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February 2010 Volume 16 Number 2

Your Community News & Information Source

Ordway celebrates historic milestone Unveils renovation plans for the McKnight Theatre Steven Pease Contributor

S

t. Paul’s Ordway Center for the Performing Arts is known by some as the city’s living room. This year marks the 25th season those ornately designed living room walls have played host to countless virtuosos, performances and patrons.  “It is a remarkably beautiful facility, and not just in the public areas,” said Ordway CEO and president Patricia Mitchell. “People talk about coming and how gracious it is and how warm it is. In the (performance art) world it is regarded as a really good place to play.” The Ordway Music Theatre opened Jan. 1, 1985, with a performance by opera legend Leontyne Price. The theater was the brainchild of local arts magnate Sally Ordway Irvine, whose $10 million donation helped kick off the eventual $46 million raised to construct the building at Fifth and Washington. Irvine’s vision: create a multi-functional home for all varieties of performing arts in downtown St. Paul. With the help of state and city funds, philanthropists and arts enthusiasts, the nonprofit has become a multi-theater venue that has partnerships with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Opera and the Schubert Club, and

Rebecca Illingworth, owner of Bin Wine Bar.

New wine bar opens in Lowertown Renée C.F. Miller Contributor

B Ordway CEO and President Patricia Mitchell explains the planned expansion of the “beautiful but underused” McKnight Theatre at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. Construction will take 18 to 20 months and will begin once funds have been raised. hosts numerous local, national and international productions. Through theater, dance, family events and educational programming, which brings in some 50,000 students annually, the Ordway has blossomed. But Mitchell said the addition of smaller performances has made it difficult to accurately gauge attendance fluctuations. The performing arts center drew nearly 375,000 patrons last season, nearly half of those to the theater alone. “Like everybody (in 2009), when the economic recession really hit everyone in the teeth, ‘Beauty and the Beast’

exceeded the ticket sales goals by several hundreds of thousands of dollars,” she said. “We’re happily coming out of that trough from the point of view of the audience wanting to come back.” Following in the footsteps of movie theaters, Ordway patrons can now print tickets at home, thus skipping box office lines. Mitchell mentioned that as a result of the recession, more people are paying their annual subscription in installments and more single tickets are being sold closer to showtime. Nonetheless, there aren’t too many open dates on the calendar.

“This season, in the Ordway Main Hall (which seats 1,900), there are 23 dark days (non-scheduled). You can’t get a toothpick in there from Labor Day until the end of June,” said Mitchell who came to the Ordway in August 2007 after managing the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. “The downside is there is more that we could do. More activity that each of the arts partners could take. At the end of the day you run out of time.” In an ongoing effort to expand, the Ordway has plans to renovate and add some 800 seats to Ordway / Page 2

in Wine Bar, scheduled to open by Feb. 1 in the Park Square Court building at the corner of Sixth and Sibley, is designed to be a place for people to sip, share and learn about wine. It is the culmination of a dream of owner Rebecca Illingworth, who moved to Lowertown a year ago and quickly recognized that the area was missing a wine bar. “I love the restaurants and bars in the area — Trattoria da Vinci, Barrio and Bulldog,” she said, “but I felt that there was an opportunity for a place where friends could gather for a glass of wine and some light food.” Illingworth, a Chicago transplant and advertising executive, was recently certified as a wine professional and is excited to move forward with her new venture. The wine bar offers dozens of wines, in addition to sandwiches, salads and flatbread pizzas. Wines are offered by the glass, the bottle, and in “flights,” which are sets of three 2-ounce glasses of wine, priced at $1-$2 an ounce. “Flights give the opportunity to try several wines at once. It’s an excellent way to try new wines, especially for people who are new to wine,” she explained. “We offer an experience and some education to everyone who comes in. Savvy wine consumers will be comfortable here, and so will novices.” Bin Wine Bar features towering windows overlooking Mears Park and, according to Illingworth, Bin Wine Bar / Page 2


A rts & Culture Ordway from page 1

the “beautiful but underused” 300-seat McKnight Theatre, Mitchell said, adding that the planned renovation will commence once funds have been raised. Construction is expected to take 18 to 20 months. The Ordway, as it stands, boasts Flemish bond brick, imported

Your community news and information source lobby tiling from Wales, and chandeliers from Winona. And what “living room” would be complete without carpeting? (Which, due to the theater’s extensive extended family, has already been replaced twice, according to Ordway house and hospitality services manager Toby Lien). “For me, the Ordway isn’t about the history behind it. It’s about the

experience the patrons have,” Lien said. Lien remembered an older couple who knew their days together were numbered. They chose to attend a performance of “South Pacific” at theOrdway as their last date together, he said. “This was a very special place for them, and that was humbling,” said Lien. “I still get goosebumps.”

The Downtown St. Paul Voice is published monthly and delivered to every apartment, condominium and skyway drop in St. Paul’s historic urban village, as well as other locations throughout downtown St. Paul.

Publisher & Editor: Tim Spitzack Copy Editor: Leslie Martin Reporter: Mary Diedrick Hansen Contributors: Roger Fuller, Don Morgan, Renée C.F. Miller, Steven Pease Masthead by Nick Germano Advertising: Mario Polanco, Isaac Contreras Home Delivery: Independent Delivery Service Bulk Delivery: SC Distribution 651-285-1119

Mitchell said the Ordway is attempting to broaden its audience to better cater to St. Paul’s diverse population. “One big difference is we are programming international artists that are connected to our new cititzens,” said Mitchell. “The Ordway has an opportunity to put art on the stage that will resonate with a wider range of segments of the community.” The Ordway is meant to cater to patrons and artists alike. Mitchell said that, due to the work of the Ordway’s unheralded staff and backstage amenities, it is a venue

that stands out among the rest. “When an artist comes to the backstage areas we want them to feel wellregarded,” she said of the theater’s cozy and welldesigned confines. “It’s a small thing but it makes a big difference.” In the past 25 years, the Ordway has hosted such luminaries as Yo Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin, a former creative chair of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. On Jan. 17, during the Ordway’s 25th anniversary celebration, the Ordway opened its main stage, offering 25 seconds of performance time to

willing theater buffs. With 25 years of performances under its belt, what is the ultimate goal for the Ordway? “That always sounds like there will be a point at which were finished,” joked Mitchell. “The arts is about change and choosing what’s new in the theater scene, the dance world, and music. The ultimate goal is to keep the theaters filled with art of the highest quality from around the world, and keep the seats filled with patrons from around the community. The formula is always changing.”

Bin Wine Bar

and offers private parties throughout the week. Illingworth and her team, including chef Dave Jebens and manager Tracy Isaacson, are pleased with the support from the neighborhood. “We’ve had such a great

experience and we’ve had lots of interest and support, and not just from the public,” said Illingworth. “The owners of the businesses here have been so helpful. I’m very grateful.”

from page 1

was kept “deliberately quaint,” with a capacity of 50. Summer will bring outdoor seating. Bin opens at 3 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday,

St. Paul Publishing Co.

1643 So. Robert St., West St. Paul, MN 55118 Phone: (651) 457-1177 sppc@stpaulpublishing.com www.stpaulpublishing.com The Downtown St. Paul Voice assumes no responsibility for the opinions expressed by contributors and for the validity of claims or items reported. Copyright Downtown St. Paul Voice 2010. All rights reserved in compliance of Federal Copyright Act of 1978.

UNCORKED Bin Wine Bar

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At Mears Park • Lowertown, Saint Paul • 6th and Sibley Telephone : 651.224.WINE (9463) • Facsimile : 651.224.9466 • Website : www.binwinebar.com

Page 2 - Downtown St. Paul Voice - February 2010


F uller Files

Your community news and information source

by Roger Fuller

Plug into St. Paul

New downtown residents are invited to attend a Plug into St. Paul gathering 5:30-7:30 p.m., Thurs., Feb. 18, at the Lowry Theatre in the Lowry building at Fifth and St. Peter. Plug into St. Paul social networking opportunities are sponsored by CapitolRiverCouncil/District 17 and are held the third Thursday of even numbered months.

Brekke joins Spectacle Shoppe

Spectacle Shoppe has added an optometrist to its location on the skyway level of Lowry building at Fifth and St. Peter. Manager Ed Coleman said Dr. Jim Brekke will be available in the early afternoons on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Central Library events

The Central Library Book Club will discuss “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” by Audrey Niffenegger, at 10:30 a.m., Thurs., Feb. 11. The History Book Club will discuss “Hiding in the Open: A Holocaust Memoir,” by Sabina Zimering, at noon, Thurs., Feb. 25. A panel discussion of the History Theatre’s production of “Hiding in the Open” will be held at 2 p.m., Sun., Feb. 7. The author will be present. The Rose Ensemble will hold a sing-along at 7 p.m., Tues., Feb. 2, at the Landmark Center, located across Rice Park from the library.

Sinfonia concert

Violinist Olga Polonsky will perform Violin Concerto in A minor by Dvorak at the Minnesota Sinfonia concert at 7 p.m., Fri., Feb. 12, at the Metro State University auditorium. The orchestra will also perform “Oberon” by von Weber and “Serenade for Strings” by Tchaikovsky.

youth and adult composers at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 19 and 20, at Studio Z in the Northwestern Building, 275 East 4 th St. Works by Gao Hong, Mike Croswell and Doug Little will also be performed.

Lowry Lab presents ‘Expecting Isabell’

Theatre Unbound will perform “Expecting Isabell” Feb. 13-28, at the Lowry Theatre Lab in the Lowry building at Fifth and St. Peter. Stacey Poirier, artistic director, said it is a romantic comedy that takes a humorous and poignant look at fertility options. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays.

Reading Jam

Lowertown Reading Jam will be held at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 1, at the Black Dog Café, 308 Prince. Tou Saiko Lee will moderate a program with writers reading from their works. Anti-Gravity will play at 8 p.m., Thurs., Feb. 25. The group is made up of five musicians with diverse backgrounds. The closing reception of the Winter Carnival Art Show will be held at

6 p.m., Jan. 29. A total of 32 paintings, sculptures and photographs are in this juried show.

McNally Smith concert

McNally Smith School of Music, 19 Exchange St. E., will present a faculty concert at 5 p.m., Tues., Feb. 23. Dave Schmalenberger will lead a jazz band.

Skyway elevator

A small elevator has been installed at the skyway level of the Pioneer/ Endicott building to allow wheelchair accessibility with the First Bank building at 180 E. Fifth St. Previously, people could take an elevator to and from the ground level but that is no longer possible because the first floor is closed to the public.

D. Brian’s Deli to open outlet in Town Square

Steve Olson, of D. Brian’s Deli in Town Square, is getting ready to open an outlet on the first floor of the 180 E. Fifth Street building. Although the outlet will be smaller than his Town Square location, it will offer a

NEW & USED GUITARS BASSES AMPS ACCESSORIES LESSONS REPAIRS CONSIGNMENT

similar selection of soup, salad, sandwiches, breakfasts and catering opportunities. Opening is planned for sometime this winter.

Sixth Street sidewalk widening discussed

The city is considering widening the sidewalk on the north side of Sixth St., between Sibley and Wacouta, to allow outdoor seating for patrons of the Bulldog, Barrio Tequila and the new Bin Wine Bar. The project would expand the sidewalk from eight to 18 feet. About 22 parking places would be lost because meters would be removed from both sides of Sixth Street. The street would retain three traffic lanes, two for cars and one for buses. Cost is estimated at $330,000. Possible funding sources include a grant from the capital improvement funds and assessment of the businesses. Concerns of the neighbors include excessive noise from the outdoor dining patrons, the possible loss of a bus stop or bus shelter, and potential unruly behavior in Mears Park. The CapitolRiv-

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Feb. 22, and computer classes at 1:30 p.m., Feb. 16 and 23. The movie schedule at 1 p.m. Thursdays includes “Playing by Heart” on Feb. 4, “New in Town” on Feb. 11, “The Lion King” on Feb. 18, and “Days that Shook the World” on Feb. 25.

City Passport events

Capitol Guitars relocates

City Passport senior citizen center will hold an open house at 1 p.m., Fri., Feb. 19, on the mezzanine level of the Alliance Bank Center. Renee Skoglund, director, said the event will mark the fifth anniversary of the center’s move to downtown and observe the grand opening of its new location. Previously, it was located at Galtier Plaza. Mayor Chris Coleman and Council Member Dave Thune are scheduled to attend. Other City Passport events in February include: snack food bingo at 10:30 a.m., Feb. 12, an ice cream float social at 1:30 p.m., Feb. 12, a current events discussion at 11 a.m., Feb. 19, a ladies tea at 2:30 p.m.,

Capitol Guitars is scheduled to open the first week in Februrary at it new location at 191 7th St. E., in downtown St. Paul. The new store features a sales floor that is over three times as large as its former location at 534 St. Peter St., plus new lesson rooms and a repair department A grand opening event on Sat., Feb. 20, will feature guitar and amp sales reps, free food and beverages, and music gear giveaways. Capitol Guitars buys, sells, and trades new and used guitars, basses, amps, and accessories. It also lessons and a full service repair department. For more information, call 651-225-8888 or visit capitolguitars.com.

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Zeitgeist concert

Zeitgeist will perform the winning compositions in the Eric Stokes annual song contest for

erCouncil/District 17 has recommended a task force be established to consider ways to address these issues. Joe Spencer of the Mayor’s office said there is a need for more entertainment options in Lowertown for people ages 18-40.

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Listen: Live romantic poetry being performed by members of the Saint Paul Poetry Slam team. Taste: Delectable chocolate truffles to sample & buy to take home to your sweetie. Wine to sip on. See & Touch: Valentine's Day inspired art by local Artists. Hear: Mood music by local musicians. Participation: Bring or mail in your favorite quote about Love. Love quotes should be on a 4.25”x 6” (postcard size) piece of paper or card stock. The quotes will then be on diplay at the Artist Mercantile.

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Downtown St. Paul Voice - February 2010 - Page 3 This material is developed by and is property of the St.


S ample St. Paul Ordway Center for Performing Arts “DANCEBRAZIL” is presented at 7:30 p.m., Fri., Feb. 19, at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts, 345 Washington St., St. Paul. Experience traditional Afro-Brazilian Dance and Capoeira movement in choreography that blends contemporary dance and sound in performances that echo the traditional movement, spirit and color of Brazil’s rich multicultural influences.

Your community news and information source

Tickets are $25-$30. For more information, call the box office at 651224-4222.

History Theatre “Sister Kenny’s Children” is presented through Feb. 14, at the History Theatre, 30 E. 10th St., St. Paul. This new play is a powerful retelling of how Sister Elizabeth Kenny battled adversity to make her ground-breaking therapies the standard in polio treatment. Tickets are

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Omnifest 2010 “Africa’s Elephant Kingdom,” “Into the Deep,” “Van Gogh: Brush with Genius,” “The Greatest Places,” and “Ski to the Max” are the films presented during Ominifest 2010. The film festival runs through Mar. 11 at the Omintheater in the Science Museum of Minnesota.

$25-$30 for adults, $22$28 for seniors and $10 for children. For more information, call the box office at 651-292-4323.

Children’s Museum “Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice” is presented through May 31, at the Minnesota Children’s Museum, 10 W. Seventh St., St. Paul. This exhibit will transport families back to the Cretaceous Period (145 - 65 million

years ago) to explore dinosaur habitats and better understand how these mysterious animals lived. Tickets are $8.95. For more information, call 651-225-6000.

Park Square Theatre

“Rock ’n’ Roll” is presented through Feb. 7, at Park Square Theatre, 20 W. 7th Place, St. Paul. Spanning two countries and three generations,

the music of revolution, protest, liberation and emotional survival proves that love, and rock ’n’ roll, live on. Tickets are $36-$40 for adults, $31$35 for seniors and $15 for age 30 and under. For more information, call 651-291-7005.

Science Museum of Minnesota

Omnifest 2010, a giant screen film festival, is presented through

Mar. 11, at the Omnitheater, located in the Science Museum, 120 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul. The featured films are “Africa’s Elephant Kingdom,” “Into the Deep,” “Van Gogh: Brush with Genius,” “The Greatest Places,” and “Ski to the Max.” Tickets are $8 for adults and $7 for children. For more information, visit www.smm.org, or call 651-221-9444.

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S ample St. Paul Minnesota History Center “Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World” is presented through July 4, at the Minnesota History Center, 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul. You know about Benjamin Franklin’s famous experiment with a kite, a key and some lightning, but did you also know about his rebellious youth? That he pioneered wind surfing and invented swim fins? That he helped found the nation’s first hospital, was an environmentalist and charted the Gulf Stream to assist in ocean travel? In many ways Benjamin Franklin is the founding father nobody knows – misunderstood because of the sheer breadth and diversity of his accomplishments. Discover the many ways Franklin has affected our world today in this exhibit.

“Minnesota’s Greatest Generation: The Depression, The War, The Boom” - This exhibit features more than 6,000-square-feet of artifacts, interactive displays and innovative multimedia experiences that reveal the lives and stories of the men and women who came of age during the Depression and World War II, and who went on to create the phenomenal postwar boom. The exhibition features first-person narratives in recorded interviews, images, film and audio. “MN 150”- Meet 150 people, places, events and things that have sparked significant change within Minnesota and beyond. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and college students, and $5 for children ages 6-17. The Center offers free admission on Tuesdays,

Your community news and information source from 5-8 p.m. For more information, call 651259-3000 or visit www. mnhs.org.

Lowry Theatre “Hockey Mom, Hockey Dad!” is presented through April 26 at the Lowry Theatre, 16 W. 5th St., St. Paul. Comedy and drama collide in this romantic comedy about two lonely, single parents who meet and fall in love while watching their kids play hockey. Tickets are $14.50-$27.50 and can be ordered by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800982-2787. For more information, call the box office at 651-227-2464.

Landmark Center

St. Paul City Ballet is offering Ballet Tuesdays at noon, the second Tuesday of the month at the Landmark Center. This free program runs

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through April 13. The majority of Ballet Tuesdays will feature St. Paul City Ballet Company’s dancers, who will perform and educate attendees on various aspects of ballet and preview upcoming performances. February and March performances will include excerpts from the company’s Sister City tour

to Manzanillo, Mexico, as well as the company’s performance at the Ritz in March. For more information, call 651-2923276, or visit www.landmarkcenter.org.

Place and St. Peter in downtown St. Paul, offers live entertainment throughout the month, including jazz bands, poetry nights and the popular B-3 organ night, held at 9 p.m. every Tuesday. For a complete schedule Artists’ Quarter The Artists’ Quarter, of events, call 651-292located in the Historic 1359 or visit www.artistsHamm Building at 7th quarter.com.

Mn/DOT and your local officials invite you to an

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at the Paul and Sheila Wellstone Center, 179 Robie Street East, St. Paul

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Find out about the Highway 52 Lafayette Bridge replacement project This is your opportunity to get details about the Highway 52 Lafayette Bridge replacement project. This project marks a significant change for the area, and all residents and business owners are encouraged to attend. Now is the time to get involved. For further information, call Kent Barnard Minnesota Department of Transportation, 651-234-7504

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R iver Views A river man at heart

Your community news and information source

Hokan Miller named West Sider of the Year to action. Today, Miller, 56, has been recognized for his work on riverfront and development issues by being named West Sider of the Year. He has lived on the West Side since 1976.

Tim Spitzack Editor

O

ver a dozen towering cottonwood trees stand like sentries over Harriet Island Regional Park. In wintertime, their gnarly trunks and branches are stark and barren, but in summer, they are in full splendor, with hand-sized, heartshaped leaves that rustle on branches reaching out nearly 50 feet, offering shade and tranquility to park visitors. These trees were the impetus behind Hokan Miller’s first foray into helping protect the natural amenities of the Mississippi riverfront in St. Paul. In the late-1980s, when Miller learned that the trees might be taken down to make way for parking lots and walking paths for the renovation of Harriet Island Regional Park, he was spurred

A true river man

Miller, who was born in St. Paul but raised in Bayport, is a river man. While in college, he spent two summers working as a deckhand on the Padelford riverboats and for a tow boat service upstream from the Smith Avenue High Bridge. After graduating from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisc., with a degree in government and economics, Miller applied to the law schools at the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin, but was denied entry. That twist of fate set him on a career path that would make

him intimate with the river, and one that better suited his personality. He would go on to work as a deck hand, pilot and dispatcher for ten river corporations during the course of his career. In 1976, he convinced his parents to cosign a loan so he and a friend could buy a houseboat from Gordy Miller, who then operated the marina at Harriet Island. The boat appealed to him because it offered cheap living and was within walking distance of the company where he resumed his job as a deck hand. “It was a 15’ x 40’, 2-bedroom houseboat, a floating trailer,” he said. “It was not a beautiful boat.” Eventually, his wife, Penny, would move on board with him and the couple spent 22 years there while Miller ad-

Hokan Miller poses near one of the cottonwood trees that he helped fight to save during the renovation of Harriet Island Regional Park. vanced from deck hand to riverboat pilot. They now live in a home on Prescott Street. It was a fortuitous time for him when he began piloting because there was a shortage of pilots. Most years, he said, there are no openings for new riverboat pilots. In 1979, he was one of a dozen hired in St. Paul.

“It was 720, 12-hour days in the deck department,” explained Miller of the on-the-job training needed to apply for his Coast Guard license, which is required of all commercial river pilots. He also had to take a physical and pass a written exam. After earning his license, he spent the next

ten years on the river pushing barges around St. Paul and to ports as far away as St. Louis. It was during this time that he came to appreciate the natural beauty of the river. “St. Paul is a spectacular river town, from the river,” he said. “It is much continued on next page

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L etters to the Editor

Your community news and information source

Less is more for project at Fifth and Wall This letter to the editor is submitted by Bill Hosko, a downtown business owner and artist. Now that the legal disputes over the stoppedin-its-tracks Farmer’s Market Flats’ housing project at Fifth and Wall Street in Lowertown have been settled, and the city would like to move forward on a revised project, city leaders, downtown residents and Lowertown business owners should look again at this site’s potential. Past conceptual illustrations mislead the public by showing a six-story, uninspiring building on this corner — from a more distant view than is possible, thereby creating the illusion that the outdoor Farmer’s Market area would remain more open than it will.

River Views from page 6

better than all of the other river towns. Hidden Falls is the prettiest spot from Minneapolis to St. Louis.” While working as a riverboat pilot may seem exciting, Miller said it was often tedious and required long hours and extended trips away from home. Many of his trips were week-long jaunts, during which he lived aboard his vessel. “The romance of the river is that there is no romance,” he quipped of his life as a pilot. “People who work on boats disenfranchise themselves of working with people,” he added, referring to the difficulty they face in being involved in community affairs. In 1989 he took a “bank job” as a dispatcher, as well as a pay cut, so he could be home in the evenings and get more involved with community issues close to his heart. He is currently employed as a dispatcher for Upper River Services on the West Side, where he enjoys keeping his “finger on the pulse of the harbor.” He still assists with

Views from the back of the adjoining buildings and even the building across Fifth Street (slated to become housing after a temporary stint as a parking ramp) will have a close-up view into someone else’s home or office. Instead, an L-shaped, two-story structure featuring a plaza over the underground parking ramp would better link Mears Park to the outdoor market, to the Northern Building’s outdoor seating, to the little park east of the Northern, and lastly to the Vento Nature Sanctuary: a necklace of open spaces through the heart of Lowertown. A public plaza on this corner, capped by the ultimate artistic farm sculptural form — a windmill — gives the area breathing room. Imagine the de-

light of children young and old seeing this and being able to pump water from the old-fashioned hand pump at its base. During market weekends there is too little respite opportunity for people at the market, a place to people-watch but set aside a bit. Of course, most of the time the market area is a parking lot where public seating is mostly relegated to sidewalk benches facing a parked car. Additionally, there need be no housing on the corner of Fifth and Wall. There are ample opportunities nearby. This Lshaped conceptual project should be dedicated to a first floor “Indoor Farmer’s Market” and nothing less. Its second floor should be dedicated to artist retail space and nothing less – a public

piloting in the port, when needed. In his words, the company offers a parking lot, valet service and car wash for barges.

his projects have been uphill struggles, with some not turning out as he would have liked. Nonetheless, he is resolved to continue advocating for what he believes is right, and working through the required democratic processes. “One strong thing for me is the visual aspect of the river corridor,” said Miller of his involvement in riverfront issues. “My experience with city (of St. Paul) staff has been overwhelmingly positive over several decades. St. Paul city government provides opportunities for people who live in the city to participate in the planning process. That’s democratic and expensive and valuable. It takes a lot of staff time and volunteer time and neighbor time.” This process is accomplished through the city’s district planning councils. He has been active for 20 years with the West Side Citizens Organization, the district council for the West Side, and is currently chair of its Riverfront and Development (R&D) committee. “WSCO gives me an ongoing regular channel to my local government,” he said. “What we’re

A community man

In 1988, Miller became involved in the planning process for the redevelopment of Harriet Island, with the primary goal of saving the trees along the riverbank. “The planning process is never-ending,” he said of the many projects he’s been involved with, including opposition efforts to the LanderSherman high-rise condo project and the Bridges of St. Paul mixed-use developments, both proposed in recent years on the West Side, the flood wall at Holman Field airport and, most recently, the relocation of his employer to the Southport facility on Barge Channel Road, just downstream of its current location under the Lafayette Bridge. The move is expected to take place later this year or in 2011. “To get what you want, or stop what you don’t want, you have to get engaged in the process,” he said. “You have to get political leverage.” Admittedly, many of

Bill Hosko, a downtown business owner and artist, offers this sketch as a design he believes is appropriate for the redevelopment project at Fifth and Wall in Lowertown. corridor here overlooking the vibrant plaza below would be ringed by as many as 20 glass-fronted gallery bays. These local artist galleries would offer flexible and affordable lease options and help fill the void for artists to display their works in Lowertown, in a new setting that the public will truly

be attracted to. Consideration should also be given to future skyway connections to adjacent buildings, Union Depot and the rest of the downtown community to solidify its year-round success. Just over a decade ago Lowertown nearly lost its Farmer’s Market to

a West Side Flats parking lot. Today, it remains safely tucked into the middle of an opportunity-rich historic district called Lowertown. Let’s now make the most of its companion building. It is a rare chance where less can and should be delightfully more.

(R&D committee) interested in for the near-term is steering or monitoring the built development that takes place as the recession eases. We’re interested in more public access (to the river), other than Harriet Island. “In 1989, we had ‘weed’ trees growing on Harriet Island on the riverbank. Now they are called native species,” he added. “That change in terminology is progress.” Miller has also served for 16 years on the board of the Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR), five years on the Riverview Economic Develop-

ment Association board, and two years on the St. Paul STAR board. “He’s probably the guy (on our board) that knows the river the best,” said Whitney Clark, FMR executive director. “He’s phenomenally grounded and commonsensical and approaches every question with a pragmatic approach. He has tons of connections and knows the history behind the history. It’s that depth of understanding that’s pretty amazing to behold.” Miller enjoys his role as a river steward and doesn’t look to end his

efforts anytime soon. “I’m a pretty persistent guy and I have a supportive wife who allows me to go to meetings,” he said. “I always have hope for the future.”

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Downtown St. Paul Voice - February 2010 - Page 7


B ack in Time February 1925: Business and drama boom

Your community news and information source

Don Morgan Contributor

G

ood times are a good time. In February 1925, the Roaring Twenties were starting to roar following an early decade recession. And while February seems a strange time to want to visit St. Paul, the city hosted several business conventions and exhibits that month. Folks also followed a national craze and flocked

to see a Broadway hit that came to town By that February, the country was booming. For 1925, the Gross National Product was up over ten percent, inflation was only one percent and unemployment only three percent. Just the prior month, President Calvin Coolidge gave an address that contained his most famous quote: “The chief business of America is business.”

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That was only one part of an address in which he also said that “the chief ideal of America is idealism,” but the line about business seemed to fit the times so well that it is the one that has always been repeated.

Convention-land

The business meetings in town that February started with an “old” favorite, the Twin Cities Auto Show, held at the Overland Building on University Avenue. Autos had been around long enough that the basics had been covered. The 1925 show was noted for the cars’ “beautiful lines and utmost luxury.” Over 10,000 people turned out for opening day to see such long-gone makes as Graham, Oakland, Marmon, Kissel, Paige, Rickenbacker, Reo, Cleveland and Chandler. The show ran for a week and was a huge success. Much better than in Kansas City

anyway, where the auto long as written words, show was destroyed that but in late 1924, a colmonth by a fire the night lection of reprints from before the grand open- The New York World had ing. caught the public’s eye. Other business gather- The book made a very ings that month mostly popular Christmas prescame downtown. A mar- ent, and it even included ket week drew over 1,000 a pencil. By early 1925, small business owners to most papers in the Twin town. They were enter- Cities were printing daily tained at a dinner and puzzles for the first time. dance held in the con- Church services, busicourse of the then new ness meetings, even wedUnion Depot, sponsored dings were interrupted as by the city’s league of people discussed their atwholesalers. The station tempts to solve the latest was booked for the eve- puzzle. You had to wait a ning and renamed the week for the answers in Rail Cabaret. those days. City bookNext, the Minnesota stores capitalized on the Association of Pharma- craze with a marketing cists opened the Drug campaign from Funk & Show, which drew a big Wagnalls: Get the Praccrowd at the Auditorium. tical Standard dictionary “Everything sold in a – It Solves Your Crossmodern drug store” was Word Puzzles. on exhibit and there were When folks finished hundreds of free sam- (or gave up on) that ples, as well as a “super day’s puzzle, they looked deluxe” soda fountain. to get out of the house The druggists held their for a good time. Movbig party at the St. Paul ies were still silent, and Hotel and the show was that month downtown a big enough success to you could see “Yolanda” run out of samples a day with Marion Davies or early. “The Only Woman,” Paul Voice No sooner wereSt. the Publication: with Norma Talmadge. La Voz Latina pharmacists out of town But the big attraction Downtown than the MinnesotaSouth hard-St. was Paul a stage play at the wareDeadline: dealers took over the Metropolitan on Sixth Auditorium for their ex- Street, between Robert hibition,Cost: complete with and Minnesota. It was entertainment Published: and free only booked for a week samples. It, too, was a big but ended up spending success, although not as the entire month. big as the drug show, “Abie’s Ok asperis (please X ) Irish Rose” had haps due to the absence opened on Broadway in of soda fountains. Be-andNew Change sendYork in 1922. From proofthe start, it was one of fore the month revised was out, Client the citySignature would also host those shows that critthe (for Minnesota Grocers ics hate, but the public approval) Association at the Ryan loves. New York theater Hotel and the state651-457-1177 News sophisticates like Lorenz Phone: Editors Fax: Convention at Hart, Robert Benchley 651-457-1077 the St. Paul Hotel. The and Heywood Broun This material is developed by and is property of the St. editors convention was never missed a chance Paul Publishing Company and may not be reproduced, copied, published, or otherwise used without notable in that exhibited 1925 was to trash the production. written consent of the St. Paul Publishing Company. © theSt.first year that Partly, they had real obPaul Publishing Co. women 2007. delegates were allowed to jections, partly they were Terms: Prepayment by credit card required for firstattend and oneWhen of the sesupset time advertisers. billed, payment is duethey in full hadn’t thought in ten addressed days of run datethe on invoice. 30 sions sub- Invoices of itover themselves, and days past due will be assessed a $3 rebilling charge. If ject of women in journalpartly because the play payment is not received in 30 days St. Paul Publishing Company will put the charge on the credit on file. ism. wascardwritten, produced and directed by a womCredit Card Information: Puzzling an, Anne Nichols. Their Name as it appears on card: criticism had little effect. entertainment __________________________________________ That February, the city The show ran on Broadand the rest of the coun- way for five years. Several tryAdress: were in the grip of road productions got una __________________________________________ new craze – the cross- der way in 1924, but it word puzzle. Word puz- was hard to schedule as zles been around as the play kept getting held Zip have Code: __________________________________

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over wherever it went. It opened for one week at the Metropolitan on Jan. 30. The play is a comedy revolving around a romance and marriage between a young Jewish man and a young Irish Catholic woman. They meet in Europe during World War I. He is a soldier, she is a nurse. Their fathers, both widowers and both strong personalities, are not amused. After three acts, a lot of ethnic jokes, and marriage ceremonies performed by a minister, priest and rabbi, the fathers come around and welcome the couple and new twin grandchildren. St. Paul, with large populations of both Irish and Jewish Americans, was a good place for such a play. Billed in local papers as “the Irish-Hebrew Mirthquake,” it sold out its first week, with ticket prices ranging from 50¢$2. It was promptly held over for a second week, and then a third. People in town for the drug, hardware and grocery meetings tried to make seeing the play a part of their trip to St. Paul. It stayed at the Metropolitan all of February before leaving town to make way for another major show; jazz greats Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake (billed as The Chocolate Dandies) and a group called the Famous Funsters Orchestra. The good times would go on in St. Paul and elsewhere for nearly another five years, until the market crash of 1929 brought an end to a lot of the fun. Crosswords are still popular today, and anyone who can solve the Times’ puzzle on Friday or Saturday has bragging rights, especially if they didn’t use the internet. “Abie’s Irish Rose” isn’t staged much anymore but has had two Broadway revivals, two film versions, a long-running radio show and has been the basis of a couple of TV series. The critics still don’t like it; the public always does.


DTN Feb 10