnesota’s biggest manufacturer of shoes. But just seven years later, the factory closed, succumbing to a variety of economic factors. For the next several decades the building was used for an array of commercial and retail ventures until 2006 when it was purchased for redevelopment.
My thoughts regarding the plethora of subjects Downtown to photograph, research and write about was affirmed by this ride. So was the strategy of investigating bits and pieces on the way to other neighborhoods.