Ramsey County History Magazine: Volume 39-3 Fall 2004

Ramsey County History magazine offers a wide variety of articles on the people, places and history of Ramsey County.

Volume 39

Volume 39, Number 3: Fall 2004

The Life and Death of Central Park—
A Small Part of the Past Illuminated

Author: Paul D. Nelson
The Central Park story begins in 1884. It was a time of city expansion and the affluent and powerful residents in an area near today’s State Capitol wanted a park to buffer them from the spreading downtown. The Lampreys, the Dawsons, the Lindekes and the Schurmeiers donated parts of their land to the city to create Central Park. Landscaping began around a year later and in 1886 it was the site of the first Winter Carnival Ice Castle. However, the group living there preferred it to be a neighborhood park rather than a city-wide attraction. The presence of the park attracted additional wealthy families who built elegant homes around the amenity. Originally conceived as a formal “pleasure garden,” the park’s use would begin changing with the surrounding neighborhood and its days as an exclusive retreat came to an end. The 1920s and 1930s were hard on the park and the neighborhood. Nearby houses and apartments were divided into smaller units and Central Park became a more of a children’s playground. The biggest change, however, was the increasing desire to level much of the area to increase the Capitol mall and to clear out what were seen as deteriorated structures. The 1958 construction of the Centennial Building signaled the park’s doom. In 1970 the state decided to build a parking ramp on the site and to assuage the feelings of some, it was topped off with a swatch of grass and trees to maintain a park-like sense.
PDF of Nelson article

Hamline University and its Royal Refugee:
 The Prince and the Pearl of Great Price

Author: John W. Larson

The author, a Hamline University graduate, recalls the impact of World War II  on the university’s students and  the visit of a royal refugee from Germany. Larson, raised in a working-class neighborhood, was accepted into the university, even though his high school grades were marginal. War seemed far away at the start of his studies in the fall of 1941; however, the institution slowly became militarized. That was the situation when Prince Hubertus zu Löwenstein arrived on campus in October 1942. He had fled the Nazi regime in 1933 and was now in St. Paul, where he lectured at the school. Larson recalls some of the times he spent talking and walking with the European writer and lecturer and how his interests were greatly expanded. They did keep in touch over the years. The article includes a sidebar on the Prince and the Fascists.
PDF of Larson article

PDF of essay on the Prince and the Fascists

The Rondo Oral History Project

Kathryn Coram Gagnon: Operettas, Dances, Parties, and a Growing Love of Music 

Interview by Kate Cavett

Based on oral history interviews, this is the story of Kathryn Coram Gagnon, an African-American woman who grew up in St. Paul’s old Rondo neighborhood. The interview begins with Gagnon’s well-educated mother and her family’s history. According to Gagnon, the Rondo community was never totally segregated. She went to McKinley school, attended St. Philip’s Church and frequented the Hallie Q. Brown Center, where people often went to dances. Gagnon and a group of girls formed the “Eight Debs,” a social group and they sometimes ate at the Elite Grill near Rondo and Milton. She attended University High School. Later Gagnon earned a B. A. and master’s degree from the University of Minnesota. The oral history selection discusses race and racism and the art of speaking different ways in different situations. Gagnon believed that music was an expression of the Rondo community and was an important part of the vibrancy of her neighborhood, which she describes as a warm and accepting place where a person felt truly safe.
PDF of Rondo article

PDF of Letters to the Editor