Lowertown Historic District (Saint Paul, Minnesota)
||It has been suggested that Crane Ordway be merged into this article. (Discuss) Proposed since October 2013.|
Lowertown Historic District
|Location||St. Paul, Minnesota|
|Architectural style||Late 19th And 20th Century Revivals, Late Victorian|
|NRHP Reference #||83000935|
|Added to NRHP||February 21, 1983|
The Lowertown Historic District is a neighborhood in Saint Paul, Minnesota, originally the lower landing on the Mississippi River. It was the first port of access to the Twin Cities on the river. Several warehouse, railroad, banking, and distribution buildings served the entire Upper Midwest from 1880 to 1920. A significant concentration of these buildings survive, unified by similar architectural styles and construction materials. Many were designed by the city’s most prestigious architects, including Cass Gilbert and Clarence Johnston. Lowertown is a Registered Historic District.
||This section is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (October 2013)|
"After the Depression, Lowertown declined. The first project to focus attention on the revitalization potential of Lowertown was the renovation of the Merchant’s National Bank Building (now McColl Building) in the late 1960s. This was soon followed by the conversion of the Noyes Brothers and Cutler Building into a complex of offices, shops, and restaurants now known as Park Square Court. The City’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) became involved in 1973 when Mears Park was redesigned by William Sanders and renamed after Norman B. Mears, a Saint Paul businessman who spurred Lowertown redevelopment. The HRA and City of St. Paul have since encouraged renovation and development in Lowertown.
In April, 1978 the Lowertown Redevelopment Corporation (LRC) was organized with the goal of creating “a place for people, a highly livable urban village in the midst of the city, which will bring new jobs, housing, commercial development, and year round activities to Lowertown and infuse the city with renewed vitality.” Enabled by an unprecedented $10 million grant by the McKnight Foundation, the LRC assumed the role and responsibility of driving the revitalization of Lowertown. [At the helm of the LRC was Weiming Lu who was once called the Zen master of urban design and administration by a federal housing official who worked with him for several years.] Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, artists moved to Lowertown. Attracted by low rents, raw space and relative quiet, artists from around the region saw opportunity in Lowertown. Slowly and quietly, a new, risk-tolerant population began to bring life to the buildings and the streets of Lowertown. Initiated by the LRC and supported fully by the City of St. Paul, Lowertown was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. This gave the area protection under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The next year, the City of St. Paul designated the Lowertown Historic District as a Heritage Preservation Site.
Aided by these designations and the associated tax credits, Artspace, the LRC, the City and others partnered to renovate three buildings dedicated to the arts. The Lowertown Artists Lofts Cooperative, the Tilsner and the Northern Warehouse were renovated and became the anchors for the arts community. Throughout the years, there has been a steady commitment to incrementally reinvest in the assets of Lowertown. Instead of demolishing and building new, Lowertown remained committed to a slow, deliberate and steady approach to redevelopment. This approach allowed Lowertown to remain a relatively quiet neighborhood on the edge of downtown. Such an approach was particularly supportive of the artist community, as it respected the financial and environmental needs of working artists. In 1982, the St. Paul Farmers’ Market moved to Lowertown. An institution since the late 1800s, the Farmers’ Market was an anomaly of sorts for Lowertown - it was a destination in the middle of a relatively quiet neighborhood. The market now draws 20,000 people each weekend in the summer. [In 2006 the LRC transformed into the Lowertown Future Fund to continue supporting Lowertown redevelopment.]
Recently, a few new buildings have been added to the mix, attracting new residents paying market rate for condominiums. In addition, restaurants and other regional attractions [such as the restored Union Depot] have opened in Lowertown, continuing Lowertown’s evolution." (Greater Lowertown Master Plan, 2011) The St. Paul Art Crawl is held twice a year (Spring and Fall) and exemplifies the cultural atmosphere that local residents have worked so hard to maintain.
Previously known as: Smith Park, Park Square, and Baptist Hill, Mears Park is bounded by 5th, 6th, Sibley and Wacouta streets. Originally the home of the First Baptist congregation, who built their church on top of a hill in the middle of a city block. In 1849 the land was donated to the city by a man named Robert Smith after the church expanded to a new location a few blocks north. The hill was leveled and the square was formally created in 1888. For most of the next century, the park was a traditional city square with a central fountain and sidewalks radiating about it. In the early 1970s, the park became known as the “Brickyard” after a renovation covered much of the square in bricks. After his death in 1974, the park was officially renamed after Norman Mears, a St. Paul inventor in the printing and etching field; his inventions were used to fight World War II and make color televisions. After retirement, Mears had set his sights on the revitalization of Lowertown.
Modern-day Mears Park was opened in 1992 following a major reconstruction designed by landscape architect Don Ganje and artist Brad Goldberg. The new design received rave reviews for brilliantly mixing natural and manmade elements, from the rocky stream to the metal bandshell, and has proven popular year after year. Today the park sits in the middle of a re-energized Lowertown, hosting handfuls of fairs and festivals throughout the season including Music in Mears the Twin Cities Jazz Festival and Concrete and Grass Music Festival. Volunteers know as the Friends of Mears Park maintain the gardens.
Mission: Lowertown Landing is a community non-profit dedicated to supporting the continued growth and rejuvenation of the Lowertown district in St. Paul, MN. Lowertown Landing was founded in 2009 by Union Depot residents Kari St. Claire, Katherine Stillings Barta, and Kevin Barta. There also have been numerous volunteers helping with all aspects of work over the years. In the summer months we have additional help from our two historic walking tour guides, Kim Zielinski and Jackie Johnson. Lowertown Landing works closely with the Capitol River Council and has a fiscal agent agreement with them. Through this agreement Lowertown Landing has 501c3 nonprofit status. Funding comes from donors and grants provided by the Lowertown Future Fund.
- Lowertown Landing Website - Community website on the Lowertown district of Saint Paul run by community non-profit Lowertown Landing
- Lowertown Weekly News
- Lowertown Facebook
- Lowertown Twitter
- Lowertown Community Meetup Group
- LinkedIn Group
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23.
- "Lowertown History". Lowertown Landing. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
- Nord, Mary Ann (2003). The National Register of Historic Places in Minnesota. Minnesota Historical Society. ISBN 0-87351-448-3.
- "Lowertown Redevelopment". Lowertown Landing. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
- "Annual Art Crawl". LFM. Retrieved 2011-12-27.
- "Mears Park". Lowertown Landing. Retrieved 2013-10-17.