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Minnesota Historical Society Podcast Tours

February 26, 2009

001.03 - 432 Summit Ave: Burbank Livingston Griggs house

Filed under: Summit Avenue — admin @ 8:32 am

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We’re standing on the sidewalk, in front of 432 Summit, looking up the walk to the second oldest house still standing on Summit Avenue. When it was built in 1862, there was a hotel across the street on the site of Lookout Park, where we started, and there were a total of six other houses on Summit Avenue. This house was here for fifty years before the University Club next door was built!

The house was built with the latest technology of the time, including gas lighting and hot and cold running water, and cost $22,000 to construct in 1862. The original owner, James Burbank, was a transportation entrepreneur, involved with steamboats and stagecoaches, as well as other business ventures. Today the house is frequently referred to as the Burbank Livingstone Griggs house, named after three of the earliest residents of the house.

Architecturally, the house is considered to be in the Italian villa style. Looking at the house, one of the first features of the style is the low-pitched roof, low-pitched meaning that the roof is not very steep. Also you can see decorative brackets, what look like supports just under the roof. Another feature you notice instantly is the cupola, right in the center of the roof. A few changes have been made to the outside of the house over the years, including multiple versions of the front porch, and the addition of the three beautiful round-topped windows to the right of the door in 1884. However, the most extensive changes cannot be seen from the outside. In 1925, Mary Livingston Griggs, the fifth owner of the house, began to make significant changes inside. Mary wanted her house to have not only European influence, but European decorations. She purchased actual rooms from French and Italian houses that were being demolished, installing literally everything, from the furniture, fixtures, wall coverings, and so forth into the house – most of which are now believed to be forgeries. Can you imagine this house, with each room representing another country? In the 1930s, she added an art deco ballroom in the basement, said to be for her teenage daughter’s birthday party – wouldn’t you love to be her!

In a moment we’ll proceed to your right. Feel free to start walking. You’ll notice, just to the right of the Livingston Burbank house, a little alley-like street called Summit Court. We’re not going this way, but make sure to explore it on your own. This is one of my favorite spots in Saint Paul, hidden away behind the houses on Summit Avenue. Let’s move on, take your time, and I’ll see you again at 516 Summit, a yellow brick house on the corner of Summit and Heather. If you’re counting, it’ll be the 8th house on your left. While you’re walking, check out the houses in between. See if you can name any aspects of the styles we’ve learned so far…

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