August 2019 – Neighborhoods

RCHS Facebook Posts from August 2019 – Ramsey County Neighborhoods

Explore history with these snippets from past Facebook posts from the RCHS page.

Posts, event announcements, etc. have been edited for clarity and relevance.

This month we’re going to explore some of the neighborhoods that have made St. Paul and Ramsey County such a dynamic metropolitan area. There is also information on Swede Hollow and one of Saint Paul’s Jewish neighborhoods on the June 2019 – Immigration page.

Featured image: Aerial view of Saint Paul, hand-colored photo with the caption, “Copyright 1904, F.L. Wright Photo.” From the RCHS Collection.

In 1916, approximately 650 families called the West Side home. The West Side of St. Paul was originally home to immigrants who supplied the unskilled labor to the breweries, foundries, quarries and various manufacturing firms who made the area attractive to immigrants from Europe. In the early part of the 20th century, immigrants from Mexico and Latin America joined the immigrants from Russia, Ireland, Syria and other European countries. The influx of immigrants and the changeover in the neighborhood as people moved up and out of their initial poverty meant that the West Side was not a planned neighborhood, but grew organically as people came and went. For more see the article here.
Image: West Side Bluff. From the RCHS Collection.

The Payne/Phalen neighborhood has been home to immigrants throughout much of Saint Paul’s history. The settlement of the neighborhood began in the 1850s when immigrants moved to the area in search of jobs. The first inhabitants were the Swedes who settled in Swede Hollow and gave the area its name. As they became more prosperous, these families moved up and out of the Hollow, settling around Payne/Phalen, establishing businesses and homes. As they later moved out, they set a pattern that continued for decades – immigrants moving into Swede Hollow – including Polish, Italian and Mexican immigrants – then as they became established, moving out to the East Side. The Payne/Phalen neighborhood is now home to Hmong, Karen and Somali immigrant families, who are establishing their own businesses. More info on Swede Hollow @
Image: Saint Paul from West Third, captioned “Ingersoll Photo., St. Paul.” From the RCHS Collection.

What is old can become new again. Take, for example, the Yoerg Brewing Company that recently re-opened in St. Paul’s Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood. This new brewery features beer that was first introduced in 1848 before Minnesota was even a state. German immigrant Anthony Yoerg opened a small brewery in St. Paul’s German Uppertown neighborhood near Seven Corners that today is home to the Xcel Energy Center. In 1871, Yoerg moved and expanded his brewery across the river along the bluffs at Ohio and Ethel Street in the town’s West Side neighborhood. The brewery survived Prohibition by serving soft drinks but closed its doors in 1952 after 103 years. Yoerg was history…until now…! Get more info about the new Yoerg Brewing Company @  or learn about the original Yoerg Brewery and other neighborhood breweries @

From stone walls to playgrounds and park shelters to beaches, the New Deal’s imprint on our public landscape is indelible. Parks, trails, and recreation were priorities for the New Deal the 1930s. There are still questions of who was allowed to take part in this work, and who was left behind, with young men of color often facing discrimination, separation from families, and more.  You can see the handiwork of New Deal era workers in parks in the Twin Cities, including Indian Mounds Regional Park and Phalen Regional Park.
Image: New Deal commemorative monument in Phalen Regional Park.

The Saint Anthony Park neighborhood is still home to one of three Carnegie libraries that are in Saint Paul. When the library was built in 1917, the residents of Saint Anthony Park were described as homeowners, many with education and skilled jobs. Homes were on the whole, single-family residences, spaced farther apart, with more green space. Many of these homes were built by prominent citizens. Residents had access to public transportation, public utilities such as electricity and sewage systems. The other two Carnegie libraries in Saint Paul are the West Side/Riverview Library and Arlington Hills, now the East Side Freedom Library. You can find more at @ .
Image: St. Anthony Library from the RCHS Collection.

Minnesota’s great department store were the foundation of the glory days of shopping and social life, esp. in the Twin Cities. Thank You for Shopping by author Kristal Leebrick discuss the history and stories behind Minnesota’s great department stores. Throughout the twentieth century, they ruled the retail landscapes of downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul and offered more than just shopping. From the legendary Dayton’s Christmas and spring flower displays, to celebrating a special occasion at Schuneman’s River Room, the department store was a destination for generations of Minnesotans, within the Twin Cities and beyond.

Upper Levee Neighborhood

For more, see the Ramsey County History magazine article.

At the bottom of Chestnut Street, under the shadow of the High Bridge, was one of Saint Paul’s oldest neighborhoods, known as the Upper Levee. Pierre “Pigs Eye” Parrant built his house & whisky shack at the mouth of Fountain Cave near there in 1838, and soon after that, a slice of land was occupied by rough shacks and cabins, built by the early French, German, Irish and Polish settlers and traders. During the 1880s and 1890s, these northern European settlers were joined by immigrants from southern Europe, mostly Italians, who were looking for shelter from the unaccustomed cold of Minnesota winters. At its peak, about 500 people called the Upper Levee home. On August 20th, 1904, residents of the Upper Levee were frightened from their homes by high winds that caused the High Bridge overhead to start swaying. “It was waving like a bird,” Natal Tallarico told the Paul Pioneer Press in April, 1959. The huge bridge eventually came crashing down, flattening some of the houses.
Images: Fountain Cave, from Edward A. Bromley, and the Italian community as seen from High Bridge in 1952. From the RCHS Collection.

By about 1910, some 60 mostly Italian families were living on the Upper Levee, now known as “Little Italy,” shaping the neighborhood for decades to come. The neighborhood was extremely poor, with terrible living conditions. In 1917 it was declared one of the worst in the city. There were no churches, schools, or parks, and it was reported that residents sometimes had to fight over driftwood to heat their homes. Many of the residents of the Upper Levee had market gardens, livestock, poultry and ducks, giving the neighborhood a distinctly rural feel. During the next 40 years, while conditions slowly improved, the neighborhood retained its rural feel. But in 1952, the river flooded, destroying many homes that were built on unstable fill. In 1957, the city purchased the land, and turned it into an industrial area. By the great flood of 1965, there were no residences or people living on the Upper Levee, a fact that probably saved many lives.
Image: Upper Levee’s Mill Street around 1937.

Mexican-American Neighborhoods in Saint Paul

For more see, “Living la Vida en Ramsey County: A Journey through Ramsey County’s Mexican Past
” by Leila Renee Albert at

The history of the Hispanic neighborhoods in Saint Paul, like District del Sol, is well documented. Mexican and Hispanic neighborhoods began growing during the late 1890s due to the passing of the Dingley Act in 1897, which raised tariffs on sugar and other imports. These tariffs made it economically viable for Minnesota farmers to grow sugar beets, which required seasonal workers. These workers came up from Mexico and Latin America, worked in the fields, in the stockyards and with the railroad. Following the patterns of earlier immigrants, these workers first settled in neighborhoods like Swede Hollow and the West Side Flats, establishing homes and businesses, before moving into more prosperous neighborhoods.
Image: Villaume Co. lumber yard, Lower West Side. From the RCHS Collections.

Some of the Mexican families who settled in Saint Paul were displaced from their homeland by the Mexican Revolution in the 1920s. However, not everything was easy in their new homes. During the Great Depression, persons of Mexican descent were discriminated against, left out of economic recovery efforts, overlooked for jobs, and even forceably removed from their homes and neighborhoods. In November of 1932, about 15% of the Mexican population in Saint Paul were forced onto a train, and sent south back to Mexico.
Image: Converted from a railroad boxcar, this chapel in Swede Hollow served the Mexican-American community on the East Side for many years.

The West Side Flats became the setting for the first Mexican mission in St. Paul, and in all of Minnesota. In 1931, the Guild of Catholic Women, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Mexican families built a mission which was first located in a storefront on Wabasha Avenue. Eventually this small mission became Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe) Parish, which is still active today. Unfortunately, the West Side Flats was prone to flooding and was considered by officials to be unlivable. Residents were forced out, often undercompensated for their homes and business, and the neighborhood was turned into an industrial park. But the resilience of these Mexican-American families was illustrated by the establishment of District del Sol on the West Side and by communities established on St. Paul’s East Side, in Frogtown and Summit Avenue, and throughout Ramsey County, the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota.
Images: Our Lady of Guadalupe circa 1950, located at 186 East Fairfield Avenue, St. Paul, and looking north on a flooded Robert Street from the West Side Flat, circa 1952. From the RCHS Collection.


Back to History Tidbits main page.

If you are enjoying our expanded historical content, please consider becoming a member.

For questions or more information about membership, our Ramsey County History magazine, or research, please Contact Us.

We’d like to thank our partner, Augeo Marketing, for their sponsorship and assistance with our Facebook posts.