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Minnesota Historical Society Podcast Tours

February 24, 2009

001.05 - 590 Summit Ave

Filed under: Summit Avenue — admin @ 8:43 am

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If you’re taking this tour on foot, to get the best view of 590 Summit I recommend that you stand a little to the left of the house, so you’re able to see the side of the house and the Japanese-inspired gardens.

Now, you might think that this house looks much more modern than many houses we’ve discussed and passed so far on Summit Avenue, but in fact it was constructed in 1913 - the same year as the University Club and the year before our previous stop at 516 Summit. Like most houses on Summit, this home was designed by an architect - actually, a pair of architects, and their firm is still around today as Ellerbe Becket. Here in St. Paul, you can see a recent example of their work at the Science Museum of Minnesota - they designed the Omnitheater/IMAX double screen there - one of my favorite movie theaters in town!

But back to the house. One of the features causing it to look more modern is the lack of ornamentation. Take a look - there isn’t any carving, there aren’t any pillars, there aren’t any decorative brackets. Instead, this house is built in a style known as the Prairie Style, best known by the work of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. This style was designed to reflect the Midwestern prairie terrain, with a horizontal emphasis. As you look at this house, you will notice the straight lines throughout the house - primarily horizontal. Look again and you notice the lack of curves. One of my favorite features on this house is the dark red trim around the windows, another feature of many Prairie-style houses. I particularly like the way it pops with the green of the garden. The Prairie style was gaining momentum in the Twin Cities around this time, the early 1910s, but you will find very few houses in the Prairie style along the 4 ½ mile length of Summit Avenue - and this is the only one we’ll see on our tour today.

Our next stop is certainly not the only one we’ll see today -it’s an apartment building. I’ll tell you a little more about the history of apartments on Summit Avenue when I meet you next in front of 610 Summit Avenue.

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AIA Guide to St. Paul's Summit Avenue and Hill District