Neighborhood growth radiated from downtown, with most of the growth to the west and north. Many of the earliest dwellings were single-family homes or duplexes. Small corner stores, taverns and other businesses, most of which have been converted to housing uses, were scattered throughout the community.
One prominent developer, Canada native Benjamin Lafond, platted Lafond’s Addition in 1857, including Lafond Avenue, Lake Street (now Blair Avenue) and Bluff Street (now Van Buren). Many histories incorrectly state that Thomas, Edmund, Charles, and Ellen (now Sherburne) avenues were named for Lafond family members. Historian Don Empson said those streets were platted by other earlier developers. Other developers included the Rice family, who platted Edmund, Charles and Ellen avenues. Those were named for Rice family members. Thomas was name for Thomas Stinson. The Stinsons owned and developed much property in Saint Paul.
The first houses were a mix of wood frame or brick construction. The area between Rice and Dale Streets saw the most growth and development during the 1880s, with working-class homes interspersed with small businesses, duplexes and a few multi-family dwellings.
A trip through this area reveals many existing Victorian-era working-class homes, with detailed window openings, porches, and trim. Many blocks have small lots. But the difference between Frogtown and other working-class neighborhoods is that the houses on many blocks have different architectural styles and not as much of a cookie-cutter look.