July 15, 2012

7.9 miles

Highland Park, West End, Downtown

Depending upon your viewpoint, Randolph Avenue ends or starts here, at Mississippi River Boulevard. Looking east at Randolph.

This is the first time I’ve selected one street and only one street to ride. I decided to ride the length of Randolph Avenue because it is the major east-west thoroughfare in my neighborhood. Thus I regularly traverse Randolph when I’m riding to the east and I tend to think (a term I use loosely) rather than focusing on what I’m seeing.

I began at the western end of Randolph, at Mississippi River Boulevard. It’s nothing unusual looking east along Randolph but this is a very beautiful spot in other directions with the river, trees and stately homes, especially on a sunny day.

Randolph and Mississippi River Boulevard.
Although thick with foliage, you can make out the Mississippi River from the corner of Randolph and Mississippi River Boulevard.

The first four blocks of Randolph are nearly all residential but that changes dramatically at Cleveland Avenue where there are businesses on three corners and St. Catherine University on the fourth. I call this the beginning of “The Catholic Corridor” for reasons that will soon become apparent.

This entrance to the St. Catherine University, often simply called “St.Kate’s,” is at the southeast corner of Randolph and Cleveland.

St. Catherine’s, another of Saint Paul’s many institutions of higher learning, takes up the next two blocks of the south side of Randolph. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet established St. Kate’s in 1905. According to the school’s website, the University is named for St. Catherine of Alexandria, a fourth-century Egyptian philosopher.

Looking south from Randolph is this open green space, frequented by “Katies” and Tommies (University of St. Thomas students) and neighborhood families playing soccer, Frisbee and hanging out.
Derham Hall, built in 1905, is the original building at what was known as The College of St. Catherine. It was named after Hugh Derham of Rosemount, who contributed $20,000 for the building. The university administration has offices here now.
Derham Hall circa 1910. Photo courtesy St. Catherine’s University Archives
The Romanesque style Our Lady of Victory Chapel at St. Kate’s was dedicated on October 7, 1924. St. Trophime at Arles in Provence, France was the inspiration for the chapel, which is open to students, staff, faculty and neighbors, according to St. Kate’s website.

                                                               Three of the intricate friezes, which represent Christ and his disciples, on the exterior of Our Lady of Victory Chapel. Click on any of the shots for a closer look.

The Dew Drop Pond, looking west from Our Lady of Victory Chapel, is a St. Catherine’s landmark. Many a couple have taken their matrimonial vows here. The Dew Drop is often visited by neighborhood children and their parents. And dogs. The abundant duck population that resides at the Dew Drop nearly year-round enjoys being fed by visitors.
The Dew Drop Pond and Derham Hall in the background circa 1909. Courtesy St. Catherine’s Archives.
The design and material of this building scream late 1960s or early 70s, which to me are the dark years of architecture. The utilitarian nature of the building is ironic since it is the Visual Arts Building and home to the Catherine C. Murphy Art Gallery. The posters in the right windows on the first floor are an interesting reminder of the era during which the building was constructed.
A closer look at the posters-two Apollo moon walkers and between them, the lunar lander.
The O’Shaughnessy is likely the best-known building on the St. Catherine campus. The O’Shaughnessy has hosted thousands of concerts, dance recitals and speakers since its 1970 opening.
Notables such as Brandi Carlile, kd lang, Joan Baez, Dolly Parton, Dr. Maya Angelou, Madeleine Albright, Jay Leno, Steve Martin and the James Sewell Ballet are just a few who have performed at the O’Shaughnessy.

This is by no means a comprehensive look at St. Kate’s, which has many other buildings, programs and facilities too numerous to visit or write about. This segment of the “Catholic Corridor” continues with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet property, located immediately to the east of St. Kate’s.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet remain affiliated with St. Catherine University and the Sisters’ campus is still located immediately east of the university at 1884 Randolph.
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet, among the most socially liberal sects of nuns, have worked for social justice since shortly after their arrival in Saint Paul. For more information about the Sisters, here is a link to their website: http://csjstpaul.org
The north side of Randolph, across from the Sisters of St. Joseph facilities, is a mix of smaller, well-kept single-family homes constructed in the 1920s and ‘30s…
…and nicely maintained apartment buildings from the same time period like this one at 1853 Randolph.
This display of flora and fauna outside a small store on the north side of Randolph added some brilliant color to an otherwise grey (or gray) day.
The intersection of Randolph and Snelling Avenue is another with a concentration of businesses. They sprung up here and at other main intersections along Randolph when streetcars were the predominant choice in transportation.
The intersection of Randolph and Snelling Avenue is another with a concentration of businesses. They sprung up here and at other main intersections along Randolph when streetcars were the predominant choice in transportation.
Businesses on street level and apartments above in this building on the southeast corner of Randolph and Snelling.
About 20 Saint Paul streets, including Snelling, Randolph, University Avenue, Dale Street and Maryland Avenue, had streetcar lines and similar business districts.
Streetcars were converted from horse-drawn to electricity in 1890 and ran until the late 1950s when they were unceremoniously junked and replaced by buses.
An aerial view of the intersection of Randolph and Snelling from the 1930s, looking north. Those are streetcar tracks running through the middle of both streets. Walgreen’s now occupies the spot where the Mobil gas station sits in the upper left corner of the photo. Photo courtesy MNHS.
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet taught most of the classes at Holy Spirit into the 1960s when a steady transition to lay teachers began. Holy Spirit serves students in Kindergarten through eighth grade.

“Catholic Corridor” continuation-Holy Spirit Catholic School, which opened in fall of 1937, is on the southwest corner Randolph and Albert.

The Holy Spirit Catholic Church and Parish held its first service in this building on the southeast corner of Randolph and Albert in 1949.

Next up in “The Catholic Corridor” is Cretin-Derham High School or more accurately, the school’s baseball field. The school sits just south, in the background of this shot.

CDH has a nationally known athletics program. The scoreboard lists the two best-known baseball players to have played there.

CDH’s successful baseball program is also reflected in the verdant, luxurious grass of the field. The hedges beyond the centerfield fence that say “Cretin-Derham” add to the field’s alure.

A personal reflection of the Cretin-Derham Hall bushes; at least 10 years ago, in spring if I recall correctly, I drove past the field and noticed those distinctive bushes had been trimmed. A second look and I realized they rather crudely spelled out “Central” as in Saint Paul Central High School. While I find this and all acts of vandalism objectionable, I had to grudgingly give the Central students a small nod for creativity and execution.

Randolph and Hamline Avenue, just east of the CDH ball field, is the next corner business spot. Establishments on this corner include a barber shop, grocery store, gas station, furniture store and liquor store.

Looking eastward on Randolph. Interstate 35E goes under the bridge on which this picture was taken.

The assortment of homes, businesses, apartments, churches and other facilities along Randolph is intriguing and it creates strong neighborhoods along the length of Randolph.

Leitner’s Garden Center, greenhouses and all, at 945 Randolph is another example of the unique offerings on Randolph.
It is a pleasant surprise to have a garden center with green houses in the city.
When a good accordion dies it goes here, to Accordion Heaven. Mahler Music, 907 Randolph.

I can’t think of a better name for a store than “Accordion Heaven.” I’d be shocked if another street in the U.S. can claim a place called “Accordion Heaven,” another name for Mahler Music Center.

This is the Spot. The Spot Bar at 859 Randolph.
754 Randolph Avenue, formerly Fire Station 10, was the oldest fire station in Saint Paul. The original building was erected in 1885. It was also designed as the department’s horse hospital in 1890.

For years, Engine 10, Medic 10, and Ladder 10 were housed in this building. In April 2010, Fire Station 10 closed and consolidated with Station 1, and the equipment and firefighters moved into a brand new fire station at west 7th Street and Randolph which I visited later in the ride.

Randolph and View Street-Dannecker’s, a neighborhood institution, is on the northwest corner. I have never been inside so I can only imagine what it’s like.

On the southeast corner, officially 486 View Street, is the old St. James School and Hall. More recently it housed the combined St. Francis-St. James United Catholic School, which has since moved about four blocks away at 426 Osceola Avenue.)

Continuing east, it’s back to houses again…
…until West Seventh Street. Restaurants, The Peter J. King Family Health Center, home to United Family Medicine, a non-profit community clinic…
…and the headquarters of the Saint Paul Fire Department line the intersection.

The William and Alfred Godette Memorial Building is named in honor of two brothers who were among about 20 African-American firefighters who served the SPFD early in the 20th century.

William Godette
Alfred Godette

William joined the SPFD in 1885 and younger brother Alfred followed in 1909. Of course, the Godette brothers and the other African-American firefighters of the era were subject to discrimination and segregated from white firefighters who comprised the rest of the fire department. Despite that, William served the city of Saint Paul for 41 years and retired as a captain. Alfred was killed fighting a fire in 1921.  The Saint Paul Daily Planet has an excellent story about the Godettes at http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/news/2010/09/29/station-1-hq-named-godette-brothers.

Fire rigs parked in the Station 1 garage.

Fire Station 1 is a combination of the personnel and equipment of decommissioned Station 10 (located several blocks west on Randolph) and old Station 1 and is a part of the Godette Memorial Building.

The last three blocks of Randolph, between the intersections with Toronto/Drake and Shepard Road, quickly descend from the well-kept mix of businesses and homes of the past three and a half miles into empty lots, warehouses and light industrial buildings that have long ago seen their best days.

This property is a roofing and sheet metal company.
A transportation department facility at Randolph and Erie Street is owned by the Saint Paul School District.

The photos don’t convey how ripe for redevelopment this area is. That will become more glaring once rehabilitation of the nearby Schmidt brewery site begins in 2013. With the Mississippi River less than half a mile away, it seems that a transformation from an underutilized and worn warehouse district is an improved economy and creative developer away.

With that, I concluded the eastbound Randolph ride. Next, 3.7 miles back west along the same route and different views of the homes, businesses and “Catholic Corridor.”

**You might have noticed lighting differences in photos in this entry-cloudy in most but sun in some. That’s because the clouds started to break up on my ride back west. All pictures were taken the on the same ride on July 15. However, I posted pictures and wrote about the sites I saw along Randolph Avenue moving strictly from west to east in an attempt to lessen the confusion to you.

Today’s route: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/154288041


  1. Excellent post. We live 1 block south of Leitner’s. Therefore, I have one quibble. Skinner’s Tavern, where Paul Molitor is supposed to have sung “Glory Days” on New Year’s Eve several years ago, would have been a better photo subject than Dannecker’s (which I have been inside and know to be, to be delicate, a lesser establishment).

Leave a Reply