Ramsey County History magazine offers a wide variety of articles on the people, places and history of Ramsey County.
Volume 39, Number 4: Winter 2005
Curtain Up in 1933:
The Legacy of the St. Paul Opera Association
Author: Steve Trimble
Inspired by a trip to Europe, Mrs. W. Homer Sweeney successfully spearheaded the creation of the St. Paul Municipal Opera. Opening in 1933, it was a “civic opera” that chose to present quality music made accessible to a general public by low ticket prices and performances in English. The company also wanted to develop and showcase local talent, a policy that slowly changed when it moved toward a “star system.” That move pleased some, but not all, of the city’s residents. Two outsiders who had a long relationship with the organization were Phil Fein, a director and Leo Kopp, a conductor. Strapped for money, the opera became involved in summer “pop concerts,” sometimes accompanied by skaters inside the St. Paul Auditorium. It also began showing many “light operas.” World War II also had its effects on the organization. A theme of “civic pride” came in the 1950s and at the same time a Women’s Guild became active as a support group. Professionalism developed and there was a return to a partial season of traditional opera, but costs continued to rise. The group, now minus the word “civic” in its name, gained a new home with the creation of the Arts and Sciences Center. In the face of higher expenses, charitable grants kept the opera going, but a severe recession brought a merger with a Minneapolis Opera in the mid-1970s and a name change to the Minnesota Opera.
PDF of Trimble article
Ramsey County Historical Society’s Collection of Building Permits and the Story of the DeLoop Parking Ramp
Author: Robert F. Garland
St. Paul began to require building permits in 1883. This is the story of one downtown property, the DeLoop Parking Ramp, which the author researched using these permits, now housed at the Ramsey County Historical Society. In 1905, property owner Michael J. O’Neill constructed the first garage in St. Paul where a house had been. Over time, according to records, the garage expanded. One of the more interesting permits was for a “parking roof” put over the adjacent service station in 1931. The permits also show the 1966 destruction of the structure. The author hope that hopes that more people interested in the history of St. Paul’s built environment will use the collection of permits at the Ramsey County Historical Society.
PDF of Garland article
Union Park in the 1880s—Band Concerts, Balloon Ascensions Once Lured 10,000 People in a Single Day
Author: Minnesota Junior Pioneers
In 1880, the Milwaukee Short Line Railroad opened up development in today’s Macalester, Groveland, and Merriam Park neighborhoods, then on the outskirts of St. Paul. Union Park, as it was called, was a thirty-acre site that contained Lake Iris. Land there was purchased by people for an entertainment area with a pavilion and bandstand that could be rented out by church groups and was soon opened to the public. One of the more exciting events at the park was the balloon ascensions. The site was eventually platted into lots for homeowners, with streets following the natural contours of the land. John O. Hinkel, one of the developers, built a fine house on Feronia Avenue. In the 1960s, this house was torn down to make room for the Episcopal Home.
PDF of Union Park article
Larry Haeg, In Gatsby’s Shadow: The Story of Charles Macomb Flandrau (Iowa City, Ia.: University of Iowa Press, 2004).
Nancy Goodman and Robert Goodman, Paddlewheels on the Upper Mississippi. 1823–1854 (Stillwater, Minn.: Washington County Historical Society, 2003).
PDF of Book Reviews