September 27, 2021
Downtown, Lowertown, Dayton’s Bluff
The route map of my September 27, 2021 ride. The map is zoomable.
A sunny late September day with the temperature in the mid-70s is a day to ride. And so I was winding my way east on Kellogg Boulevard Downtown toward Dayton’s Bluff. At the intersection with Robert Street, Kellogg begins a four block long decline which causes bikes and cars to pick up speed, whether they want to or not. For bike riders this is a harrowing section of Downtown/Lowertown. There’s no bike lane so you contend for space with cars, trucks and buses. (See map below. Click on map to enlarge.)
First you’ve got to watch for vehicles turning south onto Jackson Street (1). The next hazard is vehicles pulling in and out of the Hyatt Place hotel drop-off just past Jackson (2); at Sibley they’re turning right onto east-bound Kellogg (3). And then Kellogg narrows as it approaches the underpass of the Union Depot concourse (4). The next potential obstacles are people crossing the street for the Kellogg Avenue pedestrian entrance to the Union Depot (5). After all that, bikers can relax a little – for two blocks – until Broadway Street (6), where Metro Transit buses enter and exit Union Depot for pickups and drop-offs.
At this point, bikers can continue to ride on Kellogg Boulevard or jump to relative safety on the sidewalk, as long as there aren’t any (or many) pedestrians. This time, I accidentally found a third, safer choice.
The cement apron in the foreground yields to the paved Union Depot Lot D. I’ve parked in this lot about a dozen times and biked neighboring Kellogg Boulevard close to the same number. Still, this was the first time I noticed the faded white and yellow lines. This, much to my surprise, is the start of a designated bike and walking trail. The questionable placement, abutting the concrete support pillars, poses a danger to trail users. Although not easily seen in the pictures, there are parking spots between the pillars. It’s not difficult to envision a distracted driver backing out of one of those parking spots with tragic results.
When the trail leaves the east side of the parking lot, it widens and bracketed by fences as it continues east.
The trail and the rails curve north at what the railroads call the Division Street Wye. Here passes about five percent of the freight traffic in the U.S. This is a train watcher’s paradise –– where freight trains from Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Union Pacific, Twin Cities and Western and Canadian Pacific railroads are routed in and out of Downtown. Tracks for southbound trains follow the curve of Shepard/Warner Roads, through the rail yards of Battle Creek and along the west side of Highway 61. (Below.)
I’m embarrassingly late to discover the Rail View Picnic Area as it and the nearby parking lot were completed in 2013.
As I walked my bike along the path, my camera in hand, a good-sized black dog approached at a trot. It wasn’t headed my way to greet me; its low growl indicated it had a nefarious motive. I backed toward the fence, waiting to no avail for the woman owner to call off the dog. It tried to bite me but my reflexes took over so the dog sunk its teeth into my bike shorts instead of my thigh.
After getting my blood pressure down somewhat, off to Dayton’s Bluff which required a steady, half-mile long climb up the Kellogg/3rd Street bridge. This happens to be the longest city-owned bridge in Saint Paul. If you’ve visited Dayton’s Bluff on a bike you know the climb from Lowertown is a good calorie burn that extends for blocks beyond the bridge’s end at Mound Street. It’s worth the ride for the views and Dayton’s Bluff is loaded with neat Victorian homes and interesting restaurants.
I pedaled another couple blocks east and uphill to Bates Avenue and Euclid. There proudly stood a lovely Arts and Crafts building, the former St. Paul Holman Memorial United Methodist Church. The stone, brick and wood structure was built in 1904 or ’05, depending upon the source.
The one-time church was remodeled into the seven unit the Ecclesia Condominiums sometime after the congregation’s 1979 merger with Mounds Park United Methodist Church.
The Euclid View Flats Apartments at 234-238 Bates Avenue, on the southeast corner of the same intersection, is historically intertwined with the growth and subsequent decline of Dayton’s Bluff. As the neighborhood grew, some large Victorian homes sprung up (many of which remain.) But more modest single family homes were common as well. In the mid-1890s, only about 1.5 percent of the city’s housing stock was apartments, according to Saint Paul Historical, and those were almost always for lower-income people.
Built in 1888, the Euclid View Apartments came as a response to a population boom and resulting housing shortage in Saint Paul. The 12-unit apartments filled an unusual niche’ –– middle-class people who didn’t want to purchase a home.
The 12 apartments within Euclid View Flats were split during the Great Depression, creating 24 smaller but more affordable units. After World War II veterans and their families took up residence there.
Over the next 20-plus years, the building, and to an extent, the neighborhood, began a slow decline as companies like Whirlpool, Hamm’s and 3M –– and as many as 10,000 good-paying jobs –– left the East Side. Euclid View Apartments faced a similar fate as the neighborhood. A StarTribune article from August 2013 described the building as “a poster child for the decline of the neighborhood’s fortunes in the postwar years.”
The bank repossessed the Euclid View apartment building late in 2010 and the city of Saint Paul purchased it in 2011. The building remained vacant for most of the decade, until completion of a total interior renovation that included returning to 12 apartments. While public and private sector efforts to bring good jobs back to the area continue, at least the end of the Euclid View story is happier.
A mere block away, the house at 856 Euclid Street, built in 1888, sits not on Euclid but on the intersection of Maple Street and the alley behind Euclid. The front of the house faces the alley! Finding quirks like this are part of the fun in doing this blog.
Traveling northward along Forest Street, the spirit moved me to hang a left on Fifth (or 5th) Street East where I encountered a couple of notable homes, 925 and 923 Fifth Street.
Across the street and at the end of the same block, at 600 Mendota Street, another church converted to apartments. Opened in 1891, the First German Baptist Church, not coincidentally catered to German-speaking Baptist immigrants. In 1941 congregants changed the church name to Dayton’s Bluff Baptist, perhaps as a nod to the addition of members of other ethnic groups, or the U.S. entrance into World War II.
The third and final repurposed church of this ride sits at 754-758 4th Street East. The limestone structure served as St. Peter’s Protestant Episcopal Church from its 1888 construction until the 1960s or ‘70s. The conversion into housing occurred sometime in the ‘70s. Ramsey County tax records indicate it is a single family home.
On the north side of 4th Street a Victorian house with great potential sat in the midst of renovation atop the hill at 767 4th Street East.
Just south of 767 4th is an unusual and apparently long-standing triangular convergence of streets. An aerial shot (below) clearly shows how 3rd Street East and Arcade Street intersect at a 90 degree angle to form two sides of the triangle. A separate, truncated piece of 3rd creates the final side slightly to the north.
My assumption was that 3rd Street had been rerouted slightly in the mid-to-late 20th century causing the unusual street alignment and land triangle.
However, I found a triangle involving the same streets visible on the 1922 map (below.) On that map the land has a name –– “Arcade Triangle.” The 1884 map of Saint Paul also showed said triangle, though unnamed, shattering my hypothesis of how it came into existence.
Another unanticipated revelation is that the land triangle has a city-assigned address –– 815 3rd Street East! A quick visit to the Ramsey County website confirms the address, that the .09 acre (3,852 square foot) property is zoned residential and is in fact vacant.
And the oddities involving this sliver of land continue. Several online real estate databases listed 815 3rd Street East as having a 448 square foot structure with one bedroom and five bathrooms! Unless the tree doubles as a building, those databases are obviously mistaken. One site correctly listed the property as a lot and included a photo. I have many questions about this property so I tried to reach the owner. Unfortunately, those efforts were not successful.
From the “Arcade Triangle” I rode south for a block to Conway Street, turned east and pedaled two blocks to the intersection of Conway and Forest Street. There I savored the view of the late September sun piercing through the tree canopy, and the long shadows scattered onto Conway Street.
At Forest and Margaret Streets I stopped at a church building that remains a church.
Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church, 655 Forest Street, has served Saint Paul’s East Side from this spot since 1887, according to the church website. Services were conducted in German for the first 15 years of the church’s existence, until 1903 when English services were added.
Noted French-born architect Emanuel Masqueray designed Bethlehem Lutheran. Masqueray’s signature is the large, round, multi-faceted window, which is prominent at Bethlehem Lutheran and many of his other churches. He’s better known for his Catholic church designs, including the Saint Paul Cathedral, Church of St. Louis, King of France in Downtown Saint Paul, the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis and the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas on the University of St. Thomas campus.
With the stop at Bethlehem Lutheran complete I started back east via Margaret Street to Arcade. The great Dad’s Root Beer sign on the one-time superette interested me so I shot some pics.
At this point, I concluded the exploration for this ride. I took much the same route back through Lowertown and Downtown and especially enjoyed cruising down the Kellogg/3rd Street Bridge from Dayton’s Bluff.