Schools, Pools, Beer and Deer

Macalester-Groveland, Highland Park, West End

Saturday, September 6, 2014 11.9 miles:

Randolph Heights Elementary School on Hamline Avenue in Macalester-Groveland.

Randolph Heights Elementary School on Hamline Avenue in Macalester-Groveland.

Students in Saint Paul went back to school this week, making the visit to one of my favorite school buildings, Randolph Heights Elementary, apropos. This gorgeous 1916 building has several uncommon and attractive elements. The first is the Spanish-influenced design itself. Lead architect Charles Hausler visited schools in California and adopted qualities (stucco exterior, flat roof, curves and arches) into the design of Randolph Heights. (1)

The frescoes above the front entrance are the second striking decorative element. The young man sitting atop books with another in his hand while the young woman rests upon a bench with her needlework is a great reflection of gender roles 100 years ago. Another atypical aspect of the original design of Randolph Heights is the swimming pool, long since covered, with the space used for other purposes.

Another angle of the front of Randolph Heights.

Another angle of the front of Randolph Heights.

Randolph Heights Elementary School cost $101,356 and some change to build, a premium price for a school with eight classrooms and 320 students. (By my figures, construction of the Randolph Heights classrooms averaged more than $12,600.) The May 1917 edition of the publication “School Education” strongly criticized Saint Paul school officials for their spending.

“The present city policy of erecting school buildings by force account is shown to be extravagant, and the cost of the recently completed Randolph Heights and Como schools is shown to be excessive. The proper unit cost of elementary school buildings is placed at approximately $7,000 per room…” (3)

Randolph Heights Elementary School in 1925. Photo courtesy courtesy Karen Duke and Randolph Heights.

Randolph Heights Elementary School in 1925. Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

On the other hand, the one-story design selected by Randolph Heights architects and the school district started a new trend.

“There is today an awakening on the subject of the one-story school. This volume presents that subject, and asks: ‘Why the peril of the upstairs school?’ As this is written, the school world is throbbing with a menace and its question is ‘Fire!’ The one-story school is one safe answer to that dominant peril of the school. And the one-story school answers other big questions; questions of hygiene, of health, of education.” (4)

From Randolph Heights Elementary I went east to Lexington Avenue. Though tempting, I didn’t take full advantage of the long downhill slope from Jefferson all the way to the intersection of Lexington, Montreal and West 7th. Rather, I weaved in and out among some of the streets between Lexington and east to 35E. Otto Alaska At Otto and Alaska I spotted this interesting design in the concrete steps.

The wall resembles Lucky Charms.

The wall resembles the marshmallows from Lucky Charms.

Next, back to Lexington and to a relatively new development of townhomes called Deer Park.

Public streets in Saint Paul feature green and white signs. The black and white Deer Park sign indicates it is a private road. The 11 townhomes here were built in 2003.

Public streets in Saint Paul feature green and white signs. The black and white Deer Park sign indicates it is a private road. The 11 townhomes here were built in 2003.

I stopped at Deer Park because there is a ‘hidden park’ behind the townhomes. (In City lingo it’s called a ‘passive’ or ‘ghost’ park.) Though there is absolutely no signage or other identification of Dawson Park, you’ll find it on some official Saint Paul maps and on the City’s list of parks. Perhaps most surprising is this two acre wooded refuge has been a City park since 1884! (5)

 The hidden park lies on the other side of this fence. I got access by walking through a gap in the fence.

The hidden park lies on the other side of this fence.

Now standing at the edge of Dawson Park looking back toward Lexington, you can see four of the Deer Park townhomes. I cut across the lawn of the townhouse on the left to get to the park.

Now standing at the edge of Dawson Park looking back toward Lexington, you can see four of the Deer Park townhomes. I cut across the lawn of the townhouse on the left to get to the park.

There are some lightly traveled paths through the woods but the brush is frequently thick and the mosquitoes even thicker.

There are some lightly traveled paths through the woods but the brush is frequently thick and the mosquitoes even thicker.

A short distance beyond the line of trees, the terrain suddenly climbs steeply up a bluff toward Edgcumbe Road and Place. Swarming mosquitoes and the bike shoes I wore dissuaded me from attempting to scale the incline, but I’ll be back.

One of few remaining small streams that meander above ground through Highland Park (the neighborhood.) Most of the steams here and elsewhere in Saint Paul were diverted into the storm sewer system years ago.

One of the many small springs that meander above ground through Highland Park (the neighborhood). Many of the steams here and elsewhere in Saint Paul were diverted into the storm sewer system years ago.

Walsh Park is another hidden park just south of Dawson, according to the Parks Department maps and website, but I have yet to search for it.

759 Lexington Parkway South has been Carol Sturgeleski’s home since 1963.

759 Lexington Parkway South has been Carol Sturgeleski’s home since 1963.

Back on the bike and moving north up the Lexington Hill, I stopped to talk with a woman on the sidewalk. Carol Sturgeleski told me she’s lived in Saint Paul her entire life and here at 759 Lexington, for 51 years. The way Carol and her husband, Bernie, found this home where they raised six children, is a story of coincidences. Her brother was selling his house in Eagan. The owner of 759 Lexington bought it. Carol and Bernie learned about 759 Lexington’s availability from her brother and they bought it.

Carol Sturgeleski stands in her back yard amongst the flowers and bird feeders.

Carol Sturgeleski stands in her back yard amongst the flowers and bird feeders.

“These are black walnut trees which are not too nice. Beautiful wood but when those black walnuts fall down they keep hitting my roof.”

At 50 feet wide and 170 deep Carol’s property is larger than the usual Saint Paul lot. Thick brush and woods at the back of the property make it more uncommon. “There’s a fence there. Can you see it right there in the middle part? It goes back there and I think there’s a nine foot easement in between and the people on the hill have the rest of it.” The woods, Carol said, are home to some animal friends like deer and turkey, that occasionally visit her yard. “We’ve had turkeys ‘cause my husband used to always feed the birds. At first it was fun and cute but after a while, they were digging up all my grass. They had such big claws and they just chewed up all the grass and whatever. So I said, ‘That’s enough of that. The cuteness is gone.’”

Carol  back yard as seen from the edge of her property.

Carol’s back yard as seen from the edge of her property.

Carol’s children enjoyed playing on the hill and woods, especially in winter. “When the kids were little they would slide down the hill. It was more open then. I’ll never forget when the second son came down and hit one of the trees. The kids brought him in the house and they brought him in the bathroom. All of a sudden he just collapsed, passed out.” Carol added that her son came to quickly. She also told me she wasn’t very worried because he had teeth knocked out playing hockey.

Today the woods behind Carol's house are choked with brush.

Today the woods behind Carol’s house are choked with brush but when her children were young, they sledded down the hill on the right.

After 51 years, Carol still loves where she lives. “In the middle of the city, it’s beautiful, but there’s a lot of work with this yard.” Fortunately, one of Carol’s sons now cuts the lawn for her and she’s contemplating hiring someone to do some of the other jobs. Just up the block, the home at 687 Lexington Parkway is obscured by a thick growth of bushes and trees but there is no missing it because of two landmarks in front.

Peace.

Peace.

The retaining wall in front of 687 Lex is cheerfully painted, giving the impression of perpetual spring.

The retaining wall in front of 687 Lex is cheerfully painted, giving the impression of perpetual spring.

Today’s second stop for a school is Riverside Elementary. Apparently it is unoccupied or lightly used.

Today’s second school visit is Riverside Elementary, mostly unchanged from when it was built in the 1920s. Apparently it is unoccupied or lightly used.

The Albion Street entrance to Riverside.

The Albion Street entrance to Riverside.

On the side of the building a metal stairway added as an emergency exit allowed me to peek into the second floor of Riverside. The old, maybe original, principal’s office door, is a nice artifact.

On the side of the building a metal stairway added as an emergency exit allowed me to peek into the second floor of Riverside. The old, perhaps original, principal’s office door, is a nice artifact.

Crosby Lake biz center 1

You’ll see this sign when you travel on West 7th Street.

Crosby Lake Business Center is a brownfield turned industrial park just south of West 7th Street in the West End. According to Saint Paul Port Authority figures, up to 400 jobs have been created by the companies that built on the 26-acre site.

It’s ironic that both companies credited with assisting the Port Authority with the Crosby Lake Business Center no longer exist.

It’s ironic that both companies credited with assisting the Port Authority with the Crosby Lake Business Center no longer exist.

Crosby Lake Business Center is nearly filled with businesses including a bakery, brewery, publisher, mechanical subcontractor and a manufacturer of labels and guest checks for the food service industry.

 Oven Hearth Bakery whips up wholesale breads and desserts. When the ovens are on, the smell will make you hungry.

Oven Hearth Bakery whips up wholesale breads and desserts. When the ovens are on, the smell will make you hungry.

EMC, Paradigm and JIST produce text books and related multimedia materials. Specifically, EMC publishes K through 12th grade text books in four subject areas; Paradigm publishes post-secondary text books about technology and science, and JIST publishes career assistance materials.

EMC, Paradigm and JIST produce text books and related multimedia materials. Specifically, EMC publishes K through 12th grade text books in four subject areas; Paradigm publishes post-secondary text books about technology and science, and JIST publishes career assistance materials.

Summit Brewing’s main building which can emit another great smell.

Summit Brewing’s main building, which can emit another great smell.

Not only was Summit Brewery Minnesota’s first new brewery since World War II and the state’s first microbrewery, it’s also one of the most successful. Summit began production in 1986 in an old warehouse on University Avenue. (6) By 1997, demand for Summit’s beers grew so large it necessitated the construction of this brewery on Montreal Circle. Summit expanded in 2013 and in 2014, opened a canning facility. (7)

The large Summit logo on the side of the brewery.

The large Summit logo on the side of the brewery.

The entrance and beer garden both sit on the side of the brewery opposite Montreal Way.

The entrance and beer garden both sit on the side of the brewery opposite Montreal Way.

A beer skyway. The series of pipes carries beer from the brew house...

A beer skyway. The series of pipes carries beer from the brew house…

...to the recently completed canning facility.

…to the recently completed canning facility.

Thanks to the pioneering effort of Summit Brewing, new craft breweries now pop up like dandelions in spring. There are close to a dozen microbreweries in Saint Paul, not including brew pubs.

The Crosby Lake Business Center has been great for Saint Paul’s economy, but some creativity with street names would have made the development less confusing.

Yes, all the streets in the Crosby Lake development are named Montreal but to confusing matters more, two different streets have the same address number.

Yes, all the streets in the Crosby Lake development are named Montreal but to confuse matters more, two different streets have the same address number. Instead, why not a Vancouver, Halifax, Saskatoon or Moose Jaw?

Back in Highland, just south of Edgcumbe at Montreal Avenue coincidentally, are two City buildings; the Highland Park Aquatic Center and SPPD Western District headquarters.

Back in Highland, just south of Edgcumbe at Montreal Avenue, coincidentally, are two City buildings; the Highland Park Aquatic Center and SPPD Western District headquarters.

The police department’s western district headquarters on Otto Hummer Drive.

The police department’s Western District headquarters on Otto Hummer Drive.

Highland Park Aquatic Center sits on Otto Hummer Drive, a street that looks like a parking lot.

Highland Park Aquatic Center sits on Otto Hummer Drive, a street that looks like a parking lot.

Otto Hummer posthumously received the honor of this street being named for him because he volunteered for many City committees and for about a decade with the Highland Business Association. (8) It’s very unusual to see the Highland Park Aquatic Center parking lot busy in September but the unseasonably warm weather convinced City officials to keep the pool open more than a week beyond its usual closing date.

Although not very busy, a few folks are stretching the swimming season out as far as possible.

Although not very busy, a few folks are stretching the swimming season out as far as possible.

This aquatic center opened in August 1979 as the Highland Park Pool and has since been remodeled. It is Highland’s second or third pool, depending on your perspective.

The original Highland Park Pool is long gone, but significant artifacts remain just north of the aquatic center, across Montreal Avenue at Edgcumbe, Most windows are covered in peeling plywood and the ones that aren’t have been smashed out. Sections of the Spanish-style terracotta roof tiles have fallen, exposing holes in the plywood deck and vegetation grows out of the building. The allure of the stone structure is obvious, despite the long list of indignities it’s suffered in the decades since closing.

The old Highland Park pool bath house is in desperate need of renovation.

The old Highland Park Pool bath house is in desperate need of renovation.

This is what the original Highland Park Pool looked like in 1935. The building in the background is the golf clubhouse, which still stands. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

This is what the original Highland Park Pool looked like in 1935. The building in the background is the golf clubhouse, which still stands. Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

In less than two years the Highland Park Pool underwent quite a change. June 1937 photo Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

In less than two years the Highland Park Pool underwent quite a change. June 1937 photo Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society.

The original Highland pool bath house, a Works Progress Administration project, remains, albeit in disrepair.

The original Highland pool bath house, a Works Progress Administration project, remains, albeit in disrepair.

Windows and the doors of the bath house are covered in plywood to keep man, beast and Minnesota’s weather out.

Windows and the doors of the bath house are covered in plywood to keep man, beast and Minnesota’s weather out.

You can see the subroof and missing clay tiles.

You can see the subroof and missing clay tiles.

The back or pool side of the bath house. The pool was situated about where the grass is on the right. The round stone structure in the middle of the picture held a large tree.

The back or pool side of the bath house. The pool was situated about where the grass is on the right. The round stone structure in the middle of the picture held a large tree.

In 1962 a good sized tree grew in the middle of the stone planter. St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch photo courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

In 1962 a good sized tree grew in the middle of the stone planter. St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch photo courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

old pool house today 9

What may have been a locker or shower room. To get this shot I had to climb the stone wall and put my camera above my head and shoot through a fence.

What may have been a locker or shower room. To get this shot I had to climb the stone wall and put my camera above my head and shoot through a fence.

An out building that is part of the pool facility. It too was built by WPA workers in 1936.

An out building that is part of the pool facility. It, too, was built by WPA workers in 1936. It’s held less interest to explorers and vandals.

Today about the only activity around the grounds of the old pool is Frisbee golf and the occasional hiker.

Today about the only activity around the grounds of the old pool is Frisbee golf and the occasional hiker.

The Parks and Recreation Department in 2013 proposed stabilizing the historic bath house and studying its renovation and reuse. However, neither the 2014 nor 2015 approved Capital Budget and Improvement Program set aside any money for either, meaning the landmark’s deterioration will continue through at least 2015. In that budget, about 80 proposals–fire station expansion, recreation center and playground improvements, street and bridge reconstruction, and many other worthy proposals–vie for the limited dollars. Preservation of historic facilities is important, but whether it’s a higher priority than fire and safety services, park development, or street maintenance and improvement is questionable. With far too little money for too many important projects, funding decisions will continue to be excruciatingly difficult, undoubtedly resulting in the loss of historic structures.

Click on the link to see the route of my September 6, 2014 ride:
www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/668229664

Footnotes
(1) History of SPPS document
(2) Ibid
(3) Page 42; May 1917 “School Education Magazine”
(4) Introduction, Pamphlets on Forest Utilization, Volume 10, February 1917, The One-Story Schoolhouse Idea with Plans of Model Schools, Fitzherbert Leather
(5) The Street Where You Live-A Guide to the Place Names of St. Paul, Donald L. Empson, Page 70
(6) Page 296, Land of Amber Waters, Doug Hoverson
(7) Summit Brewery website, http://www.summitbrewing.com/culture/history
(8) Geni.com website, http://www.geni.com/people/Otto-Hummer/6000000001051774266


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