Then & Now: Saint Paul’s Seven Corners

This the Seven Corners area of Saint Paul, running down the hill from the cathedral toward the river and downtown. On the top is an aerial photo taken in 1947 and again by satellite today (click it a few times to enlarge it, if you wanna dive in).

So many differences! Note the absence and presence of buildings. Note how thoroughly the road network has been changed, not just in Seven Corners but also leading into downtown. A whole bunch of freeways and institutional uses (St Paul College, the Children’s Hospital, the Xcel arena, and the Historical Society) have replaced the vast majority of dense residential housing that used to exist here.

In my mind, these kinds of changes have contributed to the sense of isolation between downtown Saint Paul and the surrounding neighborhoods. On almost all sides, there is little continuity between downtown Saint Paul and anything next to it.

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6 thoughts on “Then & Now: Saint Paul’s Seven Corners

    1. Alex

      Probably your best single source is Judith Martin’s Past Choices/Present Landscapes, which mentions the development of Kellogg Blvd as one of the earliest local large-scale renewal projects. The Capital Area redevelopment is also mentioned although not in a great deal of detail (it’s just on the edge of this photo anyway). Lost Twin Cities also has some precursory mentions of these projects, as well as some great pictures, if I remember right.

      Also this article gives some credit to Horace Cleveland for the impetus for the Capitol Approach, which I’ve never heard before:

      As for Interstate-related clearance, probably general histories of the Interstate system like Crabgrass Frontier or Mass Motorization and Mass Transit would give you an idea of the zeitgeist, but for the local story we are lucky to have Politics and Freeways:

  1. minneapolisite

    DOTs of any sort seem to wipe out anything interesting for the banal. This Then & Now is way worse than Loring Park’s: at least over here the gap between destinations is much smaller. Notice how in 1947 you walk from Rice Park among a couple of commercial streets full of destinations up to about a block or two from more on Selby. If St Paul ever wants Downtown to take off it needs to reconnect to its successful corridors out west: namely Selby and Grand. Connecting Selby to the west end of Downtown right near 7th is a no brainer and should have already been done. Downtown wasn’t bustling in the past because it was an island unto itself, so it makes no sense to think that it would now, especially with much fewer residents and businesses in the immediate area. Gotta love how the Minnesota History Center sits atop where a lot of historic buildings should still be standing.

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