Friday, October 24, 2014 19 miles Macalester-Groveland, West End, Downtown, West Side
Halloween is but a week away and there were some creative decorations displayed on today’s jaunt. The house at 1236 Jefferson is a great example.
Next stop for Halloween fun, 487 Michigan Street in the West End.
The Česko-SlovanskýPodporujícíSpole, C.S.P.S. Hall for short (and because few can pronounce the proper name), opened at 381-383 Michigan Street in 1887 as a Czech and Slovak social, cultural, educational and gymnastic organization. Businesses have been on the first floor since the C.S.P.S. Hall opened. Picha’s Saloon, an early tenant, served drinks from 1889 until about 1919.
A meat market moved in next, then grocery stores, bakeries, an Irish dance group, Lao Family Services in the ‘80s and a medical manufacturer. Since 2000, the space has been the German restaurant Glockenspiel. The building earned National Register of Historic Places status in 1977.
C.S.P.S. Hall is still serving the Czech and Slovak communities through festivals, language, dance and gymnastics classes and occasional public events. There is a great deal more to the history of the C.S.P.S. Hall on the Sokol Minnesota website at http://sokolmn.org/history/csps.htm
From C.S.P.S. Hall I rode into Downtown via West 7th, then turned south on Kellogg Boulevard, pausing for a look at the Mississippi River. This narrow, triangular strip of land is Kellogg Mall Park and affords one of the best views of the Mississippi River anywhere in Saint Paul. (It’s a prime spot to catch fireworks on the Fourth of July.)
A couple other sights of note in the park; First, a bas relief of the notorious Pig’s Eye Perrault is on one of the railing supports. I mention the second, a photo-wrapped traffic signal box, because the image on each side is effectively the view from that spot.
Earlier in 2014 I ventured to the Downtown Saint Paul Airport and explored Bayfield Avenue on the eastern edge of Holman Field. Click here to read the July 19, 2014 ride. Today I’ve returned to go inside the airport terminal and then survey the facilities bordering the western side of the airport.
The interior of the terminal, which was closed on my first visit, is an odd mingling of original construction and updates completed over seven decades. To my admittedly untrained eye, most of the remodeling is an insult to this historic structure.
Back outside I rode south along the dully named Airport Road. Technically a private thoroughfare, but open to the public, it’s the first time I’d ridden or driven here.
The 834th Aviation Support Battalion (ASB), according to the Minnesota National Guard website, provides logistics, transportation, medical, maintenance and communications support for the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade. The 834th ASB supports missions around Minnesota, the Midwest and in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.(1)
Airport Road dead-ends at Eaton Street while Eaton runs west off airport property and east and then south to other hangars and airport tenants.
There’s been a Minnesota State Patrol Flight Section at Holman Field since 1957. Now, the State Patrol has nine state trooper pilots and three Bell helicopters equipped with thermal imagers and bright spot lights, although some of the equipment and pilots fly out of Brainerd. Four Cessna 182 airplanes and one Beechcraft Queen Air help with traffic enforcement and shuttling of prisoners.
The Saint Paul Downtown Airport is owned and operated by MAC, the Metropolitan Airports Commission (as are Twin Cities International and the so-called ‘feeder airports’ around Saint Paul-Minneapolis.) As you’d figure, it takes a whole lot of heavy equipment to keep the airport running properly, and much of it is kept in three buildings.
Back on Eaton I exited the airport and almost immediately came to the East Lafayette Frontage Road and the southern part of the Riverview Business Center. A good portion of the West Side Flats are part of Riverview, which opened in 1962.(3)
The Port Authority returns underdeveloped land, often times polluted by long-gone manufacturers, to a condition where it can be leased or sold for redevelopment.
Saint Paul has been a railroad town for more than 120 years. Although the names have changed, several railroads have major facilities in town, including switching yards, offices and maintenance shops. Union Pacific is a relative newcomer to our city, officially arriving with the 1995 purchase of the Chicago & North Western Railroad.
Speaking of maintenance, the ubiquitous white and blue mail trucks need work now and then and here’s the one spot in the east metro where it is done.
Carl Loberg, a Level 9 Lead Technician, works second shift at Riverview Vehicle Maintenance Facility (VMF.) Carl has worked for the postal service for more than two years after many years as a mechanic, mostly at Twin Cities-area car delaers. Carl much prefers working for the postal service. “They work real well with you here to teach you how to do it so you can repair practically anything. They always say a safe and reliable vehicle is what they want.”
Carl added, “In the dealerships you’re tracked on how much you do and you’re on a commission basis so the more work you do the more you get paid. Here it’s fix it right, get it right.”
Carl told me the Riverview VMF keeps about 6,000 US Postal Service vehicles running. A good deal of the work the mechanics do is a twice-yearly “once over”, which includes a full inspection, oil change, brakes, tires and tune up.
The Riverview VMH repairs primarily three varieties of postal vehicles. The most common, the white mail delivery vehicle we’ve seen seemingly forever, is known as the ‘Long-Life Vehicle,’ or LLV. “They’re from ’87 to ’94 or ’95; with 205s (cubic inch engine) in them,” said Carl. “What’s nice about ‘em is they’re very repairable compared to the newer cars, which are a lot more involved, a lot more technical. For these, they get used so much they’re very easy to maintain and economical to maintain.”
The other vehicles frequently serviced by Carl and the other mechanics are 2002 Ford Explorers called FFVs, (Flex Fuel Vehicles), and 2002 Dodge Caravans.
The VMF isn’t the only place mechanics repair postal service vehicles. There are times mechanics take road trips. “If they have an issue with a taillight out, little things, we’ll go out there, we’ll take a truck full of parts and we’ll stop at these stations (post offices).”
There is enough repair work to keep three shifts of mechanics busy. Occasionally, however, they squeeze in a little fun. Carl told me about the time another mechanic replaced an engine in a USPS vehicle. “…he was all proud he got it running. I came around the back side of the truck and I started tapping on the frame with a big old hammer. So he kinda shuffled around a little bit and walked toward the key to turn it off because it was knocking real bad. I stopped knocking and he walked back to the front and he could relax a little bit and I started hammering on it again.” After tapping several more times Carl admitted to the prank and he and the other mechanics had a good laugh.
Another way Carl occasionally lightens things up is by playing tunes with his tools. “I’ll play my wrenches because if you lay ‘em out, if you tap on ‘em they’ve got different tones. So I can play a few different songs; “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, “Jingle Bells”, stuff like that.”
I left the Riverview VMF with an appreciation of the volume of work postal service mechanics do as well as Carl’s creativity, both with practical jokes and musical performance.
This decaying building is in a slow, steady but ultimately unwinnable struggle against trespassers, time and the incessant assault of Minnesota’s seasons. Visible mainly thanks to fall’s onset and the die back of foliage, the last of the Waterous Company’s Saint Paul factory shares a piece of land about six square blocks with nothing but weeds, trees and dirt. Waterous shuttered this building and the rest of the plant in 1974 after completing construction of a modern plant several miles away in South St. Paul.
To my surprise, the Waterous Company’s name only coincidentally relates to fire hydrants, its best known product. The company, in Winnipeg, Manitoba at the time, had been called P.C. Van Brocklin Foundry until 1877, when Charles Waterous renamed it Waterous Engine Works Company. Twin sons Fred and Frank Waterous moved the company to South St. Paul where it manufactured steam engines and hydrants for fighting fires. (3)
A disastrous blaze in 1894 burned the Waterous factory in South St. Paul to the ground. Insurance helped the company rebuild-in Saint Paul at 80 Fillmore Avenue.
Waterous fabricated hydrants and other fire suppression equipment at the Fillmore Avenue plant until 1974, when it moved back to South St. Paul.
The changing leaves on a couple of nearby bushes added vivid dashes of red, orange and yellow around the former Waterous plant.
Once the site of many industrial and storage facilities, some manufacturing remains on the West Side Flats. This 3M plant operates at 42 West Water Street. (4)
F.O.K. Warehouse 2 is now called ACVR Warehouse and counts among its tenants artists, musicians, a wine importer/distributor and other small businesses. OK Hardware Stores, while not to my knowledge around the Twin Cities, grew out of F.O.K.
The sun sets about 6:30 at the end of October and so at 6:10, the time had come to depart for home. I had to ride up a good sized hill no matter which route I chose so I opted for the Wabasha Avenue bridge to catch sundown. I wasn’t disappointed.
The colorful spectacle continued beyond both sunset and the Wabasha Avenue Bridge.
The spectacular sunset and aftermath were the perfect end of a remarkable and unexpected late October day on the bike.
To see the route of this ride, click here: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/619260366
- (1) Minnesota National Guard website http://www.minnesotanationalguard.org/units/unit_template.php?unit=PJPAA
- (2) Paul Flight Center website http://www.stpaulflight.com/services.html
- (3) Saint Paul Pioneer Press, John Welbes 08/28/2011
- (4) EPA website, http://iaspub.epa.gov/enviro/fii_query_detail.disp_program_facility?p_registry_id=110055079427