June 23, 2005

History of St. Paul Street Names

(Filed under: History)

A few weeks back I mentioned the Don Empson book, The Street Where You Live: A Guide to the Street Names of St. Paul, which tells the history of St. Paul street names. I went to the library and borrowed a copy and found some interesting stories.

  • Seminary Ave. - The street where I live was named for Luther Seminary that moved to a location on what became Seminary Ave. and Englewood Ave. in 1899. In 1917 the seminary merged with two others and became the present day Luther Theological Seminary on Como Ave. In 1973 the St. Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority bought the site, demolished the buildings and put up the senior citizens housing project that occupies the plot today.
  • Cretin Ave. - Named in 1890 for the first Bishop of St. Paul, Joseph Cretin (1799-1857)
  • Dale Street - It appeared suddenly on a number of maps in 1871, and at the time was the western boundary of the city. Empson speculates that the street was named for a valley or depression in the land, which was more irregular then.
  • George Street - Named in 1855 for George W.H. Bell (1812-1900), who was the first white man to settle across the Mississippi in what is now the west side.
  • Goodrich Ave. - Named for Aaron Goodrich (1807-1887) who was described as "a volcanic explosion in the midst of the religious element." He was chief justice of the Minnesota Territory and a founder of the Republican Party in Minnesota.
  • John Ireland Boulevard - Named for John Ireland (1838-1918), the Roman Catholic Archbishop of St. Paul from 1884 until his death. Among other accomplishments, he established a parochial school system including St. Thomas College, St. Paul Seminary and St. Catherine's College. He is also responsible for building the St. Paul Cathedral and the Basilica of St. Mary's in Minneapolis.
  • Larpenteur Ave. - Named in 1904 for Auguste L. Larpenteur (1823-1919), the oldest living settler in St. Paul.
  • Pierce Butler Route - Named in 1961 to honor Pierce Butler, Jr. (1893-1957), a lawyer and civic leader.
  • Robert Street - Named after fur trader and river boat captain Louis Robert (1811-1874). He purchased part of the original townsite and named this street in 1844. He was French-Canadian, so his name was originally pronounced "Row-bear".
  • University Ave. - Originally the street ran between the University of Minnesota and Hamline University and was thus named in 1874. But when the Minnesota Transfer Yards were built, blocking the course of the street, the eastern end was moved one-half mile further south, to what was then Melrose Avenue. The original University Avenue became Minnehaha Avenue (named of course for the Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis).
  • Van Buren Avenue - Named in 1871 for the eighth president of the United States, Martin Van Buren (1782-1862). Empson adds this cool note:
    Within the block bounded by Blair, Van Buren, Wheeler and Aldine streets, there is a diagonal alley which follows the course of the early territorial road running from St. Paul to St. Anthony (now southeast Minneapolis). This short stretch of alley is one of the few remnants of the first road between the two cities.

  • Western Ave. - Named in 1854 because it was the westernmost street in the city. Original, huh?

At least those were the stories that jumped out to me, for the most part streets I'm familiar with. I'd encourage you to check out the book for yourself, especially for the cool old time pictures.

Posted by kevin at June 23, 2005 8:06 PM

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