Category Archives: Minnesota

Summit Avenue Walking Tour, St. Paul, MN, June 2019

Last weekend my friend Ruth and I went on a Summit Avenue walking tour in St. Paul and I wanted to share photos and what I remember. It’s a 90 minute tour of some of the biggest and oldest homes on Summit Avenue that starts at the James J. Hill house.  We walked maybe a mile total and heard histories of several homes.

We learned the James J. Hill house was the most expensive house on the Avenue at the time.  The enormous mansion cost $1,000,000 to build in 1891, about $2.7 million today. Throughout the tour our guide would tell us how much each of the houses cost to build and the James J. Hill house far surpassed every other house we viewed.  One can’t help but notice the dark stones on this house. It was due to coal being used to heat the homes at the time. Our guide spoke of an attempt to clean the stones using a sandblaster and how that damaged the stone, so they stopped doing that. It sounded like cleaning these stones was low on the priority list of upkeep for this house.

James J. Hill was the guy who created the Great Northern Railway between St. Paul, Minnesota and Seattle, Washington.  He made a fortune in the railroad business and was able to build the home of his dreams.  The tour of his ornate mansion is also worth a visit. I took the tour shortly after I arrived in Minnesota 27 years ago.  I think it might be time to take that tour again. These two photos were taken at the same time but I lightened up the second one:

One of the themes of this tour was money because all of the houses on the tour were owned by the wealthiest people in St. Paul.  Our guide told us how much it cost to build each of the houses on our tour. It’s so interesting especially in today’s market.  Towards the end of the tour we saw Hill’s carriage house(260 Maiden Lane) for the mansion across the street. It’s been converted into condos and one of them sold for $800k recently. We all wondered what Hill might think of this, that one third of his carriage house is worth nearly as much as he paid to build that huge mansion across the street.

Next door to the Hill house was the home he built for his son Louis, apparently the favorite son.  Along the way our guide mentioned the many styles of the houses and you could see that each owner selected styles that appealed to them.  I don’t remember all of the styles mentioned but Richardsonian Romanesque was one that was repeated a few times. The Hill house is in this style. Others mentioned were Queen Anne and Italianate.  The following gallery contains the first several homes that we looked at, including the oldest standing structure on Summit Avenue built in 1858 at 312 Summit.

There’s a bit of a story about these next homes. They are called the Leitner and the Leitner-Young homes. These two owners were lawyers together and our guide joked that they must have liked each other so much they lived in a double house together(322 Summit). Some years later, Mr. Leitner had another home built right next door. Had enough of Mr. Young and family? Hmmm.  There is also a tunnel between the houses.

The following gallery contains photos of the next homes that we viewed.  Our guide pointed out that on the left side of the large red stone house the carriage area had been converted to a garage.  She pointed out the white house across the street(365 Summit) as this one’s her favorite on Summit Avenue. She likes that it’s the only white house on Summit and that it’s the first house on Summit Avenue that was owned by a female, Martha Bass.

We rested a little bit at “Lookout” Park, or Summit Overlook Park, which offers a nice view of the Mississippi river valley below as well as The University Club, a very exclusive club. It was even more exclusive during the time all the mansions on Summit Avenue were being built. In order to become a member you had to be a white male with an Ivy League education. So James J. Hill, who had only an 8th grade education but was one of the wealthiest men in St. Paul, could not become a member. But his son Louis, who went to Yale because his father wanted him to have the best education, could become a member.  Irony of ironies that.

After our short rest in Overlook Park we crossed Summit and our guide took us down Maiden Avenue(parallel to Summit), so named because the female servants for the wealthy people along Summit Avenue lived in row houses here.  We passed the building named The Commodore  where F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda resided when their daughter Scottie was born. This was also where many gangsters lived during Fitzgerald’s time. Check out this interesting article about those gangsters that I found on MinnPost. I had never heard of The Commodore before but Ruth had been there for a wedding reception and said it was very nice. I think I may have to check out the restaurant soon!

The tour ends at the St. Paul Cathedral which was designed by Cass Gilbert, a prolific architect who also designed the Minnesota State Capitol as well as the William Leitner house at 318 Summit noted above. Both Ruth and I really enjoyed this tour and would highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys architecture and/or the history of  some of the wealthiest people of St. Paul.  While doing research for this post I came across several interesting articles that I’m going to link here for anyone that would like to do further reading. Within the first link there is a photo of the oldest house on Summit (at 312 Summit) covered in ivy, quite the contrast to how it looks today.

Summit Avenue History: The Story of Saint Paul’s Famous Street

Another Summit Avenue walking tour

 

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Minnesota State Fair 2018

We never miss the fair and this year we went three times.  We always go opening day and this year’s crowd was dizzying.  Sure enough, it broke the record for opening day attendance.  I met hubby and Miss M mid morning as I had to work a few hours that morning and I knew the moment I entered the fair that it would be a big crowd, it already felt that way.

I went right into the grandstand to peruse their wares until I heard when to meet hubby and Miss M.  Right off the bat I found a fair shirt.  The state fair gift shop in the grandstand moved making it more centrally located and it pulled me right in. I bought the shirt on our way out that afternoon.  I also found some great Christmas gift items so I was feeling fairly accomplished!

I met my family near the sky ride outside the Agriculture Building.  I always go into the Ag Building.  I love the flower rooms, the crop art, the scarecrows, U of MN apples, the biggest gourds.  So much to see in the Ag Building! There was a long line for the crop art and it was that way with each of our visits this year.  I did wait in the line on opening day when we went back later.  You don ‘t have to wait in line, but if you want a front row spot to take photos, it works better to wait in line.

We got our buttons at the Admin building, we do that every year too.  They’re free and it’s fun to see the new design every year.  This year it’s a circle of guitars and the wording is Minnesota’s largest music festival.  I never thought of it that way but I can see it now.  Lots of music entertainment options for sure!  From the various free stages all around the fair or the grandstand show, there is something for everyone musically speaking at the fair.

We always tour the art in the art building and there were lots of gems in there again this year.  I usually get a malt from the Kiwanis club next to the art building but Miss M wanted to get one at the dairy building to see her friend who was going to be working there at 3:00.  Well, we could barely breathe with the wall to wall people at the fair that day so we decided to just get the malt earlier than 3:00 at the dairy building.  That turned out to be so fun!! Miss M saw one of her buddies working and he erupted with happiness after she handed him the ticket for the malt and he realized it was her.  It was adorable.

We left shortly after the malt, it was well past time to go.  It was fun but our next visit was even better in terms of a much more subdued crowd.  I met hubby from work the following Thursday afternoon.  As soon as I arrived it also felt different.  It was much calmer with a lot less people.  And the weather was perfect too.  We had so much fun finding things to buy.  We like to visit the international bazaar to check out the music and do some shopping.  Hubby found a new Day of the Dead shirt, I got a new mug both from El Burrito Mercado, a Mexican imports shops.  Hubby found a new silver pinky ring and we got Miss M maple syrup made by Native Americans.  It was a fun shopping year this year!! I don’t usually find that much to buy but this year was different.

We decided to go back a third time this year just because and hubby wanted to see the newspaper museum again. We live 5 miles away and there are many free park and ride buses to the fair that make it easy for us to get there.  We thought there might be less people on Sunday vs. Saturday and we opted for the bus this time, to go in a different gate than when we use my U of MN parking spot.  We were right about there being fewer people but wrong about the weather.  Oh it worked out alright but it wasn’t ideal.  No matter, we still had fun. We hadn’t yet ridden the skyride, something else we usually do, because those lines were too long in previous visits.  But not on our final visit.  Because it was raining, there was virtually no line at the skyride.  Score!!! We did get a little wet but it was better than walking to the grandstand for one last shopping spree.  And I can add riding the skyride in the rain to my list of things I had not done before.

We didn’t find anything at the grandstand but I took the opportunity to finally try a roasted corn on the cob. I’ve been going to this fair since 1992 and I’ve never had a corn. This last trip to the fair the timing was perfect.  And it was excellent and so juicy!!  We got back on the skyride since we’d be leaving from the front gates and went back into the Ag building to see if the flower rooms were open yet. They were both closed temporarily for judging as soon as they opened the building so we had to come back. And we only got to see one room since the other was still closed for judging. I did get to see the room at a distance and the dahlias in the other room were just gorgeous!

I feel so fortunate to be able to go to the great Minnesota get together every year.  I think we’ll go three times next year too.  Why not?

Following are some galleries of fair memorabilia that I hope you will enjoy. First up is a combination of all our visits to the Agriculture Building:

Next is a gallery of our visit to the newspaper museum and the art building:

The remaining gallery are photos of other things at the fair:

 

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Autumn scenes from the frozen tundra

But we’re not frozen yet!!  It’s been a beautiful autumn with wonderful oranges, yellows and reds everywhere you look as well as unseasonably warm days, into the 70s the last part of October.  It’s been great!!  You can probably guess that I’ve been photographing these beautiful colors and I’d like to share some with you.  I hope you enjoy.

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Minnesota State Fair 2017

Woo hoo! It’s time for my annual post about the Minnesota State Fair!

We always go to the fair opening day and it seems every year it feels more crowded.  I checked out the fair’s website and found some interesting numbers.  I wasn’t imagining it. Each year on opening day for the last two years the attendance increased.  Between 2017 and 2016 it was almost 6,000 higher!  There were three record-breaking attendance days this year, the most record breaking days in three years.  Plus, this year’s total attendance is the highest ever, another record broken.  So, yes, there were lots more people at the fair this year.

No matter, we still enjoy it and this year was no different. I went twice.  Opening day was fun but by 1:00 it was getting too crowded so we called it quits early.  For my second visit, I met hubby there one late afternoon from work the following week. I park my car like I’m going to work and walk on over to the fair.   Very easy!

On opening day we headed over to Minnesota Public Radio after breakfast and were treated with a handshake from our governor!  He went one by one in the small crowd and shook each of our hands. He commented how brave Miss M was for wearing short sleeves as it was in the upper 50s at that moment.  So that was fun!  We also saw Al Franken posing for photos with a constituent.

The agriculture building is a must for me for each visit.  Some of the exhibits change every other day so it’s worth it to see other types of flowers when you can.   First some crop art:

In the next gallery is a little bit of everything else that I saw in the ag building:

And then some other scenes at the fair:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this year’s tour of the Minnesota State Fair.  I’ll be back soon with a few more travel adventures. I hope you’ll come along!

 

 

 

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Water lilies at Como Park

Every summer about the end of July, beginning of August there blooms these exotic water lilies in ponds near the conservatory at Como Park.  I don’t always remember to go look at them but something on my phone reminded me that the last time I photographed them was 8/1/15.  In fact, I created a post about that visit. Do check it out, I think you’ll like it.

I had been thinking about these gorgeous flowers but didn’t take the next step to go look at the dates on the photos to remember when they bloom.  Instead I was reminded via current technology.  Smart phones are great tools!!

And so I give you this year’s version of the dazzling beauties that are the water lilies at Como Park in St. Paul Minnesota.  I hope you enjoy!

One last one full size on its own. I’m so glad I got to see them this year!

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University of Minnesota Trial Garden 2017

My next posts are going to be mainly photos.  I’ve been taking many so far this summer.  Many are from my walks either about campus or in my neighborhood.

This post contains photos of the trial garden at the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus.  It’s a perfect place to take a break at work and I walk there periodically throughout spring, summer and fall.  Have a look-see of some early summer blooms and plants, even a bunch of grapes. I didn’t know the vine that grows there is a grape vine. I wonder how those grapes taste.

I hope you’ll come back next week to see more summer blooms.  Enjoy!!

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Minnesota Landscape Arboretum – a summer visit

Most folks here in the twin cities know about the Arboretum and I had heard about it but, for some reason, I didn’t make it out there until I had been living here 25 years. I finally got to see it in person last year.  Since I work for the University of Minnesota I get emails from all kinds of different departments and luckily for me, the Landscape Arboretum was in that stack. I took advantage of the employee discount and became a member last year.  It is well worth the price.

What caught my eye last year in one of the emails was a garden tour.  I asked my friend Ruth if she’d be interested, she said yes and we had a marvelous time.  Ruth and I were just commenting on what fun that was last year and we decided to go again next year.  It’s a tour of fabulous gardens near the Arboretum.  I wrote about it so do check out the link to see more gorgeous blooms and plants from the southwestern suburbs of the twin cities.

We have been trying to go back to see more of the Arboretum because we didn’t get a chance to last year.  After our garden tour we got treated to a nice brunch on their patio and it was a bit warm and we were tuckered out from our busy morning so decided to come back another time. Well, it took almost a year to get back but we were so glad that we did!!  Oh my goodness, it takes your breath away.  Beautiful plants and flowers everywhere and it goes on for miles.  There are many gardens surrounding the visitor center that are easy to get to on foot.  Click here to see the map.

There are many types of gardens to explore: roses,  lilies and day lilies, herbs, annuals and perennials. There is a Japenese garden that we didn’t get to. We checked out the wildflower garden. It must have been between bloom times as we didn’t see any wildflowers but we did see a handful of turkeys! After wandering around on foot, we got in the car and explored even more on the 3 mile drive. There is a trolley that you could ride as well. There are more gardens in these outer areas of the Arb and I’d like to go back to see the Sculpture and Maze gardens. It’s utterly amazing all the plants and trees that are there! You really can’t see everything in one visit, so return I must.   It is now on my “must do” list for twin cities visitors.  There’s a reason it won the best botanical garden contest recently.  Please have a look at what we saw on a summer afternoon in July.  I hope you’ll enjoy!

First some roses, clematis and some annuals and perennials too.

I took some photos of the grounds as well.  There were rows and rows of gorgeous lilies of all types and just general beauty everywhere.

Now for the rest of what I selected to display.  I took 86 photos so I had to trim it down a little.  If you’ve never been to the Arb and you live here, do make it a point to visit.  I guarantee you’ll enjoy it.  And if you’re visiting the twin cities, same instructions. You won’t be disappointed! Check out more information at this link.  There is so much to explore there and I can’t wait to go back again.

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