Houses, Warehouses and Brew Houses

June 11, 2013

10.75 miles. St. Anthony Park.

pill hill 2There is a couple block slice of Merriam Park just north of Marshall Avenue, between Cleveland and Cretin Avenues sometimes called “Pill Hill.” At one time, this area of stately, classically designed residences was home to many doctors and hence the name “Pill Hill.”

pill hill 1pill hill 3The fact that there’s a decent sized hill here likely added to the mystique of the name.

That last step is a doozy.

Careful, that last step is a doozy.

This house is more than 100 years old but has a couple of modern features on the exterior-solar panels and a metal roof.

This house is more than 100 years old but has a couple of modern features on the exterior-solar panels and a metal roof.

I’ve ridden on and written about Cleveland Avenue previously but tonight I saw a couple of things I’d never seen before. The first is the MonarchWatch.org official Monarch Waystation in the yard of the home at Cleveland and Roblyn.

cleveland 1

As you can see, the yard is filled with flowers and milkweed plants, favorites of monarch butterflies.

According to MonarchWatch.org, Waystations provide food and habitat for monarchs to reproduce and sustain their migration.

Several blocks north, at 550 Cleveland, almost like a window display, were jars of soil and rock samples.

cleveland 2 Peering into another window, in a scene reminiscent of the cluttered and dusty storage room of my high school earth science class, were dozens of core samples in jars and boxes.

cleveland 3The building is part of American Engineering Testing, Inc. which is advertised as a “geotechnical, environmental, construction materials and forensic services firm.”

Cleveland Avenue becomes Transfer Road north of University Avenue. Tonight I investigated the industrial neighborhood just west of Transfer and north of University. I found several blocks of warehouses.

Trailers ready for loading nearly hide two Ellis Avenue warehouses.

Trailers ready for loading nearly hide two Ellis Avenue warehouses.

Yes, another warehouse.

Yes, more warehouses.

Just in case the cement barrier on the railroad tracks isn’t enough to convince someone the tracks aren’t used, the sign will.

Just in case the cement barrier on the railroad tracks isn’t enough to convince someone the tracks aren’t used, the sign will.

The warehouses suddenly gave way to this concrete and asphalt recycling facility on Capp Road.

A dizzying array of signs awaits all who venture to this recycling plant.

A dizzying array of signs awaits all who venture to this recycling plant.

It’s a grain bin. it’s a building. It’s a grain bin building.

A grain bin building.

A grain bin building.

Not until I peaked inside did I have an inkling the grain bin building at 2320 Capp Road is a micro brewery.

bang brewing 2Two clues are the brew kettles and the beer barrels on the left.

 The bags of malt await the start of the next batch of beer.)

The bags of malt await the start of the next batch of beer.

Although the building contains no signage related to the building occupant, a quick Google search revealed this is the Bang Brewery.

The address marker is made from old Minnesota license plates

The address marker, left, of the Bang Brewery is made from old Minnesota license plates.

According to several stories I read in local on-line publications, the owners of the Bang Brewery used recycled materials for many things at the brewery.

A main railroad line and yard are situated to the north of Capp Road across the street from the Bang Brewery. Nearly obscured by a thicket is an old railroad crane.

If you look closely, you can

If you look closely, you can see part of the crane boom on the right side of the picture.

The foliage around, on and amazingly, even in the crane suggests it has been here for years.

train crane 2The self-propelled Burro could tow a flat car or other equipment necessary for many projects. This allowed workers to bring rail, ballast, timbers or other materials needed for track repair or a construction project.

The Burro maintenance crane sits on a spur track along Capp Avenue.

The Burro maintenance crane sits on a spur track along Capp Avenue.

2325 endicott2325 Endicott Street looks like a former railroad building. Today, it houses several businesses including a coffee roaster, pottery manufacturer and a couple of residential builders and soon, a brewery. The Twin Cities Daily Planet website reported in its May 21, 2013 edition that the owners of Urban Growler Brewing Company have signed a lease for 6,200 square feet of space here. Just like the Bang Brewery, there was no signage indicating the refreshing repast that will soon be within.

Nowhere on this property will you find a sign identifying this Catholic Charities residential facility.

There are no signs identifying this Catholic Charities residential facility.

This building is unusual for this neighborhood. For one thing, it’s newer than almost anything else around. Secondly, the four-story structure at 902 Hersey Street is a multi-person residence.

cc home 2Turns out the facility is home to two Catholic Charities programs. St. Anthony Residence, in the left tower, is sometimes called a “wet house.” It provides permanent housing for 60 late-stage chronic alcoholic men who have repeatedly tried and failed in traditional chemical dependency treatment programs and detox centers. What makes St. Anthony Residence unusual and controversial is that residents are allowed to purchase alcohol and drink it on the premises.

Men trying to overcome long-term homelessness live in the right tower, called St. Paul Residence. Each of the 60 residents has his own room and shares a kitchen, bathroom and computer room.

I’m glad there is a sign conspicuously displayed or I might have thought that Bro-Tex made men’s personal products.

I’m glad there is a sign clearly explaining what Bro-Tex does or I might have thought the company made men’s personal products.

Workers begin the recycling process by picking up carpet and moving it to a machine that determines its composition.

Workers begin the recycling process by picking up carpet and moving it to a machine that determines its composition.

The materials from this carpet could become new carpet again, plastic resin for making plastic parts, plastic drainage pipe, new carpet pad, acoustic matting or as an energy substitute for natural gas and coal. (Apologies for the quality of the pictures. It's the result of low light in the factory.)

The materials from this carpet could become new carpet or carpet pad, plastic resin for making plastic parts, plastic drainage pipe, acoustic matting or as an energy substitute for natural gas and coal. (Apologies for the quality of the pictures. It’s the result of low light in the factory.)

The RockTenn plant looking south from Myrtle Avenue and Vandalia Street.

The RockTenn plant looking south from Myrtle Avenue and Vandalia Street.

The RockTenn plant looking north from Vandalia and the on-ramp to west Il-94.

And looking north from Vandalia and the on-ramp to west I-94.

You’ll recognize one of these views above if you drive on Vandalia Avenue between I-94 and University Avenue. What you likely don’t know is the portion of the RockTenn plant you can see along Vandalia gives no clue to the real size of the sprawling, multi-building plant. More on that later.

The RockTenn banners have hung here since 1997 when the Norcross, GA company purchased what was then called Waldorf Corporation. Waldorf’s roots in Saint Paul go back into the late 1880s, with its presence in the Midway coming in 1907, according to the Minnesota Historical Society. The Waldorf name first emerged in 1915 when three companies merged and became the Waldorf Paper Products Company.

Waldorf Paper Products Company, circa 1925. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

Waldorf Paper Products Company, circa 1925. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

    Waldorf Paper Products Company, circa 1928. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

Waldorf Paper Products Company, circa 1928. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

Another merger, this time with an Iowa box manufacturer in 1966, resulted in the renaming of the business as Hoerner Waldorf Corporation. A bitter proxy fight led to the sale of the company in 1977. Eight years later, plant management bought the business and dropped Hoerner from the name. Historical Society documents indicate that in 1994, the Saint Paul facility produced more than 400,000 tons of recycled paperboard a year. Waldorf supplied printed boxes to companies that included General Mills, Proctor & Gamble and Hormel. At the time, Waldorf was Minnesota’s fifth largest privately-held company with annual revenue of about $375 million. Despite Waldorf’s apparent success, shareholders sold out to RockTenn Company three years later. Since then, it’s been tough going for the facility. Employment here has steadily slipped to fewer than 200 people.

“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign… “ from the song “Signs” by the Five Man Electrical Band, 1971

“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign…” from the song “Signs” by the Five Man Electrical Band, 1971

Despite the clear warnings, I elected to ride on into plant property. My reasoning, had I been stopped by RockTenn security, was that I was riding around, not through and was not a pedestrian. Fortunately I had no cause to break out the admittedly flawed explanation.

The design of this portion of the plant leads me to surmise this was (and may still be) the main office.

The more stylized design and windows in this portion of the plant lead me to surmise this was (and may still be) the main office.

This building stretches as far as the eye and camera see.

This building stretches as far as the eye and camera see. The street is now plant property but long ago it was Wabash Avenue.

Between two plant buildings

Between two plant buildings. One of two RockTenn research and development centers is housed in the Saint Paul facility.

Scrap paper and cardboard is readied for recycling.

Scrap paper and cardboard is readied for recycling. This division of RockTenn is called St. Paul Recycle. 

A peek inside.

A peek inside.

The roofline of one of the older buildings and the smokestack that towers above the plant.

The roof line of one of the older buildings and the smokestack that towers above the plant. To my untrained eye, architectural details of this building resemble those of in the 1925 plant photo, above.

Will this be the next manufacturing facility in Saint Paul closed by an out-of-state owner? It’s an old facility, not running anywhere near capacity, making it expensive to operate. Those factors make it difficult to be optimistic about the future of RockTenn here. For now at least there aren’t whispers of layoffs or a plant closure.

Follow this link for a map of this evening’s ride.

http://www.mapmyride.com/workout/314740789

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