Crocus This and Crocus That

September 21, 2013

11.2 miles – Summit Hill (Crocus Hill) 

An uncommon design for a Little Free Library.

An uncommon design for a Little Free Library.

The Little Free Library project is a remarkable endeavor. Not only does it promote reading, but it cultivates creativity in the design and construction of the libraries themselves. The number of libraries I’ve encountered has increased dramatically over the three years I’ve been biking around Saint Paul. When I saw my first Little Free Library riding on a Cherokee Heights street in August 2011, it was a novelty. Now they’re so abundant that I glimpse at least one on nearly every ride. The uncommon, green architecture and materials of the Little Free Library at 1386 St. Clair Avenue led me to stop and take pictures to share.

The sign on the window says all the materials used are recycled.

The sign on the window says all the materials used are recycled.

Soda (pop) cans line the exterior and most unusually, plants and dirt create a green roof.

Soda (pop) cans line the exterior and most unusually, plants and dirt create a green roof.

Even the door hinges and handle are living another life.

Even the door hinges and handle are living another life.

Leaving the Little Library behind, I cruised north to the always dynamic and sometimes congested Grand Avenue. The days of auto dealerships, repair shops and gas stations dominating the eastern portion of Grand Avenue are long gone but the car still reigns here.

Day or night there is activity and lots of cars along Grand Avenue.

Day or night there is activity and lots of cars along Grand Avenue.

Victoria Crossing North building

Victoria Crossing North building.

Victoria Crossing is a four building shopping area at Grand and Victoria. Three of the buildings were built decades ago for purposes unrelated to their use today.

The Grand Avenue State Bank and behind it, Berry Chevrolet, circa 1930. Today this is Victoria Crossing North. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

The Grand Avenue State Bank and behind it, Berry Chevrolet, circa 1930. Today this is Victoria Crossing North. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

Since 1980, 851-857 Grand Avenue has been Victoria Crossing East (below.) The structure was built in 1915 after the Saint Paul City Council approved a permit for the Bingham and Norton Company for the ‘installation and establishment’ of a ‘curb gasoline filling station’, according to Larry Millett’s “AIA Guide to St. Paul’s Summit Avenue and Hill District.”

Victoria Crossing-east building

Victoria Crossing East.

Grand Avenue Studebaker. 1927 or '28. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

Grand Avenue Studebaker. 1927 or ’28. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

The long-gone Byers-Patro Studebaker dealership, now Victoria Crossing South at 850 Grand, bears vestiges of its earlier life. My favorite is the scuffed but still handsome sign above the Grand Avenue entrance.

Look around and you'll see symbols of the building's past as a car dealership.

Look around and you’ll see symbols of the building’s past as a car dealership.

While not in pristine condition, the Studebaker sign still looks good.

While not in pristine condition, the Studebaker sign still looks incredibly good.

A bank and construction company occupy 740-742 Grand Avenue...

A bank and construction company occupy 740-742 Grand Avenue…

...but 60 years ago an auto service station called The Tyre Shop was in the building. Street car tracks still ran down the middle of Grand Avenue when the picture was taken in 1953.)

…but 60 years ago an auto service station called The Tyre Shop was in the building. Street car tracks still ran down the middle of Grand Avenue when the picture was taken in 1953. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

Although this hardware store building and property at 650 Grand has undergone significant change since 1945 when it was Crocus Hill Garage, a couple of visual cues remain.

650 Grand Avenue today. This building, a hardware store, and surrounding property have undergone significant changes since 1945 when it was Crocus Hill Garage.

650 Grand was an Art Deco style service station in the mid 1940s.

650 Grand was an Art Deco style service station in the mid 1940s. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

Apartments and condos line sizable parts of the east end of Grand. Most of these tasteful buildings seem to have been meticulously renovated to resemble their original appearance.

 An uncommon entry design at the apartment building at 908 Grand.

An uncommon entry design at the apartment building at 908 Grand.

The entrance to the Dale Apartments, 628 Grand. In December 1933 and January 1934 the Baker-Karpis Gang planned the kidnapping of Edward Bremer here****.

The entrance to the Dale Apartments, 628 Grand. In December 1933 and January 1934 the Baker-Karpis Gang planned the kidnapping of Edward Bremer here, according to “John Dillinger Slept Here by Paul Maccabee.

This shell is all that remains of a public pay phone near the intersection of Dale and Grand.

This shell is all that remains of a public pay phone near the intersection of Dale and Grand.

The three buildings only marginally visible through the trees are collectively called the Ivy League Condominiums.  They’re located at 625 through 635 Grand.

The three buildings only marginally visible through the trees are collectively called the Ivy League Condominiums. They’re located at 625 through 635 Grand.

The Harvard.

The Harvard.

The Yale.

The Yale.

And the Princeton.

And the Princeton.

At Dale Street, I turned right and went south for two-plus blocks where it unexpectedly ended, or more precisely, became Fairmount Avenue. This small neighborhood is lesser known than Summit Hill or Ramsey Hill but with houses and lots nearly equal in size and elegance. The first home that stopped me at 633 Fairmount. Larry Millett’s AIA Guide to the Twin Cities indicates the home was built in 1890 for Frank B. Kellogg. Not only was Kellogg an US senator and secretary of state in the Calvin Coolidge administration, he was awarded the 1930 Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which outlawed war. More than 60 nations signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Kellogg’s name remains well-known today because Downtown’s Kellogg Boulevard was named after him, according to Donald Empson’s “The Street Where You Live.”

This picture doesn't convey the complexity of this home at 633 Fairmount or the size of the property.

This picture doesn’t convey the complexity of the Frank B. Kellogg home at 633 Fairmount or the size of the property.

This meticulously maintained stone home and yard at 54 Crocus Place is known as the Aberle House.

This meticulously maintained stone home and yard at 54 Crocus Place is known as the Aberle House.

I rode around Crocus Place several times, gazing at the impressive variety of homes and from there I ambled over to the curiously named Crocus Hill.

Yes, Crocus Hill is also a street name.

Yes, Crocus Hill is also a street name.

The address markers on some of the Crocus Hill (the street) properties are distinct from others I’ve seen anywhere in the city.

crocus hill address 1

crocus hill address 2

The gentle gurgling of a fountain at 6 Crocus Hill drew me to look more closely at the yard.

The gentle gurgling of a fountain at 6 Crocus Hill drew me to look more closely at the yard.

Snoopy and Woodstock enjoy the sunny, cool autumn afternoon in the back yard of 6 Crocus Hill.

Snoopy and Woodstock enjoy the sunny, cool autumn afternoon in the back yard of 6 Crocus Hill.

This is a look at the back of 586 Lincoln and the definition of ingenuity. The way I imagine it, the homeowner decided to convert this house to a rental and city code requires two exits from the third floor. Simple-build a 10 foot skyway (the white structure with the square window) to an enclosed stairway (right, with shingled roof) which leads to an exterior stairway. Well played,sir!

This is a look at the back of 586 Lincoln and the definition of ingenuity. The way I imagine it, the homeowner decided to convert this house to a rental and city code requires two exits from the third floor. Simple-build a 10 foot skyway (the white structure with the square window) to an enclosed stairway (right, with shingled roof) which leads to an exterior stairway. Well played, sir!

Kenwood Parkway is another of the Saint Paul streets with a brick surface

Kenwood Parkway is another of the Saint Paul streets with a brick surface.

Kenwood Parkway is one of Saint Paul’s unusual streets that defies a simple explanation. It is a two block long street with a roughly pentagonal section of road hanging off the approximate midpoint.

This is the pentagonal portion of Kenwood Parkway.

This is the pentagonal portion of Kenwood Parkway.

A distinctive address marker on Linwood Avenue this time..

A distinctive address marker, on Linwood Avenue this time.

At the south end of Grotto Street are 56 steps that take you down to St. Clair Avenue.

At the south end of Grotto Street are 56 steps that take you down to St. Clair Avenue.

The house under construction is on Osceola Avenue. Two others on Fairmount, not pictured, are also being built. Construction on the other 10 lots had not begun at the time of this ride.

Empty lots and houses under construction are atypical for an old city like Saint Paul. This development between Osceola and Fairmount Avenues and along Grotto has erased pretty much all the remnants of the Amherst Wilder Foundation facility that stood here. I mentioned this subdivision in an August 2013 blog when I rode along Osceola Avenue. Today’s trek down Fairmount gave me a closer look at a couple of the houses being built and a better understanding of the entire project. The land was subdivided into 13 lots, six facing Fairmount and seven on Osceola. Lot prices ranged from $315,000 to $415,000. Click on the link to see the plat map http://www.crocusnewhill.com/#/plat/4562474551

Much of the siding has been put on 730 Fairmount. Of the three homes under construction, this is the furthest along.

Much of the siding has been put on 730 Fairmount. Of the three homes under construction, this is the furthest along.

I got off my bike and ambled past the three homes in various states of construction and through some empty lots. I met Kendra and Mark just outside a construction site along Osceola. Kendra explained that they had purchased one of the lots on which they’ll eventually build and then move from Lake Elmo. “We’re getting to a point in our life where we’re thinking we don’t want to maintain all that acreage. So we started looking at options to move into town, and be in a neighborhood and be able to walk to restaurants and shopping. “

Kendra added they considered purchasing an old house and renovating it before settling on the rare opportunity to build new.

The exterior work has begun at 724 Fairmount.

The exterior work has begun at 724 Fairmount.

Kendra and Mark mentioned they had not told their Lake Elmo neighbors they’ve purchased property here and eventually will move, so they opted not to share their last name or let me take their picture.

I asked how they selected their lot and Mark told me, “It was the only one left.” He laughed and added, “So it was easy to pick; it was the only one available.”

Kendra said she and Mark have already found their neighbors-to-be friendly, “We’ve met both of the couples who are building right now and we met the people who live in the houses adjacent to the property and some other people that have walked over and welcomed us.”

Mark told me they stop over at least once a week to see the progress of the homes under construction and to mow their property. “We understand that this is an inconvenience to the neighbors, having houses built near where they live, so we want to do whatever we can to mitigate any pain that they’re feeling.”

Seems like Kendra and Mark will be great neighbors-whenever they move to Saint Paul. Meanwhile, I wonder whether they’ve let their current neighbors in on their moving plans?

Sufficiently enlightened about the subdivision, I rode back to Fairmount. Just two doors west of Grotto the majestic form of the Statue of Liberty greeted me at 746 Fairmount. And several blocks west of that, another, much more playful sculpture sat along the boulevard.

Another tree-turned-sculpture. The late Dennis Roghair, World Champion chainsaw sculptor, created the Statue of Liberty in 2006.

Another tree-turned-sculpture. The late Dennis Roghair, World Champion chainsaw sculptor, created the Statue of Liberty in 2006.

A second sculpture, a panda, sits in front of 1033 Fairmount.

A second sculpture, a panda, sits in front of 1033 Fairmount. The playground in the background is at Linwood School.

Upon reviewing the ride it is clear that the focus was on structures-commercial buildings, apartments and single family homes. It wasn’t the plan for the ride because I didn’t have a plan when I started. Here’s the link to the map of this ride:

http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/344753747

2 thoughts on “Crocus This and Crocus That

  1. Of all of your travels, this has been of most interest to me (us). Wolfie, your blogs are as ingenious as the library project and the folks who put the second entrance to their upper level.
    Thanks, Gene and Rita

    Like

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