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All about Saint Paul, MN
Saint Paul is the capital of the U.S. state of Minnesota and the county seat of Ramsey County. Historically a major railroad and commercial center for the Upper Midwest, the decline of those industries in the last half of the 20th century has changed the local economy and cultural identity of the city. One of the oldest cities in Minnesota, Saint Paul is a grouping of urban villages and historic neighborhoods along the Mississippi River.
As of 2020, its population was 311,527, making it the 63rd-largest city in the United States, the 11th-most populous in the Midwest, and the 20th most densely populated large city (among cities with a population of more than 250,000) in the nation. Most of the city lies east of the Mississippi River at the confluence with the Minnesota River. Minneapolis, the state’s largest city, is mostly across the Mississippi River to the west. Together, they are known as the “Twin Cities”. They are the core of Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area, home to nearly 3.7 million and the third-largest in the Midwest.
The Legislative Assembly of the Minnesota Territory established the Town of St. Paul as its capital near existing Dakota Sioux settlements in November 1849. It remained a town until 1854. The Dakota name for where Saint Paul is situated is “Imnizaska” for the “white rock” bluffs along the river. The city is known for the Xcel Energy Center, home to the Minnesota Wild, and Allianz Field, which is the home of the Minnesota United. Regionally, it is known for the Science Museum of Minnesota. As a business area of the Upper Midwest, it is the headquarters of companies such as Ecolab. Saint Paul and Minneapolis are also known for their high literacy rate.
History of Saint Paul, MN
Burial mounds in present-day Indian Mounds Park suggest the area was inhabited by the Hopewell Native Americans about 2,000 years ago. From the early 17th century to 1837, the Mdewakanton Dakota, a tribe of the Sioux, lived near the mounds after being displaced from their ancestral grounds by Mille Lacs Lake from advancing Ojibwe. The Dakota called the area Imniza-Ska (“white cliffs”) for its exposed white sandstone cliffs on the river’s eastern side. The Imniza-Ska were full of caves that were useful to the Dakota. The explorer Jonathan Carver documented the historic Wakan tipi in the bluff below the burial mounds in 1767. In the Menominee language St. Paul was called Sāēnepān-Menīkān, which means “ribbon, silk or satin village”, suggesting its role in trade throughout the region after the introduction of European goods.
After the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, U.S Army Lieutenant Zebulon Pike negotiated approximately 100,000 acres (40,000 ha; 160 sq mi) of land from the indigenous Dakota in 1805 to establish a fort. A military reservation was intended for the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers on both sides of the Mississippi up to Saint Anthony Falls. All of what is now the Highland park neighborhood was included in this. Pike planned a second military reservation at the confluence of the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers. In 1819, Fort Snelling was built at the Minnesota and Mississippi confluence. The 1837 Treaty with the Sioux ceded all tribal lands east of the Mississippi to the U.S. government. Chief Little Crow V moved his village, Kaposia, from south of Mounds Park across the river a few miles onto Dakota land. Fur traders, explorers, and settlers came to the area for the fort’s security. Many were French-Canadians who predated American pioneers by some time. A whiskey trade flourished among the squatters and the fort’s commander evicted them all from the fort’s reservation. Fur trader turned bootlegger “Pig’s Eye” Parrant, who set up business just outside the reservation, particularly irritated the commander. By the early 1840s, a community had developed nearby that locals called Pig’s Eye (French: L’Œil du Cochon) or Pig’s Eye Landing after Parrant’s popular tavern. In 1842, a raiding party of Ojibwe attacked the Kaposia encampment south of St. Paul. A battle ensued where a creek drained into wetlands two miles south of Wakan Tipi. The creek was thereafter called Battle Creek and is today parkland. In the 1840s-70s the Métis brought their oxen and Red River Carts down Kellogg Street to Lambert’s landing to send buffalo hides to market from the Red River of the North. St. Paul was the southern terminus of the Red River Trails. In 1840, Pierre Bottineau became a prominent resident with a claim near the settlement’s center.
Continued History of Saint Paul
In 1841, Catholic missionary Lucien Galtier was sent to minister to the French Canadians at Mendota. He had a chapel he named for St. Paul built on the bluff above the riverboat landing downriver from Fort Snelling. Galtier informed the settlers that they were to adopt the chapel’s name for the settlement and cease the use of “Pigs Eye”. In 1847, New York educator Harriet Bishop moved to the settlement and opened the city’s first school. The Minnesota Territory was created in 1849 with Saint Paul as the capital. The U.S. Army made the territory’s first improved road, Point Douglas Fort Ripley Military Road, in 1850. It passed through what became St. Paul neighborhoods. In 1857, the territorial legislature voted to move the capital to Saint Peter, but Joe Rolette, a territorial legislator, stole the text of the bill and went into hiding, preventing the move.
The year 1858 saw more than 1,000 steamboats service Saint Paul, making it a gateway for settlers to the Minnesota frontier or Dakota Territory. Geography was a primary reason the city became a transportation hub. The location was the last good point to land riverboats coming upriver due to the river valley’s topography. For a time, Saint Paul was called “The Last City of the East.” Fort Snelling was important to St. Paul from the start. Direct access from St. Paul did not happen until the 7th bridge was built in 1880. Before that, there was a cable ferry crossing dating to at latest the 1840s. Once streetcars appeared, a new bridge to St. Paul was built in 1904. Until the town built its first jail the fort’s brig served St. Paul. Industrialist James J. Hill founded his railroad empire in St. Paul. The Great Northern Railway and the Northern Pacific Railway were both headquartered in St. Paul until they merged with the Burlington Northern. Today they are part of the BNSF Railway.
On August 20, 1904, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes damaged hundreds of downtown buildings, causing $1.78 million ($51.27 million today) in damages and ripping spans from the High Bridge. During the 1960s, in conjunction with urban renewal, Saint Paul razed neighborhoods west of downtown for the creation of the interstate freeway system. From 1959 to 1961, the Rondo Neighborhood was demolished for the construction of Interstate 94. The loss of that African American enclave brought attention to racial segregationand unequal housing in northern cities. The annual Rondo Days celebration commemorates the African American community.
Downtown St. Paul had skyscraper-building booms beginning in the 1970s. Because the city center is directly beneath the flight path into the airport across the river there is a height restriction for all construction. The tallest buildings, such as Galtier Plaza (Jackson and Sibley Towers), The Pointe of Saint Paul condominiums, and the city’s tallest building, Wells Fargo Place (formerly Minnesota World Trade Center), were constructed in the late 1980s. In the 1990s and 2000s, the tradition of bringing new immigrant groups to the city continued. As of 2004, nearly 10% of the city’s population were recent Hmong immigrants from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar. Saint Paul is the location of the Hmong Archives.
Saint Paul’s Geography
Saint Paul’s history and growth as a landing port are tied to water. The city’s defining physical characteristic, the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, was carved into the region during the last ice age, as were the steep river bluffs and dramatic palisades on which the city is built. Receding glaciers and Lake Agassiz forced torrents of water from a glacial river that served the river valleys. The city is situated in east-central Minnesota.
The Mississippi River forms a municipal boundary on part of the city’s west, southwest, and southeast sides. Minneapolis, the state’s largest city, lies to the west. Falcon Heights, Lauderdale, Roseville, and Maplewood are north, with Maplewood lying to the east. The cities of West Saint Paul and South Saint Paul are to the south, as are Lilydale, Mendota, and Mendota Heights, across the river from the city. The city’s largest lakes are Pig’s Eye Lake, which is part of the Mississippi, Lake Phalen, and Lake Como. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 56.18 square miles (145.51 km2), of which 51.98 square miles (134.63 km2) is land and 4.20 square miles (10.88 km2) is water.
The Parks and Recreation department is responsible for 160 parks and 41 recreation centers. The city ranked #2 in park access and quality, after only Minneapolis, in the 2018 ParkScore ranking of the top 100 park systems across the United States according to the nonprofit Trust for Public Land.
Saint Paul’s Climate
Saint Paul has a continental climate typical of the Upper Midwestern United States. Winters are frigid and snowy, while summers are warm to hot and humid. On the Köppen climate classification, Saint Paul falls in the hot summer humid continental climate zone. The city experiences a full range of precipitation and related weather events, including snow, sleet, ice, rain, thunderstorms, tornadoes, and fog.
Due to its northerly location and lack of large bodies of water to moderate the air, Saint Paul is sometimes subjected to cold Arctic air masses, especially during late December, January, and February. The average annual temperature of 46.5 °F (8.1 °C) gives the Minneapolis−Saint Paul metropolitan area the coldest annual mean temperature of any major metropolitan area in the continental U.S.
Tyler Mulcahey Peters
Senior Mortgage Advisor // NMLS #1243885
Licensed in MN & WI
Tyler Mulcahey Peters was born & raised in Minnesota. He grew up in southern Minnesota, attended Gustavus Adolphus College (go Gusties!), and has lived in Minneapolis since 2013. He and his husband, Andrew, purchased their first home together in 2017 and they currently live in the Hale neighborhood on the west side of Lake Nokomis with their two spoiled Chihuahuas, Bentley & Piper.
A mortgage and loan professional since 2013 and having helped over 1,000 individuals, couples, and families become homeowners, he has the knowledge and experience to help you through the loan process, find the terms that are right for your budget, and make sure all the legalities are competently handled so that the closing goes smooth and you can take possession of your new property on-time (and often-times, early).
In his free time, you’ll catch him eating out at one of his favorite local restaurants, traveling, attending a music festival, or spending time with his friends & family.