February 2011 Volume 17 Number 2
Your Community News & Information Source
The Changing Face of St. Paul
Where do you fit in? Met Council survey reveals new details on area residents Mary Diedrick Hansen Staff Writer
he gloom and doom of 2010 is behind us and economists have tentatively projected 2011
to be the year when employment numbers start to climb and housing values end their decline. But where does St. Paul fit in with all those numbers and projections? How is it faring compared to past years? The recent release of the Metropolitan Council’s Community
Median Household Income $46,000
Profiles statistics (20052009) gives a clearer picture of what is happening in St. Paul today.
St. Paul’s population has changed significantly over the last 20 years. In 1990, 80 percent of the population was Cau-
56% own their own home Median value: $206,200 Median gross rent: $758
38% live alone 24% families without kids 17% married with kids 12% unmarried with kids 9% other Source: American Community Survey, 2005-2009
61% White 13% Asian 13% Black 9% Latino 4% other
casian. By 2000 that number declined to 64 percent, and the latest figures from the Metropolitan Council show it just above 61 percent. African Americans have climbed to 13 percent from 7 percent in 1990. Asian Americans have increase by the same percentages. Hispanic/Latinos have grown from 4 percent in 1990 to 9 percent in 2009. American Indians and residents who are of two or more races make up the rest. Of those of Hispanic origin, 32 percent reside on the West Side. The survey showed that 26 percent of St. Paul’s residents were of German heritage; 14 percent Irish, 8 percent Norwegian, 7 percent Swedish, and 6 percent English. People of Sub-Saharan African ancestry represented 4.2 percent of St. Paul’s population. In the 1980s, the Thomas/Dale area of the city, known as Frogtown, became home to Vietnamese residents who had fled their war-torn country. Not long after, following an arrangement for a settlement program for Hmong refugees, the city became home to yet another group of immigrants. By 2000, St. Paul had the largest number of urban Hmong in the United States. Because of the changing
Community Profile Page 7
Celebrating 125 Years of Frigid Fun Bill Knight Contributor
he St. Paul Winter Carnival is celebrating its 125 th birthday this year, so they are gifting us with 125 events that kick-off on Jan. 27. The majority of them will take place in and around downtown St. Paul near Rice Park, at the adjacent Landmark Center, with others at Lake Phalen and Como Park. Creating, coordinating and simply keeping track of that much activity is a full-time operation for Beth Pinkney, the executive director of the Winter Carnival who is working on her third festival. “About 40 percent of the events are stable, that is, they happen every year,” she said. “We begin in March looking for and creating new events, so it’s an all-year-long process. We start getting serious in June and July.” Most of the events and activities are finalized in October and November. She said the parades, ice carvings and snow sculptures are the most popular Carnival attractions.
Winter Carnival / Page 2
A rts & Culture Winter Carnival from page 1
Here is a sample of some of the new events this year. For details on these and all of the events, visit www.wintercarnival.com. • “Get Out and Go St. Paul” – a family festival celebrating outdoor winter sports, such as Nordic skiing, ski jorging and snowshoe races, 10 a.m.2 p.m., Sat., Jan. 29 at Lake Phalen. • Salute to Canada – Celebrating our friends to the north with music and fun, 11:30 a.m.12:30 p.m., Sat., Jan. 29 in Rice Park. • Winter Fest 2011 at the Germanic-American Institute, 301 Summit Ave. – Enjoy German hospitality and fun with beer, brats, live entertainment and traditional “German Karneval” games, 3-7 p.m., Sat., Jan. 29. • Hot Irish Music in a
Your community news and information source
Cool City - “COMPAS’ Art of Cuisine on Tour,” hits The Liffey, 175 W. 7th St., for a night of Irish food and music, 6-10 p.m., Sat., Jan. 29. • Securian Winter Run - A new race, a 10k, and a new course for both the 5k and half marathon run have been added to the Securian Winter Run. Events begin at 9 a.m., Sat., Jan. 29 at Sixth and Jackson streets. • Much More than Ice in Rice – In addition to the spectacular ice carvings, Rice Park will host live music from local artists daily, a 125-foot ice wall depicting highlights of Winter Carnival’s history, and an ice bar serving various adult beverages. Hours vary from Jan. 28 through Feb. 5. • A True Royal Wedding – celebrate the marriage of King Boreas (1983) and Aurora, Queen of the Snows (1955), (Charlie Hall and Dorothy Arneberg Furlong, respectively) in
the winter wonderland of Rice Park at 2 p.m., Sat., Feb. 5. • Snow Plow Competition - One new event is offering some serious fun when it comes to pushing around a few piles of snow. Imagine a typical riding lawn mower with a snow plow blade mounted on the front end, but no driver behind the wheel. Then you’ll have a pretty good picture of the remote control vehicles that will be slugging it out in the first Autonomous Snow Plow Competition. These robotic snow plows are quite different from typical remote controlled vehicles, according to Suneel Sheikh, the owner of a Shoreview company that does research in aerospace navigation and one of some 25 volunteers putting on the event. “The seat has been stripped out and that space is used for the control mechanisms, com-
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How times have changed since this 1887 Winter Carnival Ice Parade. puters and sensors,” he said. “Think of it as replacing a human being with electronic devices.” Two “competition fields,” which are 30foot long piles of snow and about the width of a city sidewalk, will be set up on Fourth Street, which will be blocked off between Market and Washington streets from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
On Sat., Jan. 29, each competing vehicle will attempt to plow snow from the competition field. Then on Sun., Jan. 30, the same plows will go back to work on a more challenging U-shaped course. Organized by the Satellite Division of the Institute of Navigation, the two day event brings to St. Paul one-of-a-kind snow plows, put together
by students at six colleges and universities in Minnesota, Michigan and Ohio. The “human part” of the robotic competition is the students’ design of the vehicle, the instructions they have written for the on-board computer and the control algorithms. “After getting a signal to go, no humans will interact with the
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A rts & Culture
With all the people and events happening each year, gauging the
economic impact of the Winter Carnival is no easy task. According to research on the 2007 event, the most recent statistics available, most of the people coming to Winter Carnival events live within 15 miles of St. Paul and they made the visit as a family group. People were evenly split between first time and repeat visitors. “About one third of the visitors spent money on food and beverages and the average amount was just over $13,” said Ingrid Schneider, director of the University of Minnesota Tourism Center which conducted this visitor profile. Other average expenditures by vis-
itors were $11 on Winter Carnival buttons, $10 on tickets and almost $7 on parking, which totals $41. By comparison, visitors to the 2006 Cinco de Mayo festival spent an average of just over $28 on food, $27 on tickets and just under $4 on parking, totaling $59. Schneider said there are challenges in comparing numbers from one event against
another because some are only one day long and others are multi-day festivals, and some focus more on food and beverages. She said that local visitors are not bringing “new money” to St. Paul, so expenditures on Winter Carnival events do
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vehicle,” Sheikh said. “Students will have preprogrammed a route for the vehicle, telling it which way to go. Some (snow plows) will have vision processing devices and the plow will ‘watch’ where it has gone and where it needs to go.” Sheikh said each vehicle will have up to 20 minutes to plow the snow from the competition field. The goal is not necessarily to move the snow but to create the unique algorithms, the navigational guidance and the remote controls.
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S ample St. Paul Science Museum “Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs” opens Feb. 18. This new exhibit,which features over 100 artifacts of the treasures of King Tut, explores the time of the pharaohs and what scientists have recently discovered regarding the unexpected death of King Tut. To complement the exhibit, the Onmintheatre is featuring “Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs,” also opening Feb. 18. In the late 19th century 40 royal mummies, including 12 Kings of Egypt, were discovered together in the same tomb. Today, scientists continue to explore the process of ancient Egyptian mummification using modern technology. See the first modern mummification in the Egyptian style since the time of the pharaohs, and find out what mysteries scientists hope to unravel by studying ancient DNA. Tickets are $25 for adults and $22 for children ages 4-12,
and $29 for seniors age 60 and older. Price includes all Science Museum exhibits. Omnifest 2011 - Omnifest features five films showing daily in the Omnitheater through Feb. 17. Shows include: “Hubble,” “Old Man and the Sea,” “Sea Monsters,” “Wild Safari” and “Tropical Rain Forest.” Museum tickets are $11 for adults and $8.50 for children ages 4-12 and seniors age 60 and older, or $17 and $14.50 respectively with admission to the Omnitheater. Omnitheater tickets alone are $8/$7. The Science Museum is located at 120 W. Kellogg Blvd. For more information, visit www.smm.org, or call 651-221-9444.
Ordway Center for Performing Arts Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience will perform at 7:30 p.m., Sun., Feb. 13 at the Ordway Center, 345 Washington St., St. Paul. Grammy Award-win-
Your community news and information source ning musician Terrance Simien, an eighth generation Louisiana Creole, incorporates a hypnotic blend of Zydeco, New Orleans funk, and reggaeflavored Afro-Caribbean sound. Tickets are $15$25. For more information, call 651-224-4222 or visit www.ordway.org.
Xcel Energy Center
Chris Tomlin, with special guests Louie Giglio, Christy Nockels and Rend Collective, will present the “And If Our God Is For Us” tour at 7 p.m., Wed., Feb. 16. Tickets are $25-$35. For more information, call 651-726-8240 or visit www.xcelenergycenter. com.
History Theatre “Adrift on the Mississippi” is presented Feb. 10-27 at the E.M. Pearson Theatre at Concordia University, St. Paul. Told through memories, prayers and spirituals, “Adrift on the Mississippi” is the powerful true story of Reverend Rob-
ert Hickman, who led a group of slaves out of Missouri, up the Mississippi river on a raft in search of freedom. Guided by their faith in one another and the hope of a better life, these courageous men and women formed a fellowship that carried them through their long and dangerous journey. They made their way to St. Paul, where many of them settled and founded Pilgrim Baptist Church, the first Black church in Minnesota. Tickets are $25-$30 for adults, $22$28 for seniors and $10 for children. Sample Night Live, a sampling of local productions, is featured at 7 p.m. the first Wednesday of each month, except February. The format features 12 acts per night, including theater, film, dance, improv, visual arts, folk and opera. The next performance is Mar. 2. Tickets are $20. The History Theater is located at 30 E. Tenth St., St. Paul. For more information, call 651-292-4323.
Photo ©2010 Sandro Vannini
This shabti, or funerary figure, of King Tut was found in the antechamber to his tomb. Made of wood and painted gold, it was meant to perform labor in the afterlife so that the king himself could rest. The shabti is one of 100 artifacts from Tut’s tomb and other notable ancient sites that will make their way to Minnesota for the first time when the “Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs” exhibition opens at the Science Museum of Minnesota on Feb. 18.
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History Center “Winter Carnival Weekends” are offered noon-4 p.m., Jan. 2930, and Feb. 5-6, featuring stories, activities and a History HiJinx craft. Participants will create miniature versions of King Boreas and Vulcanus Rex using clothespins, fabric, fake fur and sparkles and place them in their own Winter diorama scene. “The Value of One Life” is presented through April 10. This exhibit highlights portraits of eight people who survived life-altering events and went on to lead inspiring lives. 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, 5-8 p.m. For more information, call 651-259-3000 or visit www.mnhs.org.
“Adrift on the Mississippi,” the powerful true story of Reverend Robert Hickman, who led a group of slaves up the Mississippi river on a raft in search of freedom, is presented Feb. 1027 by the History Theatre at the E.M. Pearson Theatre at Concordia University.
Children’s Museum LEGO Castle Adventure opens Sat., Feb. 5. Visitors help design a new castle for the king and queen using one of the coolest building materials of all time: LEGO bricks. Visitors can construct castles, learn about real-world castles and
their building secrets, and plan their ideal castle’s defenses. Families can explore the inside of the royal castle, test their fortress designs with a catapult, spot a dragon and climb a battlement wall. Tickets are $8.95. The museum is located at 10
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Park Square Theatre
“The Odyesy” is presented through Feb. 6. Legendary warrior Odysseus fights tides, beasts and his own arrogance — often with no weapon except his passion. But it’s not just his adventure, his wife fights the urge to give up on the world and his teenage son wrestles with the journey to adulthood. “The Diary of Anne Frank” is presented Feb. 26. In this extraordinary account of eight Jews hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, Anne Frank emerges from history as a lyrical and intensely gifted young woman. Be inspired by this timeless account of a girl whose imagination and hope would not be stifled by adversity. Tickets are $20-$60. Tickets for ages 30 and under are $15. A $5 discount is offered for people age 62 and older. The theater is located in the Historic Hamm Build-
ing, 20 W. 7th Place, St. Paul. For more information, call 651-291-7005.
The Artists’ Quarter, located in the Historic Hamm Building at Seventh 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 of events, call 651-292-
1359 or visit www.artistsquarter.com.
La Korneta performance
La Korneta, a rock quintet from Mexico that covers Rock ’n’ Roll classics in both English and Spanish, will perform at 7 p.m., Thurs., Jan. 27 at Neighborhood House, 179 E. Robie St., St. Paul, and Sun., Jan. 30 at McNally Smith College of Music, 19 Exchange St. E., St. Paul.
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Downtown St. Paul Voice - February 2011 - Page 5
F uller Files CapitolRiver appointments
Your community news and information source
by Roger Fuller
CapitolRiver Council/District 17 (CRC) has nominated JoAnn Hawkins, Chris Beckstrom and Karl Karlson to serve on the Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) task force. The task force reviews applications for capital improvements submitted by neighborhood groups and city departments and ranks them for review by the CIB committee. The CIB committee then submits its budget for capital improvements to the mayor and city council. The Executive Committee of CRC nominated three people to the citywide Annual District Council Honor Roll, which recognizes people for their contributions to the community. They are Ellen McPartlan, chair of the Lowertown Master Plan Task Force; John Mannillo, co-chair of the District 17 Development Review Committee; and Karl Karlson, Downtown Communication Committee for light rail construction. CRC named four members to the Advisory Skyway Committee, which has oversight responsibilities for the downtown skyway system. They are Geraldine Balter, a Securian employee and down-
town resident; Shawn Wiski of the Alliance Bank Center; and Ginny Harris and Jim Ivey, downtown residents.
Minnesota Sinfonia will present a program of “Music from Around the World” at 7 p.m., Fri., Feb. 11 at Metro State University. Cellist Dmitry Kouzov will perform Concerto in D Major for cello by Haydn. Other selections include Concerto Grosso in D minor by Scarlatti, Jewish Sketches by Jay Fishman and Slavonic Dance No. 3 by Dvorak.
Lowry Lab performances
Gonzo Group Theatre will present “No Exit” by Sartre at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 3-12 at Lowry Lab Theatre, located in the Lowry building at Fifth and St. Peter, St. Paul. “Lowry Lab Laugh,” featuring stand-up comedy, will be held at 7:30 p.m., Wed., Feb. 9 and every other second Wednesday Table Salt Theatre will present “Nest” by Rachael Brogan Flanery Feb. 24 through Mar. 12.
Events at the Black Dog
Springboard for the Arts will host a happy
hour 5-8 p.m., Mon., Feb. 7, at the Black Dog Café, 308 Prince St., St. Paul. It is an informal gathering for artists to network. Science Museum of Minnesota will present, “Beaker and Brush,” a discussion of the intersection of science and the arts, 6:30-8 p.m., Tues., Feb. 8. An event featuring Balkan music will be held at 7:30 p.m., Thurs., Feb. 17.
rent events discussion, 11 a.m., Fri., Feb. 18; Writers Group, 10 a.m., Fri., Feb. 18; Community acupuncture, 9:30 a.m., Tuesdays; Songs from the ’50’s and ’60’s, 10:45 a.m., second and fourth Friday; Baby Knit Club, 1 p.m., Thursdays; Blood pressure checks, 10 a.m., Mondays; Movies are shown at 1 p.m., Thursdays.
Central Library events
Embassy Suites wants to establish a parking area on East Tenth Street for buses that serve its residents, saying the present location on Jackson Street is less convenient. However, St. Paul Public Works said the parking on East Tenth Street might interfere with the sightlines of motorists and pedestrians. Residents have objected to noise from the buses.
Central Book Club will feature “Days of Rondo” by Evelyn Fairbanks at 10:30 a.m., Thurs., Feb. 10 at the Central Library. It traces the history of the old Rondo neighborhood in St. Paul, which was disrupted when the I-94 freeway was built. The History Book Club will discuss “Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season” by Jonathan Eig at 2 p.m., Thurs., Feb. 24.
City Passport Center
City Passport senior citizen center has the following activities in February: Ice cream float social, 1:30 p.m., Fri., Feb. 11; Happy Birthday Party, 2 p.m., Feb. 14; Cur-
Embassy Suites seeks new bus parking area
Nice Ride expands to St. Paul
Nice Ride Minnesota, a bike rental service, plans to expand its base in Minneapolis and serve St. Paul and other areas. Spokesman Bill Dossett said about $5.8 million is needed to expand the number of stations from 65 to 130. Nice Ride Minnesota established
the program to encourage bike use in the metro area. If the bike is used more than 30 minutes a fee may be charged.
Zeitgeist at Studio Z
Zeitgeist will present “Playing It Close to Home” at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 11-12 at Studio Z, 275 E. Fourth St., St. Paul. The Zeitgeist quartet will perform winning selections from past Eric Stokes song contests and works by Carei Thomas.
Plug into St. Paul
Plug into St. Paul social gathering for new downtown residents, will be held 5:30-7:30 p.m., Thurs., Feb. 17 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Town Square. Several downtown retailers will be present.
Fourth of July festival applicants denied
the city for security and other associated costs. Meyer said the city will attempt to find a promoter for 2012 that can offer food, entertainment and fireworks.
Minnesota Building converted to apartments
The Minnesota Building at Fourth and Cedar has been converted from a commercial building to a 137-unit apartment building. Sand Co. developers plan to rent studios at $575, one-bedroom units at $740 and two bedroom apartments at $1,094. The rents are below market rate due to a low-income tax credit program. Renters must meet income restrictions, which are $35,280 for singles and $40,320 for two people.
McNally Smith concert
St. Paulites will have to settle for a Fourth of July fireworks show at Harriet Island this year because there will be no food and entertainment festival on Harriet Island. Brad Meyer of Parks and Recreation department said four applications to replace the Taste of Minnesota were turned down because the promoters could not afford to pay
Jen and Shon Parker are the featured performers at Live at Five, held at 5 p.m., Tues., Feb. 15 at McNally Smith College of Music. Faculty members will perform pop, jazz and original works. An Open House will be held 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Sat., Feb. 19 at the college.
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C ommunity Community Profile from page 1 demographics, schools have seen a rise in English language learners and students qualifying for a free hot lunch. Education has always been a top priority in St. Paul, which is second in the United States in the number of higher education institutions per capita. In 1992, it became the first city in the U.S. to sponsor and open a charter school, now found in most states across the nation. The St. Paul Public School district has become extremely diverse, with 70 different languages represented by students, although only four languages are used for most school communication: English, Spanish, Hmong and Somali. In spite of a variety of challenges, the school district has seen a decline in the number of high school dropouts over the past 20 years, from 19 percent to 13 percent. St. Paul residents with some college have remained steady at 19 percent. Likewise, those with associate degrees have remained at 6 percent. Bachelor degrees rose from 17 percent in 1990 to 23 percent in 2009. Graduate and professional degree numbers rose from 9 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2009.
Household types within the city have remained relatively steady since 1990. Married families
Your community news and information source declined slightly to 17 percent; unmarried families with children rose slightly to 12 percent. Families without children dropped slightly to 24 percent. Those living alone rose slightly to 38 percent. Non-family households have remained steady at 9 percent.
Over the past 10 years health care and social services have become the major employment sector in St. Paul, rising from 16 percent 22 percent. Public administration comes in next at 12 percent, followed by educational services, 10 percent; finance and insurance, 8 percent; retail trade, administrative and waste services, manufacturing, professional and technical services, all at 5 percent. Over the past 20 years the highest unemployment rate in the city was just over 5 percent, occurring in 1991-1992 and again in 2003. Until recently, that is. The Recession has taken a toll on St. Paul residents with a sharp uptick in unemployment numbers of 8 percent between 2008 and 2009, the most recent figures available.
In 1990 St. Paul had a median household income (the mid-point between the highest and lowest incomes) of $26,500 compared to Ramsey County’s $32,000. By 2000 it had climbed to $38,800
with Ramsey County at $45,700, and in 2009 was $46,000 in St. Paul and $52,300 in Ramsey County. The average income for St. Paul residents in 1990 was $13,700, a few thousand less than the Ramsey County average, which has remained the case over the years. Income jumped in 2000 to $20,200 in St. Paul. In 2007, the year the housing bubble burst, numbers were at $24,300 in St. Paul and rose by the next year to $26,000. In 2009, it was $25,600 in St. Paul and $29,000 in Ramsey County.
Homeownership has been holding at around 55 percent since 1990. Home sales during the year 2000 show 25 percent selling for under $100,000. By 2008, homes selling for $149,000 and less accounted for just 16 percent of all home sales. With home values rising, 23 percent sold in the $200,00 to $249,000 range,12 percent in the $250,000 to $299,000 range and 15 percent in the $300,000 to $499,000 range. Vacancy rates were highest in 2008 with 10,780. Interestingly enough, in 1990 there were 7,334, and that number dropped to 3,604 by the year 2000. The latest figures for 2009 show vacant property at 9,736. Since 1990, the number of single-family de-
tached homes has remained steady at around 58,000. Townhomes have increased from 3,501 20 years ago to 4,295. In the last 20 years, duplexes and triplexes declined by about 2,000 to 15,387. Multi-family (5 units or more) units are up from 37,342 to 42,592 over 20 years. A considerable amount of redevelopment occurred between 2003 and 2006. In 2003, 753 permits were issued for multi-family housing units of 5 or more; 1,504 were issued the next year. Although permits have nearly been shut down since 2007, of the permits issued, most have been for multi-family units.
To put this information in context, here’s a snapshot of the preceding decades. St. Paulites touted their “hale and hardiness” by organizing the Winter Carni-
val in 1886. During the Roaring Twenties, the city became a hide-out for gun-totin’ gangsters. It suffered through the Depression, rallied during World War II and prospered in the post-war years. Suburban growth took its toll on St. Paul proper in the 1960s and ’70s. Businesses began to migrate to the more modern shopping malls, taking residents with them. As luck would have it, growing commuter headaches that have worsened with sprawling suburbia, are beginning to bring residents back to the city and closer to their place of employment. Businesses are beginning to take a closer look at locating in downtown. The city seems to be coming full circle with a rising population. Metropolitan Council data confirm changes in St. Paul, including a revival of downtown. When “The Town of St. Paul” came into existence in 1849, it occu-
pied approximately 280 acres. Today it covers 56 square miles, or 35,826 acres. Parks, recreation and preserves comprise 4,472 of those acres. The city’s population hit its peak in 1970 with 309,866 residents. It dropped substantially by 1980 to 270,230. Since then a slow but steady increase has occurred with population figures rising to 287,501 in 2009. 2010 estimates show St. Paul’s population rising to above 300,000 for the first time in 40 years.
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Downtown St. Paul Voice - February 2011 - Page 7
B ack in Time February 1923: Shows and Snows Don Morgan Contributor
y February, things can start to drag along in Minnesota. The fun part of winter is long past, yet warm weather still seems very far away. Cabin fever was worse in the days before indoor gyms and malls or efficient car heaters. In February 1923, folks in St. Paul braved some bad weather to fight the winter blues. In 1923, the Roaring Twenties were finally starting to roar. The first couple of years of the decade had seen a serious economic downturn, with considerable unemployment and an annual deflation rate of over 15 percent. Industrial production had fallen off greatly and the low prices were very tough on farmers. But by the start of 1923, things had turned around and the country was headed for
six years of prosperity. Not that there were no problems. That February would see disasters in Hawaii (tidal wave), New Mexico (mine explosion; over 100 dead) and New York (fire in an asylum; 25 patients dead). The big overseas news was the opening in Egypt of King Tut’s tomb, and the discovery of the famous golden funeral mask. February in the 1920s meant the return of a favorite event in St. Paul, the Twin Cities Auto Show. It was held that year in St. Paul’s Overland Building on University Avenue. The American love affair with automobiles was already well underway. Local editorials noted that automobiles were obviously not just a fad, nor just toys for the rich. Folks flocked out University, mostly by streetcar, to check out the latest models and developments. The exciting new fea-
Local editorials noted that automobiles were obviously not just a fad, nor just toys for the rich. tures that year were roofs and windows. Among the exhibitors were now long gone manufacturers like Willys-Knight, Reo, Peerless, Gardner, Packard, Essex, Auburn, Marmon, Pierce-Arrow, Durant, Chalmers and Oakland. With the show set up and ready, all that was needed was some good travel weather. Fat chance! The evening before the opening the temperature suddenly dropped nearly 30 degrees in just five hours – down to seventeen below zero. It would take a strong soul (or a real auto
buff ) to get on a poorly heated streetcar and head out for the day. And, if you were coming from Minneapolis you had to pay another fare when you crossed the city line, which was just two blocks from the show. However, people were used to tougher conditions then, or maybe it was just more boring at home than it is now. In any event, over 13,000 made it out there the first day, and the show went on to be a great success. Local radio WLAG (later WCCO) had a live broadcast from the show giving many their first look at radio as well as at automobiles. The other big show that month wasn’t lucky, weather wise, either. The Building Show, held downtown at the Auditorium on Fifth (where the Ordway is today), was almost as popular an attraction as the Auto Show. The show featured the latest in home design and improvements. For example, the new self stoking (via a gravity powered screw) coal furnaces were on display. Anyone without full time help could
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appreciate how nice it would be not to have to get up in the middle of the night to stoke their furnace. Also on display were many home items powered for the first time by electricity, including sump pumps, waffle irons, phonographs and portable table lamps. Building Show organizers hoped for better luck with the weather than the Auto Show, but fat chance there, too! Temps not only stayed below zero, but a full-fledged blizzard blew in on Valentine’s Day (opening day for the exhibits), with winds over 40 miles per hour and heavy snow. Nonetheless, folks still managed to get downtown and make the show a success. The weather finally improved the second half of the month, in time for the opening of a few good silent movies, including “Robin Hood” with Douglas Fairbanks, “A Blind Bargain” with Lon Chaney, “Drums of Fate” with Mary Miles Minter and “The Country Flapper” with Dorothy Gish. There were also two good live shows in St. Paul that February. At the Orpheum (the old Orpheum, next to the Landmark Center where the skating rink is today) you could see the stage act of famous escape artist Harry Houdini. Full houses watched as, twice a day for a week, Houdini got out of locked trunks,
strait jackets and, for his big finish, did the upside-down-in-the-watertank-while-chained bit. He always came up unchained and wet but still breathing. The next week, at the Metropolitan on Sixth, featured the road production of the hit Broadway play “The Bat” by Mary Roberts Rinehart. It was an exciting detective play and a classic story of a group of strangers facing murder, one by one, in an old house. The production went so far as to require ticket holders to sign a pledge not to reveal the “whodunit” ending. Enough people kept the pledge to guarantee good audiences for the entire one-week run of the show. The Auto Show is still a winter favorite, although it has been moved to March and is now housed at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The Overland building, where the 1920s shows were held, is still right there off University Avenue. It’s now a commercial office building known as Court International. The Building Show (now the Home and Patio show) is still on for February at RiverCentre and still features lots of cool stuff. Hopefully, no weather crisis will disturb either show this year, but don’t rule it out. But even if that happens, folks will undoubtedly get there somehow.
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