Summit Avenue (St. Paul)

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Historic Hill District
The Cathedral of St. Paul overshadows mansions on east Summit Avenue
Summit Avenue (St. Paul) is located in Minnesota
Summit Avenue (St. Paul)
Summit Avenue (St. Paul) is located in the United States
Summit Avenue (St. Paul)
LocationIrregular pattern from Pleasant and Grand Aves. to Holly and Marshall Aves., from Lexington Pkwy. to 4th and Pleasant in St. Paul, Minnesota
Architectural styleLate 19th and 20th Century Revivals, Late Victorian
NRHP reference No.76001067[1]
Added to NRHPAugust 13, 1976
West Summit Avenue Historic District
West Summit Ave Historic District.jpg
Homes on West Summit Avenue
LocationSummit Avenue between Lexington Parkway and Mississippi River Boulevard in St. Paul, Minnesota
Architectural styleColonial Revival, Classical Revival, Bungalow/Craftsman
NRHP reference No.93000332[1]
Added to NRHPMay 4, 1993

Summit Avenue is a street in St. Paul, Minnesota, United States, known for being the longest avenue of Victorian homes in the country, having a number of historic houses, churches, synagogues, and schools. The street starts just west of downtown St. Paul and continues four and a half miles west to the Mississippi River where Saint Paul meets Minneapolis. Other cities have similar streets, such as Prairie Avenue in Chicago, Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, and Fifth Avenue in New York City. Summit Avenue is notable for having preserved its historic character and mix of buildings, as compared to these other examples. Historian Ernest R. Sandeen described Summit Avenue as "the best preserved example of the Victorian monumental residential boulevard."[2]

Summit Avenue is part of two National Historic Districts and two City of Saint Paul Heritage Preservation Districts. The National Historic Districts are the Historic Hill District, an irregular area roughly bounded by Lexington Avenue, Portland Avenue, Dale Street North, Marshall Avenue, Pleasant Street, and Grand Avenue[3] (exclusive of the area within the Woodland Park Historic District), and the West Summit Avenue Historic District, a narrow area running from Oxford Street South west to the Mississippi River along Summit Avenue.[4][1][5] The city districts are Summit Hill, also known as Crocus Hill, a triangular region from Lexington Avenue on the west, Summit Avenue on the north, and the bluffs (just north of Interstate Highway 35E) on the south, and Ramsey Hill, the area bounded by Summit Avenue, Dale Street, Interstate Highway 94, and a line running north from the Cathedral of St. Paul.[5][6] Most of the houses in this district are large, distinctive houses built between 1890 and 1920.

Summit Avenue was named one of 10 "great streets" nationally by the American Planning Association in 2008.[7]


The history of Summit Avenue dates back to the early 1850s, when Saint Paul was in its infancy. Mansions were starting to appear on top of the hill in the earliest days of the city. An 1859 photograph by Joel Whitney shows six houses on the hill. Edward Duffield Neill owned the first house on Summit Avenue, in a location now occupied by the James J. Hill House. Continuing westward, the photo shows the houses of William and Angelina Noble, Henry F. Masterson, Henry Mower Rice, Henry Neill Paul, and David Stuart. The Stuart house, at 312 Summit Avenue, is the only one of these still standing, making it the oldest remaining house on Summit Avenue and one of the oldest in St. Paul.[8]

Development was slow during the American Civil War and afterward, but the district began to grow in the 1880s. City water service was provided in 1884, and a cable car line built on Selby Avenue in 1887 provided improved access to downtown. In 1890, the city's first streetcars began operating on Grand Avenue, just south of Summit, and the Hill District became a fashionable place to live.[6]

The district began to decline in the 1930s as many old mansions either turned into rooming-houses or went vacant for many years. The housing stock was not decimated by commercial development pressure, as the bluffs separating the Summit Avenue area from downtown St. Paul made it difficult for downtown to expand into the area. The area began to turn around in the 1960s and 1970s, as young couples discovered that the Victorian homes could be purchased affordably and could be restored over time. Neighborhood associations also formed and helped with preservation efforts. [6]

Summit Avenue originally began at North Robert Street but much of Summit Avenue in the Capitol Heights area was removed with the expansion of the State Capitol Mall and the construction of Interstate 94. The remaining section of Summit Avenue in that area between Cedar Street and North Robert Street was renamed Thirteenth Street and was itself later renamed Columbus Street in 1953. [9] [10]


Frank Lloyd Wright, noted as "the greatest American architect of all time" by AIA, claimed that Summit Avenue is "the worst collection of architecture in the world."[11] This was in part due to the imposing scale of the buildings, but mainly because Summit Avenue architecture copied design styles from Europe, rather than attempting to find an original American aesthetic. F. Scott Fitzgerald disliked Summit Avenue as well, stating that Summit Avenue is “a mausoleum of American architectural monstrosities.”[12]

Notable buildings[edit]

These buildings are listed in numerical address order.

National Historic Landmarks[edit]

Three buildings on or near Summit Avenue are National Historic Landmarks (NHLs).

National Register of Historic Places[edit]

A number of buildings on Summit Avenue are listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

Other notable buildings[edit]

Other buildings include:


  1. ^ a b c "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  2. ^ Sandeen p. 1
  3. ^ Charles W. Nelson; Susan Zeik (June 7, 1976). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Historic Hill District". National Park Service. Retrieved August 3, 2019. With accompanying 203 photos from 1976-89
  4. ^ Norene A. Roberts; Jeanne M. Zimniewicz (March 1992). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: West Summit Avenue Historic District". National Park Service. Retrieved August 3, 2019. With accompanying 91 photos
  5. ^ a b "resources & links". Summit Avenue Residential Preservation Association. Retrieved 2008-04-10.
  6. ^ a b c Millett p. 436
  7. ^
  8. ^ Sandeen pp.2-5
  9. ^ "Minnesota's 'front porch,' the State Capitol Mall, is a graveyard of Victorian architecture". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  10. ^ Pearson, Marjorie (2016). "Approaching the Capitol-The Story of the Minnesota State Capitol Mall". Minnesota History. Minnesota Historical Society. 65: 130.
  11. ^ Irvine, Coco (2011-01-01). Through No Fault of My Own: A Girl's Diary of Life on Summit Avenue in the Jazz Age. U of Minnesota Press. ISBN 9781452931340.
  12. ^ Schultz, Patricia (2011-01-01). 1,000 Places to See in the United States and Canada Before You Die. Workman Publishing. ISBN 9780761163367.


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 44°56′28.9″N 93°8′47.6″W / 44.941361°N 93.146556°W / 44.941361; -93.146556