Dayton’s Bluff and Points Between

June 3, 2012

20.3 miles

Today’s mission-a nice long ride to Dayton’s Bluff, the neighborhood just east of downtown that overlooks I-94 and Lowertown, Turns out it took quite a bit longer to get to Dayton’s Bluff than I expected because of things I saw on the way.

For example, Rooster’s at Randolph and Chatsworth.

I love the Rooster’s sign with the pig running for his life with the chef in pursuit. This popular restaurant features barbequed chicken and pork, naturally.

Just north on Chatsworth was this old fire truck.

I like the simplicity and authority of the red light on the roof of the fire engine. On today’s emergency vehicles it seems that every light flashes, the from the light bar on top to the head and tail lights, blinkers and other extraneous lights . While this light show certainly makes today’s fire trucks much easier to see and thus, much safer, there is something quaint about the single “cherry” on top of this fire engine.

What can I say about this vehicle and still keep the PG rating of this blog?

I bet the person driving this vehicle gets some looks. The dog sitting on the commode and reading the newspaper is an interesting touch.
In case you can’t remember “Poop 911,” business cards are conveniently located on this window.
At the corner of Vance and Palace is a pink house, the second I’ve come upon in the west end.
Harrison and Garfield – I suspect both of these streets were named after former presidents. Both of these men died unexpectedly while in office. William Henry Harrison was the ninth US president but he served only one month from March 4, 1841 to April 4, 1841. James A. Garfield was the 20th president and he too served less than a year, from March 4 to September 19, 1881.
Development along west 7th means this house needs to be moved and that day can’t be very far off.
Close up of the some of the wheels that will allow the house to be moved.

Finally, Dayton’s Bluff!

Dayton’s Bluff  is a mixed neighborhood with a similar mixed history. Dayton’s Bluff, as it was to be known, was named after land speculator Lyman Dayton who platted the area in 1857.

Lyman Dayton platted the area later known as Dayton’s Bluff. He was not a member of the noted department store Daytons. Photo courtesy Dayton’s Bluff History

In the 1860s and ‘70s Dayton’s Bluff’s gorgeous vistas attracted some of the city’s richest citizens including James Hill.

The view to the west, toward downtown Saint Paul, circa 1870. Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

Gradually, those folks moved west as Summit Hill became the City’s premier address. Dayton’s Bluff popularity reminded high until the Great Depression. The 1930s and ensuing decades were hard on Dayton’s Bluff and it slowly but continuously slipped in status. Probably the biggest indignity was the construction of Interstate 94, which isolated Dayton’s Bluff from downtown and severely interrupted the fantastic westerly view.

Dayton’s Bluff is cut off from Downtown and Lowertown by Interstate 94 and Mounds Boulevard (in the foreground.) One can imagine the fantastic view prior to the concrete intrusions.

Today, Dayton’s Bluff is a contrast. It has a diverse population racially and                  socio-economically.

I saw houses being renovated and repainted but I saw more vacant homes than anywhere else I’ve ridden. There remains an abundance of gorgeous Victorian era houses. But the neighborhood has among the highest concentration of poverty in the City.  On nearly every block, children were outside having fun, running around, and playing games.

Third and Maria (pronounced ma-RI-ah) is one of the major intersections in Dayton’s Bluff. It’s also the site of tragedy, hope and renewal.

On July 22, 1993, an explosion rocked this spot, where the community garden now sits, killing two people and injuring 12 others. The blast and resulting fire occurred about 20 minutes after a construction crew using a backhoe damaged a natural gas pipeline.
What is now the Phoenix Market building was a two-story structure that housed Paul’s Lounge prior to the explosion. The blast damaged the second level so heavily that it was removed. After about two years and a significant renovation, the Phoenix Market as you see it opened.

Another symbol of renewal and hope is this well kept organic vegetable, herb, and flower garden, called Dayton’s Bluff Children’s Community Garden. It is one of seven on the east side created and run by the Community Design Center.

job skills, help them make connections to career opportunities, teach them sustainable growing methods, promote active involvement within their community, and explore healthy lifestyle and food choices.

One of the most beautiful and noticeable homes on Dayton’s Bluff is the Queen Anne-styled Adolph & Anna Muench House at 653 East Fifth Street.

The exquisitely restored Adolph & Anna Muench House at 653 East Fifth Street. This house was built in 1884 when Dayton’s Bluff was one of Saint Paul’s toniest neighborhoods.
The entrance of the Adolph & Anna Muench House.
The Gustav Muench house, across Fifth Street from the Adolph & and Anna Muench House…
…looks significantly different than when it was built in about 1870. The home’s address is now 334 Mounds Boulevard but when constructed was 334 Dayton and later 334 Hoffman. Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.
The Bell Row House, 658-666 Fourth Street East, built in 1882.
Some of the historic homes on Dayton’s Bluff are in drastic need of some TLC. The Peter Bott House triplex at 326 Maria Avenue is one example. It was constructed in 1879. A rear addition was put on the two-story, Italianate style residence in 1892.
Today, despite the obvious signs of neglect…
…unique architectural details are ready to be reclaimed.
A partly covered window at the peak of the Peter Bott House.

The fresh, bright yellow clapboards, crisp white trim and dark blue accents on the front of 270 Maria give a dramatic preview of what the house will look when the repair and painting are complete.

Taz touches up the trim on a second story window.

Tanesha Beard, more commonly known as Taz, saw me taking pictures of her work so she came down to see what I was doing. She said she has done most of the exterior restoration and painting on this Victorian house, built-in 1900. She has a cousin who works with her occasionally. She’s spent a month and a half to prep the house. Taz told me about what the renovation has entailed, “Lots of prep work, replacing rotting boards. I’ve been here about a month. These aren’t the original colors in the front. We are changing it up obviously. We’re adding more detail to it. Enriching the look of the house.”

Taz enjoys painting the Victorian-era houses, “I love the detail.  I love doing the detail work. I like bringing beauty out of a house that looks beat up and bringing it back to life. A lot of people don’t have patience and can’t do it but I find it to be relaxing. I can be up in the air, do my own thing…”

Some of the details Taz added to 270 Maria

Taz’s work at a house a couple of doors down led to this job. “I’m really proud of my work and that’s what keeps me going. I can stand back and be proud of what I’ve done.”

Taz poses in front of her current project at 270 Maria Avenue.

People stop all the time to watch progress.  The impact can be extreme. “If the homeowner is happy, I’m happy. I do like to have the nicest house on the block, Taz said and laughed. “It brings the value of the neighborhood up. It helps it look a little better.”

Talking to Taz was a real pleasure. Her enthusiasm, dedication and the pride she takes in her work are inspiring.

Taz did not paint this Third Avenue house.

My Dayton’s Bluff excursion continued on several other nearby streets including Conway, Fourth and Fifth Streets. Still, that leaves me with many more Dayton’s Bluff thoroughfares to ride.

Then it was down Kellogg Boulevard to Lowertown. I approached Union Depot, busily undergoing renovation in preparation for its October re-opening, and took a detour for a closer look.

Tracks and the unfinished passenger platform at Union Depot, which will open this fall.

There was a small construction crew working as I nosed around. Fortunately, they must have decided that this 50-something guy wasn’t going to cause any trouble and they completely ignored me.

The brick building in the background will once again be the passenger waiting area.
Construction continues on this section of Union Depot. The passenger waiting area is on the right and the glass structure to the left houses escalators to take passengers to and from the train platforms.

I spent a good 20 minutes walking around the Depot grounds, snapping pictures before getting back on my bike for the journey back home. Today’s sights were numerous and varied. Although I met only Taz, it was an interesting conversation that I’ll not soon forget.  I’ll make a point to get back to 270 Maria to see how it turned out on my next ride to Dayton’s Bluff.


  1. Wolfie, great historical detail. I love reading your blog and following tour journey! GreatWork! Nep.

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