Sights On Osceola (and Vicinity)

June 27, 2013

11.76 miles

Lex-Ham and Summit Hill 

I pedaled east along Osceola Avenue in Summit Hill amongst graceful, well-kept homes when, unexpectedly, appeared a club with tennis courts, a pool and clubhouse.

The Saint Paul Tennis Club (left) at 1055 Osceola Avenue is not your typical next door neighbor.

The Saint Paul Tennis Club (left) at 1055 Osceola Avenue is not your typical next door neighbor. There are two private residences in the gray building to the right.

The tennis courts were buzzing with players.

The tennis courts were buzzing with players.

Surprisingly, the homes on either side were built about nine years after the Saint Paul Tennis Club. According to the club’s website http://saintpaultennisclub.com/club-history, upon opening, only men had a shower and toilet. Minimal facilities for women apparently were added sometime in the 1920s.

The tennis club also has a swimming pool which is somewhat obscured by thick bushes.

The tennis club also has a swimming pool which is somewhat obscured by thick bushes.

The very early 1960s brought the addition of the swimming pool and new clubhouse. The private Saint Paul Tennis Club presently has a six to eight year waiting list to join.

Linwood school 1935

Linwood Park School in 1935. Courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society.

Meanwhile, by 1923 population density in the neighborhood had grown enough to warrant construction of Linwood Park Elementary School at 1023 Osceola, mere yards west of the tennis club.

Linwood Park Elementary still dons most of its original trappings.

Linwood Park Elementary still dons most of its original trappings.

This entrance to the school features ornamental flourishes  around the do and yours truly reflected in the window.

This entrance to the school features ornamental flourishes around the door and yours truly reflected in the window.

Decorations above Linwood’s main entrance. The owl likely symbolizes wisdom.

Decorations above Linwood’s main entrance. The owl (top center) likely symbolizes wisdom. (Click to enlarge.)

This guy in front of Linwood Park Elementary is a cross between a snowman and the Staypuft Marshmallow Man.

This guy in front of Linwood Park Elementary is a cross between a snowman and the Staypuft Marshmallow Man.

I have no reason to doubt that a colony or two of bees live in the yard behind this gate but I’m thinking this sign more effectively deters thieves than any alarm or 'Beware of Dog' sign. 1003 Osceola

I have no reason to doubt that a colony or two of bees live in the yard behind this gate but I’m thinking this sign more effectively deters thieves than any alarm or ‘Beware of Dog’ sign. 1003 Osceola

The Frank and Rosa Seifert House at 975 Osceola is a Prairie School style home built in 1915.

The Frank and Rosa Seifert House at 975 Osceola is a Prairie School style home built in 1915.

Granite cobblestones cover the 900 block of Osceola.

Granite cobblestones cover the 900 block of Osceola.

Immediately east of Milton Street, Osceola Avenue’s paved surface abruptly turns to cobblestones. The term “cobblestone” is often used mistakenly in reference to brick-paved streets. Not until you see, drive (or bike) on a cobblestone street will you appreciate the significant difference. I think I shook some fillings loose riding on the cobblestones.

Jennifer and her friend Chris enjoyed a Home Happy Hour.

Jennifer Feigal, left, and her friend Chris enjoy Home Happy Hour.

I met Jennifer Feigal and her friend Chris on the porch of 904 Osceola, where Jennifer moved 40 years ago. The cobblestone street was the first thing Jennifer wanted to talk about. “What I really love about this street is the cobblestone and I love the story behind that.”

Each cobblestone is about one foot by three inches.

Each cobblestone is about one foot by three inches.

That story, said Jennifer, revolved around Diane Ahrens, at that time a stay-at-home mom who took bold action to save Osceola Avenue’s cobblestones. According to Jennifer, “Asphalt machines were coming and she went and stood in front of them and said ‘Stop! We don’t want you. We like this street. We don’t want the asphalt. Go away!’ And the machines stopped.

“She got a couple of other stay-at-home moms on the block to stand there. The worker said, ‘We have to pave this. You have to get an order from City Hall.’ She went down and talked to the powers at City Hall and somehow they reached an agreement that if the people on the block were willing to pay for the cobblestone repair they would not pave the street.”

Some of the filler between cobbles has sprouted flora giving the street a European feel.

Some of the filler between cobbles has sprouted flora giving the street a European feel.

Diane Ahrens parlayed the daring and successful cobblestone-saving endeavor into nearly 30 years of civic involvement, including 20 years as a Ramsey County Board commissioner.

In a tribute to Diane Ahrens presented to the U.S. House of Representatives shortly after Ahrens’ death in late 2001, Congresswoman Betty McCollum called Ahrens “the conscience of the County Board for her commitment to assisting those in need.”

Diane Ahrens’ other efforts included helping Hmong immigrants settle in Ramsey County, becoming an early advocate for people with HIV/AIDS and the mentally ill and abused.

Jennifer Feigal's home at 904 Osceola.

Jennifer Feigal’s home at 904 Osceola Avenue.

Jennifer Feigal told me another road construction anecdote, this one about the removal of the brick roadway of the adjacent Milton Avenue before its repaving. The contractor dug up the bricks and stacked them in piles along the street. “In the night, all the neighbors would all go down and we’d load up our cars. And so all around on the block there are little brick projects from people recycling the bricks from Milton Avenue.”

Nice digs for a lemonade stand. It reminds me of Lucy Van Pelt’s psychiatry booth. 744 Osceola.

Nice digs for a lemonade stand. It reminds me of Lucy Van Pelt’s psychiatry booth. 744 Osceola.

Here’s a rarity in Saint Paul, especially in Summit Hill, empty lots and new construction.

Here’s a rarity in Saint Paul, especially in Summit Hill, empty lots and new construction.

This land was the site of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation’s Bush Memorial Children’s Center, a residential and school facility for troubled children aged 5 to 14. The facility was located here from 1970 until it closed in June 2010. Financial troubles led the Wilder Foundation to shutter the Center and sell the property.

The address was different but from the 1910s until 1966 this property was the site of Convent of the Visitation School, which is now in Mendota Heights.

Different address but same location.  Before it was the Bush Memorial Children’s Center at 180 Grotto Street, this property was the site of Convent of the Visitation School, (above) at 720 Fairmount Avenue. “Vis” moved to Mendota Heights in 1966. 

The beginnings of the first new house on Grotto, just north of Osceola, very close to the location of the Children’s Center building. Twelve other home sites are planned for the 2.6 acre property.

The beginnings of the first new house on Grotto, just north of Osceola, very close to the former location of the Children’s Center building. Twelve other home sites are planned for the 2.6 acre property.

A Japanese influenced garage at 976 Fairmount.

A very cool Japanese influenced garage at 976 Fairmount.

The Suessian playhouse in the back yard of 125 Fairmount.

The Suessian playhouse in the back yard of 125 South Oxford Street.

This is one of the coolest playhouses I’ve ever seen. The design makes me think of buildings in Dr. Seuss stories.

One of many unique touches.

The welcome sign is one of many unique touches that adorn the playhouse.

stop sign 1

This uniquely styled pole and stop sign are on the northwest corner of Macalester Street and James Avenue in Mac-Groveland.

At this point the sun was drifting toward the horizon and I expected to ride directly home. Then I spied the pole holding up this stop sign. I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve seen thousands of stop signs, but never have I seen one looking like an eight foot tall plant topped by a stop sign flower. A tip of my bike helmet to whomever is responsible for turning the mundane sign pole into something fanciful and functional.

stop sign 2

A better look at the leaves on the stop sign pole.

Enjoying an activity in an unusual place can really increase the amusement factor. Back in Highland Park, three guys did just that by playing ping-pong in the yard in front of 1697 Scheffer.

front yard ping pong 1

Front yard table tennis a.k.a. Ping-Pong.

Tonight’s ride was one of small details, but noteworthy details; the type that bring a smile, rekindle a memory, and make a place feel “right.”

Click on the link below for the map of tonight’s ride.

http://www.mapmyride.com/workout/346530821

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