Summit Avenue

Summit Avenue is a street in St. Paul, Minnesota, known for having the longest stretch of Victorian homes in the country. It also features a number of historic churches, synagogues, and schools. The street, which starts just west of downtown, continues west for 4.5 miles to the Mississippi River to where Saint Paul meets Minneapolis. Other cities have similar streets, such as Fifth Avenue in New York City; however, Summit Avenue is notable for having preserved its historic character and mix of buildings, as compared to the other examples. The Avenue forms part of two National Historic Districts and was named in 2008 as one of the nation’s “10 Great Streets” by the American Planning Association. Notable critics of the district, however, included none other than Frank Lloyd Wright (who claimed that Summit Avenue is “the worst collection of architecture in the world”, mainly because the architecture copied design styles from Europe, rather than attempting to find an original American aesthetic) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (who referred to the area as “a mausoleum of American architectural monstrosities”).

The history of Summit Avenue dates back to the early 1850s. However, it didn’t begin to grow until the 1880s, after the American Civil War, especially after city water service was provided in 1884 and a cable car line was built on nearby Selby Avenue in 1887, which provided improved access to downtown. Edward Duffield Neill owned the first house on Summit Avenue, in a location now occupied by the James J. Hill House, one of three National Historic Landmarks located on, or near, Summit Avenue. The other two are the F. Scott Fitzgerald House (599 Summit) and the Frank B. Kellogg House (633 Fairmount Ave., is just south of Summit).

A number of other buildings on Summit are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including:

  • The Cathedral of Saint Paul (201 Summit)
  • Burbank–Livingston–Griggs House (432 Summit)
  • Minnesota Governor’s Residence (1006 Summit)
  • Pierce and Walter Butler House (1345-1347 Summit)
  • Dr. Ward Beebe House (2022 Summit)

Other notable buildings include:

  • Germanic-American Institute (301 Summit)
  • University Club of St. Paul (420 Summit)
  • Mitchell Hamline School of Law (875 Summit)
  • Mount Zion Temple (1300 Summit)
  • Saint Paul Seminary (2260 Summit)
  • Macalester College (various buildings between Snelling and Cambridge Avenues)
  • University of St. Thomas (various buildings between Cleveland and Cretin Avenues)
  • Visited: Many times since the 1970s

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