I occasionally visited Minneapolis years ago when I worked for Honeywell, which was headquartered there. Neither Jim nor I had been to St. Paul, so we were happy to see it featured in the pre-cruise trip.
As we started on our tour of St. Paul, we drove by the Minnesota state capitol for a photo-op.
Our local guide, Peter Sussman, told us a (shaggy-dog?) story of the early days of Minnesota statehood. The three longest-established cities got together to decide their claims for the future. Stillwater, the oldest, figured that crime was a constant, so they chose the state prison as a good bet for a long-term investment. St. Paul, the next in line, put its money on state government and elected to become capital. Minneapolis, the new kid on the block, opted for the university.
Later in the trip our Road Scholar presenter, Jason Scappaticci, gave a presentation on architect Cass Gilbert who designed this building among many others including the Woolworth tower in NYC and the US Supreme Court.
The native American inhabitants of the St. Paul area built burial mounds overlooking the river. Most have been destroyed over the years since Europeans arrived, but the ones that still exist are now protected. Our guide apologized that trees had grown up to hide what was once a great overview of the river, but seemed dismissive of the preservation efforts for the mounds.
No one knows what pre-Columbian tribes initiated the mounds, but the Dakota people lived in the area when Europeans arrived. They have been instrumental in the preservation activities.
After the Indian mounds, we made a walking tour of the Summit Avenue historic district. These townhouses had elaborate carving and details. There were many different styles of houses, all impressive. I took too many pictures to include here.
The highlight of the tour was the James J. Hill house.
Before getting the reading list prior to the trip, neither of us had heard of James J. Hill, the quintessential railroad baron. Unlike most of the so-called railroad barons, Hill was a true railroad man rather than speculator. The recommended biography, portrayed not only this fascinating man, but covered international finance, the Gilded Age, corporate skullduggery and much more.
Hill built this house overlooking the river for his large family. Our guide tried to convince the docents to let us in for a brief view of the foyer, but they wouldn't bite. A complete tour took more time than we had available, not to mention a significant per-person donation.
The Cathedral of Saint Paul stands across the street from the Hill House.
At the time the cathedral was built, there were many ethnic groups in the area with their distinctive Catholic faith traditions. Behind this altar we found a series of chapels dedicated to each of them: Irish, Slavic, Polish, etc. At the end of the chapels was one devoted to unity in the (Catholic) faith.
The great dome of the cathedral was illuminated by windows.
The star-shape in the middle was a pendant chandelier.
After visiting the cathedral, we drove to an overlook on the other side of the river. The Hill house is to the left of the cathedral, although the brownstone is good camouflage. To its left is a brick house that Hill built for one of his sons as a birthday present!
The rich and famous lived on aptly-named Summit Avenue, but the hoi-polloi lived in the floodplain below the bluffs. Nowadays with the river floods (mostly) under control, this area has been developed with businesses and apartment houses. It wouldn't be my first choice of a location, nevertheless.
Pivoting farther south, the capitol stands over the river as well.
The two days in MSP were cloudy, drizzly, and colder than predicted, but they were followed by glorious autumn days as we traveled down the Upper Mississippi.
The St. Paul skyline is even farther south than the previous image.
Our hotel for the two nights we spent here was downtown and in easy walking distance of many eateries. We didn't have much time to explore the city.
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