Historic St. Paul Minnesota Walking Tour
This walking tour begins with some of the city's historic churches and theaters and includes several museums, statues, and landmarks such as Union Depot and the Landmark Center.
Central Presbyterian Church got its beginnings in St. Paul in 1851 when Rev. John Riheldaffer came to town. The population of St. Paul at the time was about 1,500. As the population grew, so did the congregation. The church’s previous building was damaged by fire in the late 1880s. That cleared the way for the current building, built in 1889. The architect was Warren Hayes. The church building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
Opening in 1910, the Fitzgerald Theater is Saint Paul's oldest surviving theater. The theater was heralded as one of the finest in the midwest when it opened as the Sam S. Shubert Theater in 1910. This was one of four other theaters created by Lee and J.J. Schubert. The theater was designed in the shadow of the Maxine Elliot Theater in New York.
Built in 1890, the Fitzpatrick Building is one of the last remaining Queen Anne commercial structures in St. Paul. The building stands as a reminder of the boom era for the city that saw a dramatic expansion of the downtown commercial area from the 1880s into the early 1890s. The railway expanded significantly in Minnesota during that era, helping St. Paul grow in population, commercial activity, and architecturally. However, despite advances in the uses of steel in buildings, Fitzpatrick stood as one of the last buildings to rely on masonry and load-bearing walls.
The Minnesota Children’s Museum offers a unique experience for children that offers them fun activities that are also highly educational. The museum features interactive engaging opportunities for children, including field trips, small group programs, family nights, museum-to-go classes, traveling exhibits, and even exhibits available for purchase. The museum’s exhibits include Earth World: Discover Minnesota’s unique habitats up close, Habitot: Creep & Crawl into hours of fun & fascination, Our World: Explore Community & diversity in a world teeming with excitement, Rooftop ArtPark: Merge nature & art in an immersive outdoor gallery, and World Works: Uncover secrets of the world in an environment loaded with fun and intrigue. One of the guiding ideas of the museum is to let the children be able to to interact with all the exhibits, which allows them to gain first hand experience and learn more about the exhibits in the museum.
Situated in the heart of downtown St. Paul, the Church of the Assumption is one of the more architecturally striking buildings in the area. It was constructed in 1874 after three years of construction. Architect Joseph Reidel designed it in the Romanesque Revival style. The most prominent features are the twin towers that reach a height of 210 feet. Each contain two bells that, interestingly, were rung by ropes until 1975 when electronic controls were installed. The interior has remained largely unchanged. The church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
Across the street from the Church of the Assumption, is Mickey's Diner, one of St. Paul's most recognizable and enduring landmarks. Built in 1937, it's a very rare example of a prefabricated diner designed to look like a classic railroad car. As such is only 50 feet long and 10 feet wide. A vestibule was added later to make the diner a little more comfortable. It has appeared in movies, such as "Jingle All the Way," starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and and magazines such as National Geographic and Smithsonian. The diner was built in New Jersey and transported to St. Paul in 1939. It was placed on the National Register Historic Places in 1983 and was one of the first diners to receive this designation. It has been in continuous operation every day since its opening.
This ornate, terra-cotta building became the headquarters of Hamm's Brewery in 1919. The structure is located at the site of a former church, and the 550-foot well dug by the members of that congregation still provides water to a modern brewery that operates in the expansive building. William Hamm of Hamm's Brewery saw an opportunity to purchase this land after the construction of a department store stalled during World War I. Hamm completed the building's construction and turned the building into his brewery's headquarters when it opened in 1919. With the passage of prohibition and a booming 1920s economy, the building transitioned into a multipurpose business hub and entertainment destination in the next decade.
Originally a U.S. Post Office and Courthouse, the building is now a cultural and arts center. Events held here include musical performances, dance, theater, exhibitions, and public forums. The center is home to several galleries and museums, including the American Association of Woodturners Gallery, Landmark Gallery, Uncle Sam Worked Here (an interactive history museum), Ramsey County Historical Society Gallery and Research Center, and the Schubert Club Museum. The center offers various public, private, and educational/school tours of the building and city. Inside this beautiful building is a 5-story courtyard with a skylight and rooms with 20-foot ceilings.
The American Association of Woodturners (AAW) is the leading organization in the United States demonstrating finely crafted artworks of wood turning. The association was founded in 1986 and is located in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and has over 15,000 members around the world. AAW holds an annual national symposium, and generously sponsors organizes activities for outreach to new members as well as educational activities.
Artist Michael Price created the F. Scott Fitzgerald statue in 1996 to honor the famous American author on the centennial of his birthday. Constructed of bronze, “warm Brown patina,” and sitting on a red granite base, this bronze statue depicts Fitzgerald in his 30s and is nestled in the middle of St. Paul's Rice Park.
The St. Paul Public/James T. Hill Library has a long history in St. Paul. The Library’s beginnings were in 1856 as a reading room at the local YMCA. In 1882, the first formal library was organized and opened. Plans for what began as the Central Library, took shape in the early 1900s thanks to rapid growth. The current building, designed by architect Electus Litchfield, was constructed from 1914 to 1917. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
Dedicated in 2003, this statue honors Herb Brooks and captures the moment of his celebration after his team completed an unlikely victory over the Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid. Brooks was born in St. Paul and it was here where he was introduced to the world of ice hockey. Herb Brooks played hockey for many years before starting his coaching career, which culminated in three NCAA championships and an Olympic gold medal. Despite his many accomplishments on and off the ice, Brooks is best known for coaching the Americans to victory in a match known as the "Miracle on Ice."
Constructed in 1912, this early skyscraper served as the home to the Commercial Club of St. Paul, a company that was established in 1891. The building also held the offices of the St. Paul Association of Commerce. The Commercial Club was a membership organization that offered the chance to network and worked to bolster the city's reputation as a suitable home for industry and commercial activity similar to other membership organizations that operated in major cities during the Gilded Age. The building offered amenities for its members, from fine dining to billiards rooms, as well as tea rooms and parlors. The economic disruption of the Great Depression, followed by World War II, led to declines in membership, and fraternal organizations around the country were forced to sell their lavish downtown headquarters. The building eventually faced a tenant shortage. Although many s neighboring structures were demolished during the 1950s, this building survived. In 2008, it was converted to apartments as more working professionals returned to the city core.
The Minnesota Building emerged in 1929 as the city's first Art Deco/Moderne design as the city's downtown enjoyed a transition away from the prevalence of Classical architecture. The Minnesota Building's Architect, Charles Hausler, apprenticed for the renowned Chicago architect, Louis Sullivan. Hausler proved instrumental in the development of St. Paul as a private and city architect, as well as a state senator.
Housed in the historic Endicott Building, the Minnesota Museum of American Art is one of the state's leading arts institutions. It features a collection of 4,500 works of state, regional and national American artists including Thomas Hart Benton, Joan Mitchell, Romare Bearden; many Minnesota artists are also represented. The museum also offers numerous educational community engagement programs including classes, interdisciplinary programs, and partnerships. The Endicott Building was built in the late 1890s and, along with the adjoining Pioneer Building, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Constructed in 1892 and originally named the Merchants National Bank Building (it eventually was called the McColl Building), the Brooks Building is one St. Paul's most historically important structures. In terms of architecture, the building is the last remaining 18th century structure and the last example of Romanesque-style design on Jackson Street. The building also played an important role in St. Paul's economic development and political history. As for the former, many of the city's wholesale and retail businesses were tenants here (the bank was on the first floor). As such, the building was the center of the city's (and therefore the northwest's) economic development. In terms of political history, the upper floors featured offices rented to lawyers. Many of these individuals rose to great national prominence, such as Frank B. Kellogg, who became a U.S. Senator and was Secretary of State under President Calvin Coolidge. He also served as ambassador to the United Kingdom. The building, which continues to house offices, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A premier transportation hub both from the 19th century to today, Union Depot has connected St. Paul to the larger world for nearly a century. Similar to urban train stations in New York and other major cities, this building features a vaulted ceiling inspired by the work of Rafael Guastavino. After its restoration in 2011-2012, the Depot connects passengers to the city bus system as well as the light rail, taxis, and Amtrak. The Depot offers guided tours every other Tuesday that provide access to the entire building and include discussions of the building's history and its role in St. Paul history. The depot also has five rooftop beehives that produce and sell Bee Line Honey.