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Minnesota Historical Society Podcast Tours

February 25, 2009

001.04 - 516 Summit Ave

Filed under: Summit Avenue — admin @ 8:39 am

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We’re standing in front of 516 Summit, a little gem of a house that was built for a member of the Butler family, a family known locally for Butler Brothers construction, who among many other things built the MN State Capitol. This house was finished in 1914 – so if you’re tracking, the year after the University Club, the first building we saw today. This house is considered to be in the Italian Renaissance style. That style is very closely related to the Italian Villa style we just saw on the Burbank Livingston Griggs house – take a moment and see if you can spot any details of the Italian styles! I’ll give you a hint –look at the roof and you should see two features - the low-pitched roofline and the decorative brackets, both of which were introduced on our previous stop. A new feature, and a great word for Scrabble players, are the decorative white stone pieces you see wrapping around the corners of the house, called quoins, q-u-o-i-n-s. The yellow color of the brick, a more romantic color not seen very often on Summit Avenue, has caused at least one person to nickname this house the “lemon meringue” house.

For a brief time in 1917, author Sinclair Lewis lived in this house. Rumor had it he was working on a book on James J. Hill, but that book was never completed. [St. Paul is actually one of many towns that has claimed to be the fictional Zenith in Lewis’ work, Babbitt.] But Sinclair Lewis is not the only literary connection to Summit Avenue. F. Scott Fitzgerald had ties you’ll be hearing more about in a bit, as did the 1930’s screenwriter Donald Ogden Stewart. In more modern times, the Summit Avenue neighborhood has been home to playwright August Wilson, Minnesota author Patricia Hampl, and author and radio personality Garrison Keillor.

Well, it’s time to move on to our next stop. Enjoy the variety of styles of houses and apartments you’ll see on your way. I’ll meet you at 590 Summit Avenue.

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