Ramsey County History magazine offers a wide variety of articles on the people, places and history of Ramsey County.
Volume 37, Number 4: Winter 2003
The 146-Year History of the Louis Hill House: New Settlers, a Booming Real Estate Market, and a Summit Avenue Site Acquired on Speculation
Author: Eileen McCormack
The Louis Hill home at 260 Summit Avenue was built on a plot of land that was platted in November 1854. Home construction on the street began in 1855 with the home of Edward Neill at number 242 on the edge of the bluff. In 1857, William Noble acquired, but then lost, the property because of economic troubles. Later a man named George Palmes bought the house that had been built on the site. The original house, which was then standing amid a number of much more elegant homes, was demolished in 1901. When Hill bought the lot, he petitioned the City of Saint Paul to vacate a street to enlarge it. The city agreed but said that he was required to put in a public walk and steps from below the hill up to Summit Avenue. James J. Hill and his son, Louis, worked closely with the architects while Louis’s house was being built. Newly married, Louis and Maud Hill moved into the home in 1903. In 1912 they built an addition. In 1954 Louis’s heirs sold the house to a Catholic Church society. In 1961, it was turned over to another religious group for a retreat house. In 2001, a St. Paul family bought and restored the Louis Hill home at 260 Summit.
PDF of McCormack article
Growing Up In St Paul: Diamonds, Gravel Roads, and a Little Chevrolet—The Life and Times of a Venture Capitalist
Author: Alan R. (Buddy) Ruvelson
This article begins with the author’s family background and the arrival of his great grandfather in St. Paul in the 1870s, where he lived at 545 Sibley near the synagogue on College Street. His father Phillip grew up in Frogtown, was not strongly religious, and didn’t get a bar mitzvah ceremony. Neither did the author. His parents were Reform Jews. Buddy Ruvelson was born in 1915 and he eventually went to work for his father traveling the country. He began to work in the diamond trade and became quite successful. Ruvelson never ran for public office but was a moderate Republican who was active in supporting political candidates. He served for a time on an advisory board of the Small Business Administration. When his first wife died in 1966, Revulson married a German Catholic at a time when mixed faith marriages were uncommon.
PDF of Ruvelson article
A Flourishing Fur Trade Industry and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Centre Building
Author: Matt Pearcy
This is the story of a building at 333 Sibley, designed by the famous architect Clarence Johnston. It was initially constructed for Gordon and Ferguson, an important fur trading company. They had been at other locations and their new building was, at the time, the largest manufacturing-plant commission Johnston ever had. The structure was nine stories high and covered half a city block. Gordon and Ferguson occupied the building from 1913 until 1944, when an electric company moved in and, then, for a time, the structure was vacant. In 1958 the building was refurbished and became the Nalpak Building with the Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District as its tenant. When the Corps expanded its operations, in 1993 the structure was renamed the Corps of Engineer Centre.
PDF of Pearcy article
Slunky Norton: The Chimney Sweep Who Rocked the Rafters with His Buglers
Author: Albert W. Lindeke Jr
By the late 1880s, coal had become the predominate fuel, but had some problems. It could create a buildup of creosote that might break into flame, so people needed the periodical employment of a chimney sweep. A colorful Irish-born chimney sweep named Slunky Norton worked the Ramsey Hill district in the early part of the twentieth century. He had a troop of buglers who accompanied him on rounds on special occasions, such as the holidays. In the 1920s fuel oil, and in the late 1930s, natural gas supplanted coal as the fuel of choice for heating homes and the need for chimney sweeps declined.
PDF of Lindeke article
I Remember the Teachers’ Strike of 1946: “We Rolled Down Our Windows in the Cold Air’”
Author: Maxine Dickson
The author attended and remembered having talked with her teachers about schools and unions. Her family lived at 1718 Ross Avenue and she attended Ames Elementary and Junior High. When St. Paul’s public school teachers went on strike in 1946, the author and her family went to see the strikers at her school. Students in the city’s schools were not aware how badly underpaid the teachers were at the time, but they supported their actions. The 1946 strike was the first teachers’ strike in the history of the country.
PDF of Dickson article
Peter Damian Bellis and George Bellis, The Rooftops of St. Paul: A History of the Thomas Finn Company, 1898 to 2002 (St. Paul: Thomas Finn Company, 2002).
Byron Olson and Joe Cabadas, The American Auto Factory (St. Paul: MBI Publishing, 2002).
Stephen R. Graubard, ed., “Minnesota: A Different Place?” 129:3 Daedalus (Summer 2000).