July 15, 2023

Summit Hill, West Side

19.25 miles

Scientific study of ash trees
This contraption is part of a scientific study of ash trees and how climate change and other factors affect urban nature.

Across the River

Downtown from High Bridge Overlook
The view from the High Bridge Overlook never disappoints, even on a smoky summer day.

The half-acre Alice Park, a short block off Cherokee Avenue and the bluff, is surrounded by Alice Street and the horseshoe-shaped Alice Court. Despite regular rides along Cherokee, George Street and other nearby thoroughfares, this was my visit to any of “the Alices.”

Alice Park
While small, Alice Park is literally an island of green. Alice Street is in the foreground.
Six homes on Alice Court
Only six homes have Alice Court addresses. The two oldest were built in 1879 and the newest went up in 1913.
Alice Street
Alice Street, looking southeast toward Ohio Street. Alice Court is to the far right.

Meanwhile, a couple of blocks east of “the Alices” a unicorn lounged in the yard at 248 Winifred Street.

Unicorn at 248 Winifred
Who says unicorns don’t exist? They do at 248 Winifred Street at Charlton Street.

Another two blocks east I stumbled upon a property decorated, and I mean DECORATED, with metal wall art.

Metal wall art 173 Robie Street.
Metal wall art is mounted on the front and side of 173 Robie Street.
More metal wall art
Metal wall art is more prevalent on the fence at 173 Robie.

The more I looked, the more metal art signs I saw. The amazing display at 173 Robie Street screamed “story” to me. I learned from two of the home’s occupants – the husband and son – that their wife/mother Cheryl, the architect of the extensive wall art, was working until late afternoon. Obviously I shall return!

Hills and More Hills

Saint Paul has an abundance of hills. It’s not San Francisco or Denver hilly, with elevation changes of 2,500 feet and 2,900 feet respectively. The Capitol City’s 420 foot difference between high and low points seems small but the undulation of the Saint Paul’s terrain nevertheless provides a distinctly different and challenging workout, at least for me.

The best-known route to the West Side is via Smith Avenue over the High Bridge. In fact, the elevation of nearly all of the West Side grows significantly as one moves south from the river bluff toward the Saint Paul-West St. Paul border(see the topographic map above). Such is the case with the intersection of Page and Bellows Streets.

Page Avenue looking west from Bellows Street.
Going up! Page Street looking west from the intersection with Bellows Street.
Bellows Street at Page, looking north.
Going down! Bellows Street at Page, looking north.
Sidney Street and Dodd Road.
The Saint Paul sign at the intersection of Sidney Street and Dodd Road. marks one of the borders with West St. Paul.
Bidwell Street ends at another section of the border of Saint Paul and West St. Paul.
thicket at 767 Winslow Avenue
The lush thicket at 767 Winslow Avenue is a block east as the crow flies of where Bidwell Street ends.

The 40 acre notch

If you’ve ever studied a map of the West Side, you’ve likely seen the odd notch in the Saint Paul-West St. Paul border (below). Turns out this spot is more commonly called the “Forty Acres.”

The odd border came to be in 1874, when residents of the City of Saint Paul and West St. Paul Township agreed to let Saint Paul annex a sizable section of the township. The annexation created Saint Paul’s West Side by shifting the Saint Paul (and the Ramsey-Dakota County) border south from the Mississippi River to Annapolis Street.

1869 map of Saint Paul
The Mississippi River was the southern border of Saint Paul until 1874 as this Rice & Bell’s Counting House Map from 1869 shows. The Barry Lawrence Ruderman Map Collection; Stanford University

A major dilemma, however, was the location of the home of the Dakota County superintendent of schools. Philip Crowley lived at 763 Dodd Road and under the annexation, Crowley’s home and property were no longer in Dakota County, a requirement of his job. The parties solved the problem by adjusting the border northward around Crowley’s 40 acre property, keeping it within Dakota County.

A chance meeting with the friendly neighborhood postal carrier is how I learned some valuable information about the Forty Acres, including the existence of a commemorative historical marker nearby in West St. Paul.

marker commemorating the Forty Acres
On the lower left is a marker commemorating the Forty Acres of West St. Paul. It was dedicated in the southern part of Kennedy Park in 1989. The street near the upper right corner is where the earlier photo of Bidwell Street in Saint Paul was taken.
A close look at the Forty (or 40) Acre marker in Kennedy Park.

I next paused less than two blocks away, at the locale that caused the creation of the Forty Acres, the Philip Crowley House at 763 Dodd Road.

The Philip Crowley Home at 763 Dodd Road, West St. Paul.
The Philip Crowley Home at 763 Dodd Road, West St. Paul.

Although unplanned, I spent about an hour exploring the Forty Acres a.k.a. the notch in the border and the surrounding area.

Return to Saint Paul

I came to the unusual corner of Dodd Road, Winslow Street and Morton Avenue where several trees, a couple of bushes, a wood fence and two substantial rocks masked some kind of structure.

Wood and foliage fences
Two fences, one of foliage and another of wood, screen the property at 89 Morton Street.

Continuing east on Morton about 50 feet, the trees gave way and there appeared a most unusual house geodesic dome house!

The entrance to the geodesic dome house property at 89 Morton Street West.

No one was outside at 89 Morton and I got no response to my knock on the door so I resolved to stop by later on this tour.

From Morton Street, I took a closer look at the unconventional Dodd-Winslow-Morton intersection.

Dodd Road, Winslow Avenue and Morton Street
The unusual intersection of Dodd Road, Winslow Avenue and Morton Street. Google Maps

The strange alignment of the two streets that cross Dodd — Winslow and Morton — was undoubtedly intentional; to reduce collisions at what was, according to old maps, a six-way intersection.

Hall Avenue at Annapolis
Hall Avenue at Annapolis, the southern border of Saint Paul.

Continuing east and south for about nine blocks, I biked onto Hall Avenue, and a rare couple blocks with no elevation change.

The 800 block of Hall Avenue was surprisingly lacking in hills.
The 800 block of Hall Avenue was surprisingly lacking in hills.

The flat land didn’t last. Not two blocks away, on Wyoming Street West, the hills resumed.

76 Wyoming Street dates back to 1885.
The large home at 76 Wyoming Street dates back to 1885.

Continuing to flit about the West Side, I found myself at the intersection of Belvidere Street and Gorman Avenue. Gorman runs through parts of the West Side in fits and starts, and the short gravel segment just off Belvidere Street is the most pronounced example.

Gorman Ave
Just two homes are on the extremely abbreviated section of Gorman Avenue.
The driveway to the larger of the two homes, 773, is longer than the portion of Gorman Avenue on which it is located.

Moving east back to Hall Avenue, this time in the 700 block, I turned north, and a block later, east onto a private road mundanely dubbed City View Lane.

Ramsey County records indicate the City View addition was built in 2005.
Townhomes on City View Lane.
Twelve single family townhomes line the south side of City View Lane.

The geodesic dome house

From City View Lane a zig-zagging trajectory took me briefly onto Hall Avenue again, to Curtice Street next, then Stryker Avenue, to Sidney Street, to Winslow Avenue before finally reappearing at the geodesic dome house at 89 Morton. This time, the homeowner was outside tending to his flourishing gardens as Mexican music quietly glided from a speaker on the patio. Paul said he purchased the house in 2016. “I actually started doing some repairs on the house for my brother-in-law and then he talked me into buying it.”

Paul on his deck
Paul stands on the flower-laden deck of his home at 89 Morton Street.

Although relatively new to Morton Street, Paul is a lifetime West Sider. He grew up on the long-lost West Side Flats.

West Side Flats in 1953
In this 1953 aerial photo of the West Side Flats, the mix of industrial buildings and homes is visible. The Wabasha Street Bridge is on the right and the Robert Street Bridge is on the left. American Hoist and Derrick had buildings on both sides of Wabasha along the river. Raspberry Island is in the lower center. MNHS and Mnopedia
1952 flooding of
When the Mississippi River flooded water would inundate the Flats. While not an annual spring occurrence, it happened frequently enough for the city to finally condemn the West Side Flats. In this 1952 photo, water crept up to homes on Tennessee Street. MnHS and MNopedia

“The area where I was born, I think it was about half a block away from Lafayette Bridge. So, between Lafayette and Robert Street, that was the area where we grew up.” Paul and his family left the Flats around 1960 after the city condemned the area and began tearing down homes.

89 Morton St.
A more complete look at the dome home at 89 Morton Street.

The architecture of Paul’s home makes it rare, obviously. but so does its size — about 680 square feet (nearly three times smaller than the average Minnesota home.) “There’s a loft to it, there’s a bathroom, living room and kitchen. So it’s a small space, but it’s all that I need. And the plan wasn’t for my mom to be here, but it ended up being that way, and it works for me. It works for my mom.” Paul told me.

The modest size of the house is advantageous during heating season, too. “We’re facing south so a lot of times we get enough sun here to heat the house. I can turn off the space heaters and stuff like that. I do run my air conditioner a lot during the summertime because it can get hotter inside than outside. Gotta keep it cool for mom. She’s 91 years old.”

With limited space in the house, no basement or garage, much of the exterior work Paul’s done is to boost storage. “I built that onto the carport, he said pointing at a cabinet. “There’s some storage there for hardware and stuff like that for building. I have another storage in the back that I built.”

The backyard storage shed Paul built.
The backyard storage shed Paul built.

Professionally, Paul is a landscaper and his talent is evident throughout his property. “I love gardening. I got that from my mom and dad.“

Flowers on deck
A few of the dozens of plants providing a kaleidoscope of hues and shapes on Paul’s deck and in his yard.

Paul continued, “My mom loves plants, so a lot of the stuff that I put is for her. Of course, all this here,” Paul said gesturing to the many flowers, “hummingbirds love that, so I put a bunch of petunias on there for them. I got that fountain running day and night. The birds love that.”

Paul's fountain attracts myriad of birds to the yard.
Paul’s fountain attracts myriad of birds to the yard.

Paul has many dozens of interesting perennial plants in pots that he shuttles in and out of his house as the seasons change. “That cactus, that goes in. That’s about 12 years old. That’s a pineapple. I got a aloe vera there. Those all go in the house. I got a camelina — that’s a plant from Mexico — up on top there with the red flowers. I got about 50 potted plants that I put in the house.”

Many of the perennials Paul has sit on the deck during the warm season.

Paul’s prowess with plants encompasses more than flowers. “I’ve got tomatoes in the front. I got tomatoes and peppers in the back. I got zucchini squash, cucumbers, onions, lettuce, carrots, tomatillos, raspberries, blueberries. I utilize the space.”

The backyard has a small patch of grass and is surrounded by more varieties of plants. Benches and chairs offer another place in which to sit.

Between the music (in Spanish) that played during my visit and plants that are native to Central America, I asked Paul about his connections to Mexico. He said his parents were both Mexican natives. After they retired they moved from Saint Paul to a farm in the Mexican state of Michoacán, about 230 miles west of Mexico City. “It was an avocado orchard; bananas, they had mangoes, they had coffee, they had everything you can think of. It was a hobby farm for my dad, He retired from here in 1978 and bought the farm in 1979.”

Paul also told me, “I think he worked harder down there than he did up here, but it was a project of love that was from the heart. That’s something that he always wanted since a kid, since he moved up here.”

His folks weren’t totally on their own at the farm, according to Paul. “I’d go down there every winter for maybe 15 or 20 years and work and help them out.”

Although the Michoacán farm has been sold and Paul and his mother no longer travel there, they enjoy pleasant recollections of those years thanks to the appearance and fragrances of the flowers and plants he grows.


  1. I enjoy reading your posts Wolfie however, current settings ask for me to sign up which I have already done. It would be great if you could make it easier for folks to enjoy!

    1. Hi Nick. Thanks very much for reading. I will look into why you are being asked to sign up after you’ve already done so. Thanks for letting me know about this glitch.

  2. As always I love reading your blog. I always wondered about that house. It makes me wonder if you’d seen the below-street level dome house in Dayton’s Bluff, another house I’ve always wondered about.

    1. Thank you CJ. I’m not familiar with the Dayton’s Bluff dome house. Do you recall where it is? I’ll check it out in spring. I did my last ‘blog’ ride last Monday and am taking my bike in for a tuneup this week.

  3. As an old time west sider I enjoyed this very much.

    FYI, the bridge on the left of the West Side Flats photo is the Robert Street bridge. The Wabasha bridge is on the right of the photo.

    1. Hi Paul. Thank your for reading the post about the West Side. I also appreciate you correcting my wrong ID of the two bridges.

      Do you have any interesting stories about growing up on the West Side you’d like to share with me? I’m always interested.

    2. Hi Paul. Thanks for correcting my error and for taking the time to comment. If you have any stories about the old days on the West Side that you’d like to tell please let me know.

  4. Thank you for sharing so much lovely information and details about our great City! Clearly you put a lot of energy into these posts – and I, for one, am very appreciative.
    All the best to you.

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