Welcome to our Holiday Home

One of the joys of a grand house like the B&B is decorating it for the holidays. It shows off even less-than-elegant ornaments to great effect. Our family has lived in this house since 1978, and we have decades of holidays to look back on and traditions to cherish.


We’ve always put up a plethora of lights around the house; there’s nothing like fairy lights to cheer up winter evenings. In the past we’ve used a mix of of colored and white lights,  but have veered towards mostly white more recently. Another trend has been the introduction of poinsettias and, more recently, greenery.


We’ve also made a habit of stringing lights in the houseplants. The blend of lights and foliage is not only beautiful, but a look that gracefully complements our Victorian home.


Our one nod to more playful lights has traditionally been around the Inglenook mantel. We used to hang Santa lights, but have recently switched to poinsettias, which gleam beautifully on the rich woodwork.


The last concentration of indoor lights is, of course, on the tree.


Decades ago we cut down two 8 or 9 foot trees, one for the front hall and one for the parlor. However, with everyone grown up and moved away, we now purchase a more modest table-top tree that decorates the parlor beautifully, showcases a fine selection of ornaments, and allows plenty of room for our guests.


Also in the parlor is our village, something Katy started collecting after most of the children had moved out of the house. Collecting ceramic houses with seven active children is just asking for trouble, after all.


We added various buildings for about a decade, along with accessories, and the lit up display adds considerable charm.


A much longer-standing ceramic display is the creche, cherished more for its sentimental value and family history, than for religious symbolism.


This set was meticulously hand-painted by a great-aunt, and the children vied to set it up on the built-in buffet every year.


Cradled by beautiful woodwork, illuminated by white lights, and reflected in mirrors, this sumptuous creche glows. It has also survived a rambunctious family fairly well, with some gluing necessary, but amazingly few lost parts.


Last, but certainly not least, are the smaller decorations we’ve traditionally displayed throughout the house. From an example of the years when Katy and Bill decided they wanted ornaments from their children for Christmas,


to the dolls hand-sewn by Katy, designed to mirror the family structure. (Eventually a set was given to each child to decorate their own homes.)


From the light-up tree from Dayton’s that has adorned up the living room since the 1980s,


to the Swedish-style Santa that I don’t know much about, except that it’s been around as long as I have and came from Katy’s side of the family.

One of the great benefits of running a B&B is getting to share our family home with others, and we’re happy to welcome you into some of the Gray holiday traditions.




Published in: on December 15, 2016 at 6:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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Restful Rooms

We’ve renovated and updated our guest rooms and bathrooms. The result?


Restful and graceful rooms…


where the light plays softly on walls of charming and calming yellows,


and green-grays,


giving our rooms a fresh feeling and making our beautiful furniture and lovely art pop.






Comfortable to the eye, body, and mind.


And still indubitably Victorian.

Come stay, rest, and enjoy!

Published in: on October 27, 2016 at 12:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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Simply Elegant

We’ve been doing some renovations at the B&B, shedding some of our Victorian busyness and going for a more calming, streamlined look.


Less wallpaper…

img_8594…more paint.


Fewer patterns…


…more color.


The result?


A soothing symphony of peaches, gray-greens, and creams…


…which delightfully offsets the beautiful woodwork, and allows it to shine.


One very subtle tone-on-tone brocade remains, adding a hint of Victorian elegance to stairwell…


…and inglenook.

Our Victorian mansion is still a jewel box of a house, just with a quieter sensibility that highlights its inherent grace and style. We invite you to visit us and experience our new look for yourself. Welcome!


Published in: on October 10, 2016 at 6:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Grande Dame Decked Out in All Her Holiday Finery

Although the holiday season has passed, we thought we’d give you an idea of how the B&B was dressed for the festivities this year. Beautifully, in case you wondered. 🙂 (We limit the decorations to the public areas and outside. None of the guest rooms are adorned.)

We put up a lot of lights, as they reflect wonderfully off the woodwork, and impart a lovely glow after dark, which is much appreciated as the sun sets early this time of year.



We string poinsettia lights around the inglenook mantel and …


lights in the poinsettias illuminating the path up the stairs.


Lights and boughs around the living room mantel,


and a luminous ceramic village in the parlor.


More lights in the dining room palm …


revealing a roosting bird hidden among the fronds.


A firmament …


with angel in the dining room.



And then, of course, the traditional mother load of ornaments – the tree!


Decked out in treasures collected by our family over decades,


many of which have stories and memories associated with them.


The tree lends a beautiful radiance to the parlor inside …


and glimmers through the window outside,


complementing the little outdoor trees …


and the rest of the house’s open air finery. (Just look at that porch!)



Around back, just outside the kitchen, is a winter wonderland of greenery, lights, and snow, keeping the planters just as decorative in the winter as in the summer, when they’re full of flowers.


I think snow is the prettiest shade you can have for fairy lights.

Published in: on January 30, 2016 at 7:53 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Highly Walkable Oasis of a Neighborhood

“We’re in the Ramsey Hill Historic District, a quiet and highly walkable oasis of beautiful old homes [and] gardens.”

We brag about our neighborhood, the Ramsey Hill Historic District, quite a bit here at the Cathedral Hill B&B. The above is a quote from our website, and today we’d like to show you some pictures that we think prove our claim.


This is the corner of Holly and Mackubin, facing the block the B&B is on.


A little further on you can see the B&B on the right, with the grand white porch.


And this is across the street. Lots of beautiful trees with fall color, even on a gray day. And beautiful houses.


This is the end of our block at Holly and Arundel. Posh condos on the right, and a really lovely example of a painted lady on the left. This house has windows that actually curve with the rounded bay window, and has diamond-paned windows that sparkle like anything in the sun.


The next few photos are at the intersection of Portland, Western, and Summit Avenues, three blocks from the B&B. This corner features beautifully restored houses,


and Nathan Hale Park, which has a skating rink and a spectacular light display in winter, thanks to the neighborhood association.


Summit Avenue, marking the edge of the part of the city that’s oriented to the river instead of the cardinal directions, follows the bluff for a stunning view of the river and downtown.


It was, and is again, the domain of the rich and famous of St. Paul, featuring the really grand houses, making up the longest continuous stretch of original Victorian housing in the US. And it’s only three blocks from the B&B. The dome you see peeking up there belongs to the Cathedral of St. Paul.


It also has wide sidewalks and great trees,


which offer plenty of shade in the summer and color in the fall.


Not to mention fabulous leaf crunching opportunities.


At Summit and Mackubin is a brick beauty, that was painted white when we moved into the neighborhood in 1978. Who knows what the owners were thinking?


A block the other direction from the B&B is Ashland Ave.


I think this color pops more because of the gray, not in spite of it.




A couple of blocks further north is Selby Avenue, once the place to eat, shop, and be seen, with its restaurants, shops,


and stately Victorian commercial architecture. This building at Western Street, Blair Arcade, was once a residential hotel, The Angus, and somehow survived the urban renewal craze. It’s now condos, with a coffee shop, bookshop, restaurant, and salon among its commercial tenants.


And finally, a further three blocks east, is Nina Street, one of the last brick-paved streets in the city.

I hope you enjoyed your walking tour. Come visit us and experience the neighborhood!

Published in: on October 31, 2015 at 10:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Lushly Colorful Back Yard

The lush backyard is another restful place to sit and enjoy your stay at Cathedral Hill Bed & Breakfast.


It’s colorful with flowers and greenery, and the fire pit is welcome when the weather starts getting crisp.


The covered seating area on the deck offers shelter in inclement weather for a smallish group.


From the deck you have a view of the carriage house with a reminder of its former inhabitants.


You are also shaded by the pussy willow tree, that displays its fuzzy flowers in the spring.


The other seating area has an almost French café feel, with the intimate groupings of tables, the umbrellas, and the profusion of vines.


Adding to the European flair is the lion-headed fountain, peeking out from the greenery, ready to fill your outside sojourn with the restful sound of burbling water.

As our guest, we urge you to use our outdoor spaces as you would our indoor rooms, to relax, recreate, and meet up with friends.

Welcome to Cathedral Hill B&B.

Published in: on August 25, 2015 at 8:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Porch of our Dreams

Cathedral Hill Bed & Breakfast is as beautiful outside as it is inside, with many charming and comfortable places to relax and congregate.


Put our grand new porch to good use as a scenic spot for a little R&R.


Behold, our new porch furniture, that not only gracefully complements the style of house, but is also really comfortable.


While away the afternoon chatting or reading with a glass of something cold.


The B&B’s wifi is easily accessible.


And the views can’t be beat. Whether it’s the historic details of the porch itself,


encouraging you to imagine you’re back in 1897 on the original newly constructed porch surrounded by potted palms,


or taking in the area’s Victorian architecture,


and lush greenery. Sit and watch the neighborhood go by, seeing and being seen.

Our front porch is one of the new amenities we’re proud to offer our guests.

All it Needs is a Lick of Paint

Well, that’s not quite true, but the paint sure helps.


From the white siding and green trim it’s had for at least 35 years (and who knows how much longer) to gray siding. And it’s quite the process on a house this size. I wouldn’t want to be up on that ladder.


Yeah, the green’s really not working with the gray. How about white, instead?


Much better. Clean, crisp, and classy. What an interesting arrangement of window shapes, too.


The white also shows off the details in the trim.


And the warm lights of home glow welcomingly against the gray.


The carriage house is being painted to match.


Still useful for storage even if this is the only horse calling it home now-a-days.


A preview of the finished paint design. The addition of the black really makes everything pop.

Published in: on September 25, 2014 at 5:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Roof in the Making

The difference between a patio and a porch is the roof. This is definitely a porch.


On the stair overhang you can see the bones of the eaves, currently resembling a stylish pergola. This also offers a different view of how the porch will interact with the other architectural elements of the house. I love how the temporary views offered during construction give you a chance to see things in a way you haven’t before, and probably won’t again. Plus the play of line and shadow in this picture is just cool.


The porch roof supports are designed to miss the corner pilasters, even though the eaves will cross them. This minimizes the damage to these important vertical design elements, something for which the smaller-porch-that-was builders must have been thankful for. Remember, the house wasn’t re-sided until later, so the pilasters were still exposed after the smaller porch went up. In fact, they were more prominent at that point than ever before.


The groove caused by the porch eaves in the left-hand pilaster isn’t too bad. And it’s important as a guide for the new construction. There’s a lot the designers learned about the original porch from the traces it left behind.


The permanent floor of the new porch will be much more attractive than the temporary.


I’m not sure the same can be said for the ceiling. But I’m sure it’ll be better protection from the weather.


You can see how the new roof joists are nestled right up to the 2nd floor bay window, working their way around it.


And here you can see the complicated interaction of the various roof elements, accentuated by the play of light and shadow, and in stark contrast to the organic chaos of the trees beyond. I’d like to say something about the juxtaposition of the milled wood and living trees, of nature bent to humanity’s needs, but I’m not sure what. So I won’t.

Published in: on September 25, 2014 at 3:19 pm  Comments (1)  
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Built on a Foundation of Stone, Old and New

A grand porch must have grand supports.


Solid cement pilings, partially buried, and the visible portions clad in the very same stone pieces that made up the original porch’s buried pilings, excavated to make way for the new. The same local limestone makes up the house’s foundation; one bit of natural material that didn’t escape the mid-20th-century paintbrush, sadly.


The same ancient stone is used in hundreds, if not thousands, of structures in this part of the city, including the walls of what’s reputed to be the oldest extant house in St. Paul, located on W 7th St. It’s now in the courtyard of a restaurant.


The other completed limestone-clad piling with the roughed in pillar support on top.


One of the pillar supports by the stairs. You can see here how the bit of floor leading to the stairs extends beyond the general front line of the porch, adding square footage and more opportunity for pillars. The more pillars the better, obviously!


Although most of it is gone, there are a few bits of the porch-just-removed that are staying, mainly because they don’t interfere with the new construction, and are not worth the trouble of getting rid of. One such are the porch supports, that bit of cement block you can see through the floor joists here.


Another, surprisingly, are the old porch stairs. Cast out of solid cement and made to last, you’d need a jackhammer to remove them.


Why bother when they fit so nicely under the new design? Also, as Bill says, it’s something for future owners and renovators to get excited about when they find them. It’s important to leave a legacy.


You can see that the support structures that will be hidden are plain cement block, not nearly as attractive as those that will be exposed, but equally strong.

There’s something appealing about that last picture. Harmony in the chaos of construction. Permanent and temporary elements working together to create a solid, beautiful final product. And a domestic construction site on an autumn day with sunny summer still reflected in the windows.

Published in: on September 25, 2014 at 2:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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