St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood has always been one of the city’s succession neighborhoods, welcoming generation after generation of newcomers to the capital city and the United States. Frogtown also has been home to several generations of the same families, who are proud to live here. Diversity is a word synonymous with Frogtown – not just in terms of the community’s ethnic and socio-economic makeup, but also when looking at the neighborhood’s civic and service organizations, faith-based groups, schools, businesses and industries.
St. Paul’s Frogtown area today is considered to be bordered by University Avenue on the south, over to Lexington Parkway, up to Minnehaha Ave. and running to Rice Street on the East. Now considered District 7, this area was once referred to as the Thomas Dale area and now contains the Mount Airy, Capitol Heights, Lower Rice Street, East Midway and Northern Rondo neighborhoods.
Frogtown began its start as St. Paulites moved northward from downtown into an area that was then wetland. In fact, it was this swampy area and it’s frog song serenade that gave it the name Froschburg, or Frog City, by the German - Bohemains who had moved there. Much of the German, Scandinavian and Polish immigrants found employment on the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, which runs just north of Frogtown. Several of the oldest of the Jackson Street Rail Shops can be seen on Sherburne, Charles and Como, east of Rice Street.
University Avenue established itself as the main route connecting St. Paul to Minneapolis, before the creation of Highway 94. It therefore became the key commercial center of the neighborhood and street cars traveling between the two Twin Cities, helped the businesses boom along this much traveled route. One of the oldest commercial buildings that stills exists is the Ford Building at 117 W. University.
Of the many churches in the area, the German-Catholic Church of St. Agnes is one of the most notable architectural landmarks in Frogtown. It’s Baroque style spire has been a neighborhood icon since 1912.
In time, the building of highway 94 replaced University as the main route between the Twin Cities and led to the destruction of the predominantly African American Rondo neighborhood in the 1960’s. Much of this community would head north to reestablish itself in Frogtown.
Later, other immigrant groups such as Hmong, Vietnamese, Somali and Latinos, would create much of the character of the University Ave. area. Halal meat markets and pho noodle restaurants offer a variety of culinary experiences. Other important features of Frogtown include the Rondo library and community center, the No. 18 fire station and the Hmong-American farmers market at Unidale.
While the construction of the light rail Metro Transit Green Line, had some adverse impact on the flow through the area, its completion in 2014 will undoubtedly return the University route through Frogtown, as one of the liveliest, well traveled and booming commercial districts in the Twin Cities - an historic echo of the flourishing days of long ago.