Life from the Summit

Ah, yes, things do look better from the top of the mountain.  In this case, we are talking about Summit Avenue in St. Paul, which we now know to be the very best  – and maybe the only – place to live in this lovely city, if you care about what address goes on your Tiffany stationery.

There are some lovely homes on this street – and some massive piles of stone that must have wowed them in the late 19th century.  Look at the variety and the sizes!

But far one of the biggest piles was that of James J. Hill, a self-made millionaire who died one of the ten richest men in America at his Summit Avenue home in 1916.  Hill was known as the “Empire Builder” and he created the Great Northern Railway, which ran from St. Paul to the Pacific Ocean.  The house he built is now open as a museum, and you can see how he spent a bit of his wealth. We love those house tours! Notice the laundry room with the cedar drying racks, and the lovely back porch.

Summit Avenue has some other claims to fame. F.Scott Fitzgerald lived as a child on that street, in what he described as “a house below the average on a street above the average.” One could speculate that he was heavily influenced by his neighbors, though he haughtily described the street as a “mausoleum of American architectural monstrosities.” But we all know how he turned out.

Also a resident of Summit Avenue, Sinclair Lewis lived there while writing a play, Hobohemia.  So, all in all, there must be some rarified air up on that street.

Next, we went to the St. Paul Hotel and had lunch at the St. Paul Grill.  I dined here seven years ago while in St. Paul on business, and always remembered the wonderful “Cream of Minnesota” soup, that features chicken and wild rice.  I am delighted to report that it was just as spectacular this time around. Don’s tomato and basil soup wasn’t bad, and he loved his walleye, while I enjoyed a chopped salad.

Having noticed many Snoopy images around town, we realized that Charles Schulz must have been a native son, and indeed that is true.  He was born in Minneapolis and grew up in St. Paul.  Not sure if he lived on Summit Avenue, but he for sure could have afforded it.

Now we have yet to pull all the threads together, but across the river in Minneapolis, there is a Longfellow connection.  Though he never came here, he celebrated a local legend with his poem “The Song of Hiawatha.”  We stood on the Minnehaha Falls and admired the view.

Then it was off to Minneapolis itself and our hip new hotel – the Radisson Blu. Don’t usually bore you with our hotel rooms, but this one is especially chic, so have to share.



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