The Lasting Legacy of the Irish in St. Paul

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we’re going to explore a little of the significant impact the Irish have had on St. Paul’s, and indeed Minnesota’s, cultural, political, and religious life. A legacy you can experience during your visit to the B&B.

Edward Phelan, John Hays, and William Evans (all Irishmen) were among the early soldiers stationed at Fort Snelling. When they were discharged in 1938, they bought land in and around what would become downtown St. Paul (which was incorporated in 1849).

View of St. Paul 1851
View of St. Paul, 1851. Joel Emmons Whitney. Daguerreotype. Minnesota Historical Society

Later, Hays was the victim in the city’s first murder. One of his countrymen, Edward Phelan, was accused of the murder, but released for lack of evidence. Eventually, Phalen Creek and Lake Phalen were named after him.

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Archbishop John Ireland (1838-1918). 1908. Golling Studio. Minnesota Historical Society

Irish immigrant John Ireland, appointed Archbishop of St. Paul in 1888, was hugely influential in the city as well as the whole of Minnesota. He was responsible for the building of the Cathedral of St. Paul as well as the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.

Cathedral of St. PaulCathedral of St. Paul by Ryan Claussen is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
Basilica Minneapolis
Basilica of St. Mary by Bobak Ha’Eri is licensed under CC-By-SA-3.0.

He was also responsible for starting the University of St. Thomas, one of the finest universities in a state rich with them. These are all beautiful places, and well worth a visit.

Archbishop Ireland also headed an ambitious program of Irish Catholic colonies around Minnesota, with the goals of increasing the state’s Catholic population and offering a new life to his fellow countrymen suffering the ravages of famine and civil unrest in Ireland. This included setting up a community of farms, with houses, seed, equipment, and household goods available at good rates and on credit to give them a good start. Also provided was instruction on how to farm the prairie sod, which would have been very different from farming in Ireland, if the new colonists had been farmers at all.

For the most part, this was very successful, but there were occasional failures, as with the Connemara group of Graceville in 1880. They were fishermen back home who not only seemed to have no desire to be farmers, but also had to contend with the unbelievably harsh winter of 1880-1 (immortalized in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter). Most of them were eventually resettled in St. Paul in the Connemara Patch, cheek by jowl with the more notorious Swede Hollow in Dayton’s Bluff, where they stayed until the railroad came through and moved them out in 1908. Here’s a tour brochure of Dayton’s Bluff that includes the Connemara Patch, as well as other beautiful and historic landmarks.

Swede Hollow 1910
Swede Hollow looking north, c.1910. Minnesota Historical Society

James J. Hill, a man of Irish heritage, came to St. Paul in 1856 with nothing, and through hard work and business acumen attained vast wealth as a railroad baron. A great believer in philanthropy, on both the small and large scale, he worked with Ireland on a number of projects, helping fund what Ireland envisioned. Although not Catholic himself, his wife, Mary, was, and she gave a great deal of money to the building of St. Paul’s glorious new cathedral.

James J. Hill. 1902. Pach Brothers. Mary Mehegan Hill, c.1910. Minnesota Historical Society

He built a series of houses in the swankiest parts of town, ending with his magnificent mansion on Summit Avenue, complete with pipe organ, art gallery, and boiler from a train engine for heating and hot water. It’s well worth a tour, and it’s only a couple of blocks from the Cathedral, and within walking distance from the B&B.

James J. Hill House 2013
James J. Hill House, 2013
by McGhiever is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

When you visit us, take the opportunity to check out some of these landmarks which help document the importance of Irish people in the history of St. Paul.

 

Valentines Day – In the Mood for Romance?

Looking for fun ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your loved ones? Here are some ideas, ranging from the traditional – a lovely meal or dancing – to the unusual – snowshoeing or Victorian poetry, anyone?

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HDR – Sunken Garden Como Park Conservatory by Jucadima is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Enchanted Evening – A Valentine’s Dining Experience at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory

Though February 14th is sold out, they’ve added a seating on the 13th for this romantic candlelit dinner among the indoor gardens of St. Paul’s lush conservatory. String music, limited wine and beer, and animal ambassadors will enhance your experience, as will the opportunity to bask in the humidity and warmth in the midst of a dry St. Paul February.

February 13, 2017, 8:00 pm
$170 per couple, all-inclusive.
Register online.

If you want to make Valentine’s a full day experience, or enjoy the atmosphere of the conservatory and have dinner elsewhere, there are other events during the day, including the Winter Flower Show, and a chance to meet the conservatory’s gardeners at 1:00.

Como Park Zoo & Conservatory
1225 Estabrook Drive, Saint Paul, MN 55103
651-487-8201
Winter Hours:  10-4

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Sleigh Ride by Bill Burris is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Three Rivers Park District Valentine Programs

Looking for something a little unusual to do with your loved ones? Maybe something outdoors? The Three Rivers Park District offers events ranging from Candlelit Trails to a Victorian Valentine’s Dinner to a Valentine’s Snowshoe Hike to a Lovebirds’ Local Foods Dinner and Sleigh Rides. All their events but one (which is sold out) are happening the weekend before Valentine’s Day, so you could choose off Three River’s menu and do something on the day, if you want to make an extravaganza of the holiday this year.

Three River Parks District is in Hennepin County, so a little bit of a drive from the B&B, but well worth it. Check out the webpage for more information on individual events.

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Big Bay Ballroom – Salsa Spice
by Port of San Diego is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Valentine’s Day Dance

“Love is in the air, so join us for a special night of ballroom dancing with The Dancers Studio Family! Includes complimentary glass of champagne at the door, dessert and cash bar throughout the evening.

“FREE Beginning Salsa Class @ 7:00pm

“Both singles and couples welcome!”

$15 per person
Purchase tickets online.

Dancers Studio
415 Pascal St. North, St. Paul, MN 55104
651-641-0777
info@dancersstudio.com

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James J. Hill House, circa 1895, courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society

Victorian Poetry Slam

“Celebrate Valentine’s Day the old-fashioned way by enjoying classic 19th century poetry in the James J. Hill House drawing room. Actors Craig Johnson, Laura Salveson and Ann Daly, wearing 1890s eveningwear, will perform a wide range of humorous and stirring poems by Dickinson, Poe, Longfellow, Browning and more dealing with love, romance, temperance, sports and war—even poems about James J. Hill! Audience members are also invited to bring a short Victorian poem to read aloud throughout the evening.”

Tue., Feb 14, 2017, 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
$12/$10 MNHS members

James J. Hill House
240 Summit Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55102
(7 blocks from the B&B.)
651-297-2555
hillhouse@mnhs.org

lgbt-lobby-day-2006OutFront justFair LGBT Lobby Day 2006 by Tony Webster is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Land of 10,000 Loves

“Historian Stewart Van Cleve blends oral history, archival narrative, newspaper accounts and fascinating illustrations to paint a remarkable picture of Minnesota’s queer history. Van Cleve will present from his book “Land of 10,000 Loves: A History of Queer Minnesota,” which explores the sacrifices, scandals and victories that have affected and continue to affect the lives of queer Minnesotans.

“Stewart Van Cleve is a former assistant curator of the Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies at the University of Minnesota.”

Tue., Feb 14, 2017, 10:30 am – 11:30 am
$5/$3 MNHS members

Minnesota History Center
345 W. Kellogg Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55102
(1.1 miles from the B&B, and easily busable.)
651-259-3015
boxoffice@mnhs.org

However you decide to spend Valentine’s Day, have fun, be safe, and celebrate all the love in your life.

Help the Twin Cities Celebrate Christmas

Here are some ideas to help the Twin Cities celebrate Christmas while you’re visiting the B&B.

A Victorian Christmas at the Alexander Ramsey House

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“Experience the sights, sounds and tastes of a Victorian Christmas in 1875. During the guided tour, guests can taste homemade cookies fresh from the wood burning stove, listen to popular holiday music of the era played on the family’s Steinway piano, and view original family ornaments and Christmas gifts. Discover how the Ramsey family and their friends, neighbors and servants prepared for and celebrated the Christmas season. Shop in the Carriage House gift store for replica Victorian ornaments and holiday items.

The 60-minute guided tours start every half hour with the last tour starting at 3:30 pm. A Victorian Christmas at the Ramsey House runs Wednesdays through Sundays Nov. 27, 2015-Jan. 3, 2016, except Dec. 25.

Cost:  $11 adults, $9 seniors and college students, $7 ages 6-17, $3 discount MNHS [Minnesota Historical Society] members. Get tickets online or call 651-259-3015” (1 mile from the B&B.)

Hill House Holidays

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“The bustle and excitement of a Gilded Age Christmas is brought to life as the servants of the James J. Hill House prepare for the holidays. Costumed actors portray people who worked for the Hill family in a dramatized portrayal of servant life and holiday preparations at the Hill family’s Summit Avenue mansion. The program moves through the elegant first floor spaces and then to the basement servant work areas. The script is based on letters and oral histories of people who worked for the Hill family during the first decade of the 20th century.

Tours leave every half hour, and Hill House Holidays runs Saturdays and Sundays from Dec. 5-27.

Cost:  $12 adults, $10 seniors and students, $8 ages 6-17, $2 discount MNHS [Minnesota Historical Society] members. Get tickets online or call 651-259-3015” (6 blocks from the B&B.)

Check the James J. Hill House website for other events, such as concerts and storytelling.

An Eventually Christmas:  Holidays at the Mill

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“Join the Ghost of Mill City Past for an intimate look at the 1920 Washburn Crosby holiday party in this unique play set in the museum’s Flour Tower elevator ride. Scenes unfold on different floors where the audience meets characters drawn from the pages of the company’s employee newspaper, the Eventually News. Witness the rocky romance of Celia and Otto; meet marketing mastermind Benjamin S. Bull; experience the awesome sweeping power of Bill Smith and learn the secret origin of the Washburn Crosby marketing slogan, “Eventually—Why Not Now?”

Performances are at 6, 7 and 8 pm. Recommended for ages 8 and older. Ticket includes museum admission and refreshments after the play.

$14 adults, $12 seniors and college students, $10 ages 6-17 and MNHS [Minnesota Historical Society] members, $2 off adult admission with Fringe Festival button. Get tickets online or call 651-259-3015”

At the Mill City Museum Dec 13, 17, 18, 19th. (8.7 miles from the B&B.)

The Christmas Carol on stage

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The nationally renowned Guthrie Theater is continuing its annual tradition of Dickens’ Christmas Carol. Check the website for more information and showtimes. (8.3 miles from the B&B.)

European Christmas Market

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“The European Christmas Market in St. Paul is based on the traditional, charming, and festive open air Christkindlmarkts that spring up in Germany, Austria and other countries during the Advent season. Shop for unique, handmade holiday gifts and decorations from local vendors, drink Glühwein (spiced mulled wine), and taste European inspired food and delicacies during the first two weekends in December:

Friday, December 4: 2 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Saturday, December 5: 10 am – 9 p.m.
Sunday, December 6: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Friday, December 11: 2 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Saturday, December 12: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sunday, December 13: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.”

At Union Depot downtown St. Paul. (2.3 miles from the B&B.)

Christmas Concerts

Holiday Concert 2012 2
A listing of Christmas concerts happening all over the city.

Holiday Events from the St. Paul Pioneer Press

Zoo-Lights
A listing of events happening in the Twin Cities in December, many of them holiday themed.

 

Have a Little Jazz Age with Your Cocktail

An icon has returned to the neighborhood – the Commodore Bar & Restaurant.

Commodore3

The Commodore opened in 1920 as a posh art deco residential hotel, which hosted such luminaries as F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (who added their daughter, Scottie, and the novel “The Beautiful and Damned” to their family during their stays) and Sinclair Lewis, as well as gangsters Al Capone, John Dillinger, and Fred Barker. It was one of THE places to stay in St. Paul.

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Naturally, there were amenities to keep the guests in the style to which they were accustomed. These included a restaurant and an illegal speakeasy, which, on the repeal of Prohibition, became the Mirror Bar, designed by notable architect and Hollywood set designer Werner Wittkamp. Fred Barker’s mother, Ma Barker, met her son’s girlfriend there.

Commodore Fire

The building was gutted by a gas explosion/fire in February of 1978, and was remodeled into condos. Alas, there was no public eating or drinking space.

However, while the space was devastated, the bar itself somehow escaped damage; even its eponymous mirrors remained intact. After remodeling, the beautiful space could be rented for private events. In fact, one of Bill’s daughters had her wedding reception there.

Upper+Bar+7+10-05-15+(1)Lounge+5+10-05-15.

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Now, after two years of renovation characterized by careful research and meticulous attention to detail, the space has been restored to its former Jazz Age glory. Full of warm light from glass chandeliers, black and white checkerboard floors, white leather, and stunning lines, the bar and restaurant offer a comfortable and cozy atmosphere and a feast for the eyes. Both food and drink are influenced by the 1920s and ‘30s, and many of the cocktail ingredients are locally sourced. The owners want to keep the prices reasonable, with the dinner menu topping out at about $30 for an entree. There are plans for live music and dancing, and the vibe is casually dressy and a little upscale, turning an evening out into an event.

Image with the piano copyright City Pages.

Published in: on December 5, 2015 at 9:16 pm  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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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,

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

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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.

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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.

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It also has wide sidewalks and great trees,

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

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Not to mention fabulous leaf crunching opportunities.

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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?

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

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

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Gorgeous.

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

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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.

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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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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.

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

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

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

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The B&B’s wifi is easily accessible.

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

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

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or taking in the area’s Victorian architecture,

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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.

Nearby Como Park Lakeside Pavillion

Clue 8

Clue 8

If you are staying at Cathedral Hill Bed and Breakfast on July 10, 11, 16,17 or 18,  it might be a lot of fun to go the Como Park (about a ten minute drive from here) and go see The Music Man at the pavillion.  The tickets are only $10 and the outside venue is just delightful.

Published in: on July 7, 2009 at 9:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Blair Arcade and Common Good Books close to Cathedral Hill Bed and Breakfast

Architectural detail in Ramsey Hill

Architectural detail in Ramsey Hill

 

While taking a walk in Ramsey Hill, be sure to stop by Common Good Books.  First of all, it is located in Blair Arcade which is a venerable building in its own right.  Second, you can rest at Nina’s Cafe which is right above the book store.  Cafeopolis describes Nina’s and Blair Arcade if you want further opinions.

So, come stay at Cathedral Hill Bed and Breakfast and then take your Architectural Scavenger hunt and have a lot of fun!

Published in: on June 23, 2009 at 7:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Summit Avenue walking tour

Architectural detail Ramsey Hill

Architectural detail Ramsey Hill

There is a very nice walking tour of Summit Avenue which takes place on Saturdays and Sundays in the summmer.  It originates only blocks away from Cathedral Hill Bed and Breakfast.  Plan ahead and experience the neighborhood.  You might even see some of the scavenger hunt clues!

Published in: on June 18, 2009 at 1:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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New Yorker fiction story by Franzen about Ramsey Hill

Scavenger Hunt Clue 3

The June 8-15th issue of the New Yorker has a story whose setting is Ramsey Hill in the 1970s-80s.  The author is Jonathan Franzen.  There are a few references to place names in the neighborhood.  If you lived here in the 1970s and 1980s, you will have to judge for yourself if the activities and characters seem true to the area.

We are on the third clue for our Scavenger Hunt.  When 20 clues have posted, guests can go out and find the address of the architectural detail, and, if they can find 15 of them, they get 10% off their stay at Cathedral Hill Bed and Breakfast.

Published in: on June 15, 2009 at 8:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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