Nice buildings but nothing really out of the ordinary on the southwest corner of Selby Avenue and Dunlop.

However, take a look at this fading but still very legible advertisement on the west side of the building facade.

I scoured the Internet and the only reference to the Central Decorating Company I could find is from 1921. My guess is that this is not 90+ years old but I’m not certain…

The detail in this sign is impressive. Look at the drop shadows on the words “Central Decorating Co.” And there are at least two, maybe three different fonts.

The computer age and the push toward getting students to college have decimated high school shop classes in many places. However, Saint Paul Central High School auto shop students still have auto shop and do minor repair on cars from this service station on Selby and Dunlop.

Welcome to Concordia University of Saint Paul.

There is a plethora of colleges and universities within the borders of Saint Paul. Concordia University, run by the Missouri Synod Lutherans, is located primarily in an L-shaped area bounded on the south by Marshall Avenue, west by Hamline Avenue, on the north by I-94 and on the east by Syndicate and Griggs Streets.

Martin Luther greets all whom enter Luther Hall
Concordia University of St. Paul was founded in 1893 by The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. as a high school for boys preparing to enter the ministry.
Naturally a Lutheran University has to have a chapel.
Concordia University has the only Hmong Studies minor in the world.

According to its website, Concordia has the only Hmong Studies minor in the world, which makes sense since Minnesota has the second highest population of Hmong in the U.S. according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Courses include Hmong history, culture, society, literature, art, beliefs and religions.

A large dorm, I mean residence hall, at Concordia.
The main entrance to Gordon Parks High School, an alternative school for Saint Paul Public School students. The school offers educational services to students who have had difficulties or dropped out of traditional high schools.

Gordon Parks High School is an alternative high school on the corner of University and Griggs.  The Saint Paul Public Schools opened the new building in December 2007. It is named after the famous photographer, filmmaker, writer, and civil rights activist who moved to Saint Paul when he was a teenager.

Gordon Parks

Parks was the first African-American photographer for Life magazine and the first African-American director of a major Hollywood film. He died in New York in 2008 at the age of 93.

This building  is now home to various small businesses including Landfall Music and Book, where used records, books and CDs are collected and sorted for distribution to Cheapo stores.  That’s a significant departure from the original use for the building when it was constructed in 1922.

St. Paul Casket Company building at 1222 University Avenue in the 1920s. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society

After the casket business passed on, the now departed Snyder’s Pharmacy corporate office and warehouse moved into the building. Landfall Music and Books has been a tenant for a couple of decades.

Several blocks north of University Avenue, on Hubbard Avenue in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood, I laid my eyes upon a 1999 Dodge Caravan unlike any I’ve ever seen. I got off my bike and circled the car several times taking it in. Then I walked up to the house in front of which the Caravan was parked and knocked on the door.

Dhaivyd Hilgendorf poses in front of his “Kosha,” a 1999 Dodge Caravan that he, friends and family painted.

Dhaivyd Hilgendorf graciously came out of his cool house into the heat of the 90+ degree day to tell me about his car.  The symbolism comes primarily from Celtic traditions. The car, said Dhaivyd, is based on the Celtic chant, “Earth, our body. Water our blood. Air our breath and fire, our spirit. And that’s what I have on each of the four sides.” The car is called a “Kosha” and the Kosha means the fifth element which brings all the other elements together, and that’s what’s on the top of the car.”

The mermaid on the driver’s side of the car is based upon Dhaivyd’s daughter.

Dhaivyd and company painted the car over the course of a summer.  First he sanded it down to the metal and then primed it. Then the base colors went on and everything else was hand painted.

As you’d expect, people react when they see the Caravan, “Mostly as I drive by, people smile and wave.  That’s the biggest reaction. Sometimes people think it’s a commercial vehicle. One guy asked if I’m in the water business because he happened to see the water side of the car.”

This is the fourth car Dhaivyd has painted so he’d paint another –when he has the time and the energy.

From Hubbard Avenue I went north along Lexington Parkway several blocks to McMurray Fields, on the south end of Como Park. That was the site of the 32nd annual Hmong Freedom Celebration.

Vendors at the Hmong Freedom Celebration at McMurray Fields near Como Park.

The celebration features sports like soccer, flag football and volleyball, food and clothing vendors and a teen pageant

Flag football at the annual Hmong Freedom Celebration at McMurray Fields

According to the Lao Family Community, which sponsors the Hmong Freedom Celebration, the event is the largest annual gathering of Hmong in the world! Unfortunately I didn’t have time to go into the festival but will make sure I do next year.

This is the temporary home of the Church of the Redeemer at 1031 Como Avenue. Prior to January of 2011, the parishioners of St. Andrew’s Catholic Church worshiped here.

I have seen many stunning houses of worship as I’ve ridden around the city. I’m planning to create a page in this blog focusing on the churches, temples, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship. However, this beautiful church, just a block east of McMurray Fields and the Hmong Festival, merits special mention. It was built as the Church of St. Andrew in 1927 and remained so until it was closed in January of 2011 by the Catholic Diocese. The more I looked at the church building, the more intricate details-sculptures, frescoes, tile work and other architectural gems-were revealed.

Nice decorative window sill and post between the windows. And how about the tiles above the two windows!

The Church of the Redeemer is using the building until a planned move in September.

The Church of the Redeemer is temporarily holding services in the former St. Andrew’s Church building on Como Avenue.
That’s a small portion of Calvary Cemetery in the background.

Guess where I am?  If you said at the corner of Front Avenue and Chatsworth Avenue you are correct! Local artist Susan E. Warner created this series of murals that depict significant themes of the neighborhood.

Another side of the tile mural at Front and Chatsworth.
Leaflet Missal is at the corner of Minnehaha and Chatsworth.

Did you know that this Saint Paul company has been publishing Catholic booklets and works for nearly a century? According to the company website, in 1929 two priests got the idea to publish missalettes to help parishioners better understand the all-Latin masses of the day. Today, Leaflet Missal still does some publishing but is better known for its selection of Catholic gifts, books, wine, Hosts and other devotional items.

While still several miles from home, this concludes the most interesting aspects of the ride. I see that a religious tone factored in near the end of this post. Don’t worry, I’m not going to start proselytizing. My writing is dictated only by the routes I take (and possibly subconsciously because it’s Sunday.)

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