Welcome to the streets.mn podcast, Episode 116: Saint Paul 1978 with George Latimer, Jerry Mathiason, and David Lanagren.
Today I have a fun conversation for you that I taped back in May. The chat took place between former Saint Paul mayor George Latimer, photographer Jerry Mathiason, and Macalester Geography professor David Lanagren that took place at the Landmark Center as part of an exhibition of Mathaison’s photographs from downtown Saint Paul in 1978. Saint Paul 1978, a year before I was born, has always fascinated me. Looking at the old pictures, is to see a very different Saint Paul, vast empty lots, 70s era urban squalor, sidewalks and streets designed around cars intermingling with historic pre-war people-centered architecture. It’s fascinating, and thinking about this period of time in American cities is something I greatly enjoy.
Thanks to the Ramsey County Historical Society and the Landmark Center museum for hosting the forum and allowing me to tape the proceedings. The chat was about an hour long and full of interesting tidbits about Saint Paul history, downtowns in the 1970s, economic development schemes like the never-built Saint Paul “people mover”, and more. I hope you enjoy it.
Here’s a link to the audio, with some of Mathiason’s 1978 photos appended below.
The podcast is sponsored by Nate Pentz, so thanks to him!
Nate Pentz is realtor with Pentz Homes at Keller Williams Classic Realty NW. You can start your own home search at pentzhomes.com and if you have any questions about the buying or selling process shoot him a message at email@example.com or call 612.308.1122.
This is the podcast I’ve been waiting for.
I was 11 years old in the summer of 1978; it was the first time I was able to go to downtown Saint Paul by myself.
Town Square did ok when it first opened, but it really didn’t prosper until about 10 years later. World Trade Center and Galtier Plaza were also at their peaks in the late 1980s/early 1990s. I was gone for about 10 years – DTSP was like a ghost town in 2006. I’ve heard MOA was to blame.
I miss the old Town Square Park and the food courts in all three buildings.
The new Walgreens, Tim Hortons, etc. make up for a little but of it but not much.
I would blame MOA slash the entire infrastructure surrounding automobiles and retail in the USA. Creating downtown malls was never a winning formula for cities. It’s too bad Saint Paul chased that phantom for a while…
These photos are right in my nostalgic wheelhouse. This was right about the time I, too, along with the usual gang of idiots I ran with, began carousing around downtown Saint Paul. It was a quick 20 cent bus ride from our Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood.
Of course this was during the reign on George Latimer, who seemed to be Mayor-For-Life. While my parents generation had only known FDR as president in their youths, his short reign paled in comparison to Latimer’s 21 year occupancy of the mayor’s office.
I recall when Landmark Center was still in the midst of renovation. The first & second floors were complete, but above that was still a diamond in the rough. Winding our way around the building and up stairwells, we found ourselves in the open area of the large north tower. We were obviously pleased with ourselves, and even managed to return to the lower floors without being detected. Subsequent efforts to repeat that feat were unsuccessful.
Had I been told then that there would be a (financially) successful NHL franchise in an arena unimaginably more elaborate than my beloved Saint Paul Civic Center just more than 20 years later, I would have asked what you’ve been smoking and can I have some?
Are the photos still on public display anywhere?
Um, I think the exhibit is over. I love to talk to folks about Saint Paul (or Minneapolis) in this era. Our expectations and horizons have certainly shifted…
They were exhibited for too short of a time.
But if you buy me a Sputnik burger at Mickey’s Diner, I’ll have plenty of tales to tell of the misdeeds and misadventures of my associates.