July 17, 2015 18.1 Miles Summit – University, Downtown, Lowertown
Victorian-era homes with narrow clapboard siding, bold colors, a variety of ornamentation and towers are often called ‘Painted Ladies.’ In researching this ride I learned there’s a bit more to it than that. Painted Ladies refer specifically to Queen Anne-style houses that are painted at least three exterior colors. Saint Paul has quite a variety of the lovely painted ladies, including the dazzling house at 513 Summit Avenue.
The W.W. Bishop House, built in 1891, was in the middle of a major exterior renovation, which includes replacement clapboards and trim where necessary, hand scraping and new paint top to bottom. With a foundation size of 2,459 square feet and three stories of siding, spindles, moldings and scroll work, voluminous gallons of primer and paint were needed to return the home to its Victorian grandeur.
I pealed off Summit Avenue at Selby Avenue, which is the street that passes by the south side of the Cathedral of Saint Paul.
Maiden Lane is officially a street that looks like an alley while serving as both. Starting at Selby Avenue I rode southwest along Maiden.
Now a nicely appointed building with four condos, it is difficult to imagine that it was built in 1891 for James J. Hill’s horses and carriages. The Saint Paul Pioneer Press reports that Hill selected Maiden Lane for the carriage house because the back yard of his Summit Avenue property was too steep on which to build. Edina Realty has a tour of one of the condos, which sold in October 2015. Visit http://www.planomatic.com/44485 for a look.
For reasons I cannot recall, I investigated only the block of Maiden Lane adjoining Selby Avenue, turned around and made my way into Downtown via Kellogg Boulevard. A few zigs and zags later and I was in Lowertown. Upon reaching 4th Street East I turned left, went under the Lafayette Freeway Bridge and up to CHS Field, the Saint Paul Saints’ stadium.
Eastward I continued, along 4th, past Willius Street and toward the major East Side railroad corridor.
This decrepit building was going to be renovated and converted into an interpretive center for the Bruce Vento Nature Center. However, years of neglect and vandalism made the restoration too costly, which led to demolition of the building known recently as Lowertown Depot.
The document below details the ordinance passed in 1914 by the Common Council, as the city council was known, to build the Standard Oil Warehouse on Commercial Street. The ordinance allowed Standard Oil to install eight storage tanks with a total capacity of 9,353 gallons of petroleum products, including gasoline and refined and lubricating oils.
The buildings near the southeast corner of East 7th and Wall Streets are an excellent example of the good and bad architecture.
I grabbed some pics of the wall advertisements on the Allen Building before they fade into history, .
Back on Summit Avenue and its many stunning Painted Ladies. Nothing I’ve seen compares to the Painted Lady at 985 Summit.
Michele Ernst and her husband purchased the house in 2006 and knew it needed more color. “We were going through the Painted Ladies books, because, when we bought the house, it was white. I’m sure it wasn’t white when it was built. There wouldn’t have been any point in putting all the detail in and you wouldn’t have been able to see it.”
More than one color it is – Michele thought there were about 16 different colors!
She credits her husband with picking the colors, “My husband came up with the color scheme based on the fact that I’m a Christmas nut. And so he incorporated the Christmas colors into it as well.”
According to Michele, it took the paint crew weeks to complete the work. “The first time it took a month or two because we were playing with the colors, so some colors went up and it was like, ‘Oh, no! That doesn’t work.’ Then we’d choose a different color to go on that section of the house and see how it worked with the other paint colors. “
Michele was happy that no one has criticized the blast of color that is their home. “I did have a neighbor who was running by and who said, when we were first painting it, ‘I was thinking to myself, ‘What the heck are they doing! It looks like a circus has moved in.’ But now that it’s done, I really like it.’”
Michele said the house needs some paint every year. “Because it’s all wood and especially this (west) side gets the brunt of the winter, we touch up paint every year; sections that are failing. About every five years we do major sections so we just finished repainting it again, for the second time.”
The Ernst’s unusual doorbell, said Michele, is tied to the interior décor. “There’s a lot of carvings where there’s ladies’ heads. We call them creepy ladies. So we saw a creepy lady doorbell and had to get that one. That’s why we put the lady statues out. We had to have creepy lady statues. It’s just a running joke between me and my husband that there’s creepy ladies everywhere.”
This ride was memorable for being bookmarked by two grand Painted Ladies of the Queen Anne era, a Maiden, with a pleasant romp around a couple of Lowertown locales.