A Stranger’s Opinion of St. Paul

(Engraver: John Chester Buttre, 1860, courtesy Minnesota Historical Society)

Harriet E. Bishop is a name familiar to anyone interested in the history of Saint Paul. Born in Vermont, Bishop came to Minnesota in 1847 and here achieved many firsts—Saint Paul’s first teacher, founder of the first Sunday school in Minnesota, first leader of the women’s suffrage movement, and a driving force behind several social movements. She was well known in the city’s literary ­circles and wrote about Minnesota and Saint Paul, though her writings often include language that today would be considered racist, ­revealing attitudes toward Native Americans common to the era but whose effects are still felt to this day.

Five Things to Love about Saint Paul from Someone Who Moved Here from Somewhere Else

Downtown Saint Paul. (Photo: Ryan Chernik/RyanChernik.com)

John Moe is the host of Wits, a national public radio show based in Saint Paul. Noted for skimming “the cream off a few decades of local and ­national indie scenes,” the show features writers, comedians, and musicians. John has brought such guests as Fred Willard, Rosanne Cash, Martha Wainwright, and Julia Sweeney to the historic Fitzgerald Theater. A widely published author as well as a reporter, he lives in Saint Paul with his family.

High Water

Pig’s Eye Bridge from southbound towboat Paul Lambert (Photo: Captain Bob Deck)

A grizzled old towboat mate of twenty-six named Steamboat Bill explained the dangers of working in high water to me in very simple, very direct terms. “Rule number-one is: Don’t fall in! If you fall in, you’re dead. It’s that simple. The current will drag you under and you’ll drown!” He told me this from the deck of a barge moored in South Saint Paul in the spring of 1975, when the Mississippi River was rising fast. Years later I watched as another young deckhand learned this lesson.

Saint Paul Skyways = Freedom

Skyway at the corner of Sibley and Fifth, looking west. (Photo: Jeremy Noble/Flickr CC)

I’m sure there are many who say they love Saint Paul more than any other place on earth, but for me to say that would be an understatement. That’s because living anywhere outside of downtown Saint Paul would be like being in jail. I live in the heart of the skyway system in downtown, and for me it is freedom. You see, I am both deaf and blind.

Streetcars of Saint Paul

Selby-Lake streetcar in the 1940s advertising war bonds and stamps (Photo: Minneapolis Star Journal Tribune)

In the early 1940s, we lived on the East Side of Saint Paul near Hazelwood and Seventh streets, where streetcars stopped almost in front of our house. One of my earliest memories is of waiting for the streetcar to bring my grandfather and aunts home from their downtown jobs at the central post office and The Emporium and Schuneman's, two of the large department stores.