The landmark Saint Paul Hotel was built in 1910, during the so-called “First Great Age” of skyscraper construction. At the time, the Renaissance revival-style building was one of the most prominent in the city, earning it the nickname “St. Paul’s Million-Dollar Hotel.” Lucius Pond Ordway, president of the fledgling Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (now known as 3M), offered to finance the hotel with $1 million of his own money if the community would match his investment. Furnishings were expected to cost another quarter million. It was designed by the then-local architectural firm of Reed and Stem, which was later involved in building New York City’s Grand Central Station. Built using a steel frame with a brick and limestone exterior cladding, the hotel was claimed to be “absolutely fireproof” once completed.
Each of the hotel’s 300 rooms included a private bath and an outside view of either a main street or Rice Park. A 3-story annex was also added to house “sample rooms” for traveling sales reps which were segregated from the main hotel and finished especially for this usage. These rooms functioned as a regular hotel room for the salesman, but with a display area used to show their products to local merchants.
Prior to its construction, the site had actually been the site of two other hotels — the 60-room Greenman House (1871-1878), which was destroyed by fire, and the larger Windsor Hotel, which was later torn down to make way for The Saint Paul Hotel. Closing in 1979 due to declining business, it was later renovated and reopened in 1982. During this time, the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, named after a donation from the same family as Lucius Pond Ordway, was constructed across from Rice Park facing the hotel. As of 2021, the hotel had 255 guest rooms and suites.
At the time of its opening, it was said the view of the Mississippi Valley from the hotel’s roof was better than from any other location except for the dome of the Minnesota State Capitol. The roof also featured the region’s first wireless station, in addition to a rooftop garden.
Prominent guests at the hotel have included the then-former president Theodore Roosevelt and the then-current president William Howard Taft, who attended a meeting here during the first year after its construction. Future guests would go on to include Gene Autry, Lawrence Welk, Luciano Pavarotti, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.
- Visited: multiple times since the 1980s