Red River Traders encamped on St. Anthony Hill in 1858 (MNHS)
We’re buying a house in just over two weeks, and the location is a real conundrum. The area that’s now Desnoyer Park in St Paul was recognized as the midpoint between Minneapolis and St Paul since before both existed. In 1839, an enterprising Canadian Scotsman named Donald McDonald built a tavern, the “Halfway House”, for travelers between Fort Snelling and St Anthony Falls, and those on the oxcart trail to the Red River Valley. Soldiers routinely jumped the fort’s walls to come get drunk.
In the late 19th century, when people realized that two rival cities might not be the best idea, they rallied around the idea of combining them into the melodiously named Federal City - centered at the midpoint along the river in Merriam and Desnoyer Parks. Governor Merriam donated 20 acres to build the State Capitol there, and Archbishop John Ireland thought about building the Cathedral there.
That didn’t happen, and - skipping ahead - what’s the result? One of the most central neighborhoods in the Cities has 600 houses and… two businesses. A radio station owned by MPR and a golf course (“the second oldest continuously operated golf course in the country” - my!). Almost all of its roads are crooked because - as the other nearby neighborhoods in St Paul were planned by professional engineers - it seems like the powers-that-be overthought the possibilities and left people to their own devices, so they built houses. And then a neighborhood association took shape to keep anything but houses out.
So, now the Shardlows are moving in. We’ll form the pro-mixed-use wing of the Desnoyer Park Improvement Association immediately and start instigating for a new Halfway House.