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002.01 - Jeffers Petroglyphs: Site Manager Tom Sanders’ Welcome

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Jeffers Petroglyphs site manager, Tom Sanders, describes the beauty and changing flora of the prairie. The Jeffers Petroglyphs historic site is arguably one the most significant historic and cultural sites of its kind in the world. Its continued use over 9,000 years attests to its importance in traditional indigenous culture. The Jeffers Petroglyphs podcasts presents a variety of perspectives personal, archaeological, traditional, biological, and geological — in the voices of those who know the site well.

 
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002.02 - Jeffers Petroglyphs: Dakota Elder Carrie Schommer

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Dakota Elder Carrie Schommer, Upper Sioux, speaks in Dakota about the site and its meaning to her. The Jeffers Petroglyphs historic site is arguably one the most significant historic and cultural sites of its kind in the world. Its continued use over 9,000 years attests to its importance in traditional indigenous culture. The Jeffers Petroglyphs podcasts presents a variety of perspectives personal, archaeological, traditional, biological, and geological — in the voices of those who know the site well.

 
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002.03 - Jeffers Petroglyphs: Vernell Wabasha

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Vernell Wabasha, a Sioux Elder, discusses what the Petroglyphs mean to her. The Jeffers Petroglyphs historic site is arguably one the most significant historic and cultural sites of its kind in the world. Its continued use over 9,000 years attests to its importance in traditional indigenous culture. The Jeffers Petroglyphs podcasts presents a variety of perspectives personal, archaeological, traditional, biological, and geological — in the voices of those who know the site well.

 
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002.04 - Jeffers Petroglyphs: Dakota Elder Joe Williams relates a tradtional story, Nape

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Dakota Elder Joe Williams, Sisseton Wahpeton, relates a traditional story, Nape, or hand print, and its meaning to native people. The Jeffers Petroglyphs historic site is arguably one the most significant historic and cultural sites of its kind in the world. Its continued use over 9,000 years attests to its importance in traditional indigenous culture. The Jeffers Petroglyphs podcasts presents a variety of perspectives personal, archaeological, traditional, biological, and geological — in the voices of those who know the site well.

 
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002.05 - Jeffers Petroglyphs: Discussion by geologist, Mark Jirsa

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

Geologist Mark Jirsa, describes the geological significance of the Sioux quartzite ridge of southwestern Minnesota. The Jeffers Petroglyphs historic site is arguably one the most significant historic and cultural sites of its kind in the world. Its continued use over 9,000 years attests to its importance in traditional indigenous culture. The Jeffers Petroglyphs podcasts presents a variety of perspectives personal, archaeological, traditional, biological, and geological — in the voices of those who know the site well.

 
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001.01 - Summit Avenue Walking Tour: Introduction

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

 
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Welcome to Summit Avenue. An impressive street filled with impressive homes - as well as some fabulous greenspaces and beautiful churches. We’ll begin in the little park, known as Lookout Park, on the corner of Summit, between Western and Arundel. Once we get moving, I’ll let you know when we’re going to move onto the next stop, what the address of that stop will be, and mention anything else you might want to notice as you walk along. Just press pause whenever you need a little time and follow along with the map. Remember, this tour moves geographically, not chronologically. The houses that you see on Summit today are a mixture of styles and eras. They were built between 1860 and 1960, so don’t fool yourself - in some cases, neighbors would have had to step over the hydrangeas and through a time warp to borrow that cup of sugar.

If you’re in the park, I’ll let you in on a little history secret. The park where we’re standing, known as Lookout Park, has been a public park since the late 1800s -in fact, this was one of the first public parks in St. Paul. However, around one hundred and fifty years ago, a hotel was built into the side of the hill - Carpenter’s Hotel. St. Paul was the head of the navigable part of the Mississippi River, so many people getting off the steamboats needed a place to stay. But this hotel, away from the river, might have been more of a destination, overlooking the river valley below. By the 1890s, the hotel had been torn down and it’s been a public park ever since. The sculpture of an eagle that you see was originally on the New York Life Insurance Company, for a brief time graced a parking garage, and has been in Lookout Park since the early part of this century.

We’re standing at one of the best views along Summit Avenue. We think it’s a perfect place to begin. Take a moment to just stand still. Take a deep breath. Look around. What do you see? See the bluffs in the distance? The big trees along the avenue? The pedestrians, joggers, cars, homes? The corner where we are standing, with Ramsey Hill coming up to meet Summit Avenue, has seen a lot of activity over the past 100 years. Since the beginning, Summit Avenue and the neighboring streets were a social area -the people who lived here worked together, socialized together, went to church together, and their children married one another, and frequently they moved into other homes in the area. So as you stand here, imagine all the activity that this corner has seen over the decades. All the comings and goings, rushings and strollings, heart breaks and first kisses that make up the daily lives of Saint Paul residents along Summit. It’s a lot like our own lives… but maybe just a little more decadent.

Find where you are again, if you’ve wandered off. We’ll be heading West. Towards Dale Street. Away from downtown. And our first official stop will be just across the street on the corner of Summit and Ramsey Street at 420 Summit. Press ahead to the next track when you’re ready. I recommend you cross the Ramsey Street to get a better, up-front view. See you there!

001.02 - 420 Summit Ave: University Club

Friday, February 27th, 2009

 
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Just in front of you, you can see the University Club, situated at a prime location on the corner of Ramsey Hill and Summit Avenue, with a great view out the back windows over the river valley. This building was designed by Reed and Stem in 1913 – the same architecture firm that designed the St. Paul Hotel and who co-designed Grand Central Terminal in New York City. Check out the front: it has a center entrance with two large wings to either side. That style is Tudor Revival. There are three elements of this style you can see. First, the steep roof line. Second, the half-timbered exteriors, the section of white walls accented with brown vertical lines, which would have originally been wood in Tudor England. Third, the gables, the line of the roof that looks like an upside-down V in the center and on the sides of the building.

This men’s club was founded by many of the second-generation sons on Summit Avenue. The story for many families on Summit was that the initial wealth to buy a home on the Avenue was earned through hard work, frequently by men without a college or even a high school degree. Anxious for their sons to have a good education, many were sent off to boarding schools and universities out east, where University Clubs were all the rage. Returning to St. Paul, they decided to build their own University Club – to which, ironically, their fathers would not have been allowed membership, not possessing university degrees. Today, people without university degrees can also become members through a special application, and women are allowed to be members, too!

Take a look next door. That’s where we’re headed. 432 Summit Ave, also known as the Livingston Griggs House. Press on to track 3!

001.03 - 432 Summit Ave: Burbank Livingston Griggs house

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

 
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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…

001.04 - 516 Summit Ave

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

 
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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.

001.05 - 590 Summit Ave

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

 
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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.


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