Part of what was historically Lower Rice Street was lost due to urban renewal, construction of the Saint Paul Sears store, University Avenue widening and the state capitol complex expansion. Some buildings have been lost in more recent times; including one of the area’s few remaining barns that stood at 619 Rice St.
When Lower Rice Street was platted, its Frogtown section was next to marshes and tamarack swamps. But the street soon became a bustling commercial district, due in large part to its prominence as a major north-south route to outlying communities including Little Canada. It was a key route for farmers traveling to the Saint Paul farmers’ Market.
The neighborhood’s commercial growth was spurred along in the 19th century by the development of the streetcar system.
Rice Street itself was a mix of small commercial uses including grocery stores, meat markets, restaurants and lunch counters, drug stores, confectionaries, clothing and hat shops, shoe stores, hardware stores and more. The neighborhood’s ethnic mix changed over time from Scandinavians, Germans, Irish and poles to eastern Europeans, Asians and now East Africans.
Lower Rice Street between University and Pennsylvania avenues still retains more than a dozen of its historic buildings.