Saint Paul, MN
Submitted by: Jan Fiola
This five-mile long Avenue is the longest remaining stretch of residential Victorian architecture in the U.S.
Summit Avenue stretches almost five miles from the Cathedral of St. Paul to the Mississippi River. Houses along the Avenue were built between 1856 and 1880, and 85% remain in their original form. Styles include a mixture of Queen Ann, Romanesque, Beaux Art, Georgian Revival, Italian Villa, Tudor, Spanish Colonial, Second Empire, Prairie and Ranch. Summit Avenue contains two national historic districts and two city preservation districts. The James J. Hill mansion and the Governor's mansion are both located there. F. Scott Fitzgerald's row house is here, around the corner from the Commodore Hotel, where Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby. Summit Avenue is also reputed to have some haunted houses.
What Makes Summit Avenue a Great Place?
The Avenue is within a neighborhood of residences and small businesses. The wide sidewalks are a favorite place for walkers, runners, bikers and gawkers. It is reachable by bus one block away. Parking is available on the street and on nearby streets.
The street is best described as grandiose. It was widened in 1870, and the street width fits with the height of the buildings. Summit Avenue is immaculate with flowers, whether in formal gardens or naturalized. One boulevard section is lined with lilacs. The City maintains the gardens. It is used both at night and during the day. The active neighborhood association also contributes to the maintenance.
Summit Avenue is a favorite place for walking, strolling babies, running, or rollerblading. Adult bikers enjoy the marked bike lanes, and children safely use the sidewalks. The Avenue is a major part of the route for the end stage of the Twin Cities marathon. It is used by all ages, by both men and women. Also occasionally used by bicycle racing teams, or groups of men jogging on their lunch hour.
The population reflects the community of the neighborhood and city. Bus tours of the city often include Summit Avenue.
History & Background
Minnesota State Historical Society published a book on the Avenue. Although the Avenue is defined as a city treasure, a resident of the Avenue, F. Scott Fitzgerald (in a brownstone row house on national register) called it "A mausoleum of American architectural monuments" and Frank Lloyd Wright called it "The worst collection of architecture in the world.”