July 8th, 2016
By Jason Parr
Minneapolis, undoubtedly, has an exciting, modern, and metropolitan feel. However, all the bright city lights are no substitute for the historic charm of Saint Paul. Summit Avenue boast the longest stretch of Victorian homes in the country. The miles stretching from the Mississippi River to the top of Cathedral Hill are lined with historic buildings that sit under a canopy of trees. This charming combination make Summit Avenue my favorite place to spend time outdoors. I may be biased since I live on campus at the University of St. Thomas, located right on Summit near the river, but judging by the amount of bikers, walkers, and runners along Summit, I think it is safe to say that I am not alone in my love for the area of Saint Paul. Closer to downtown are two very historic Minnesota landmarks: the James J Hill House and the Cathedral of Saint Paul. At the time of its completion in 1891, the James J Hill House was both the most expensive and largest home in Minnesota. A prime example of a mansion of the American Gilded Age, the 36,500 square foot mansion contained 13 bathrooms, 22 fireplaces, 16 chandeliers, a two story art gallery, and is filled with elaborate woodwork throughout. The house was given to the Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul in 1925 where it served as an office building, school, and residence until the Minnesota Historical Society acquired it in 1978. The home is currently open to the public for tours, event rentals, and field trips. Right across the street is the Cathedral of Saint Paul. Modeled after Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, it sits atop Cathedral Hill overlooking downtown. While it does serve as a place of worship, it is also a symbol of the community. It can be found on various city logos, and as the third largest church in the United States, it is hard to miss while passing through the downtown area. Even if you aren’t religious, the Cathedral is filled with beautiful artwork that is neat to check out.
Another one of Saint Paul’s historic gems can be found right down the street from the JSP office. If you’ve ever been to Rice Park, chances are that you’ve taken a moment or two to admire the Saint Paul Hotel. Dating back to 1910, the Saint Paul Hotel exudes elegance and old time charm. The Saint Paul Grill and M Street Cafe are both located within the hotel, as well as afternoon tea served in the lobby on special dates. Not far away from the Saint Paul Hotel is the Fitzgerald Theater. Getting its name from one of Saint Paul’s most famous natives, the theater is the oldest in the city that is still in use. The Fitzgerald is currently owned by Minnesota Public Radio and continues to put on shows and events.
These are just a few of the historic sites that I love in Saint Paul. The rich history is visible throughout the city and offers Minnesotans a chance to peak into the past. Check out the Minnesota Historical Society for great ways to experience the history of our community!
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