Frogtown: Who We Were and Are

Tour curated by: Special thanks to author Jane McClure.

Frogtown has always been one of Saint Paul’s most ethnically diverse neighborhoods. Much of the neighborhood’s ethnic history can be followed through its churches, its community institutions and its businesses and industries. Several of those destinations are noted in the other tours.

French-Canadians were among the earliest settlers here. Also present in the early days were Germans, Austrians, Irish, Poles, Hungarians, Romanians and other Eastern Europeans. Scandinavians and Italians also made their homes here, although not in the same numbers as seen in other Saint Paul neighborhoods. Some residents were from the so-called “Low Countries” of Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Eastern European Jews and African-Americans moved in later in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Numerous immigrants came to Saint Paul and Frogtown due to the railroads’ recruiting in Europe. Workers were sought by mailing brochures to their home countries. People were also recruited to work in the fields, as migrant workers. (Many of the first migrant workers were from Eastern Europe and it was not until the early 20th century that migrants were recruited from Mexico.) People looking for a better life or a fresh start were enticed by the chance to come to America.

Others came at the behest of family members and friends from their home communities, or to escape turmoil there.

In the 20th and 21st centuries, Hmong, Lao, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Thai and other Asian groups have settled here, as have many from African nations. People from Central and South America have also settled in Frogtown in recent years.

This tour looks back at some of the neighborhood’s ethnic landmarks, in the context of those who came here.

Locations for Tour

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…

German House, or Deutsches Haus at 444 Rice St., was a community focal point for decades. In the 19th and early 20th century, Saint Paul had dozens and dozens of German groups – singers, musicians, dancers, gymnasts or turners, sports groups,…

Dietsch’s Hall, 601 N. Western Ave., was another historic gathering place for the Frogtown German community. It was built in 1890 by Joseph Steinkamp, who operated a bar and other businesses in the easternmost part of the brick building. The…

419 Sherburne Avenue is the Charles James home. The three-story home, with its corner bay windows, is missing its original front porch and much of a second floor balcony, so it looks much differently than it did years ago. But it is still a reminder…

- Minnesota's First African American Lawyer (1861-1912) - One long-gone home, at 665 University Ave., was the residence of African-American leader Frederick McGhee. The McGhee home was a showplace. The large wooden home had open porches and a…

One of Frogtown’s best known native sons of the 20th century was famed American artist LeRoy Neiman. He was born in 1921 in Braham and was of Swedish and Turkish descent. His birth name was Runquist but his father deserted the family when he was…

Little Mekong is a business and cultural district in Saint Paul, located between MacKubin and Galtier streets along University Avenue. This area’s mix of retail, restaurant and service businesses are run by people from many cultures, but…

- 320 University Avenue - Lao Family Community of Minnesota, Inc. is a non-profit mutual assistance association founded in 1977 as the Hmong Association of Minnesota. It was founded as a nonprofit mutual assistance program. Lao Family has been…

- 439 University Avenue - Kim Long was the name of one of the city’s first Vietnamese restaurants and one of the first businesses to shape what became Little Mekong. It was named after its owner, who had come to Saint Paul from Vietnam in 1975. He…

Willard's is believed to be the second-oldest bar in Saint Paul. A West End watering hole, The Spot, is the only place that is older. Willard's opened in 1908 as Kohl’s, which is what it was known as until 1970. Neighborhood lore has it…

The Nickel Joint, 501 W. Blair Ave., is not only a traditional Frogtown working-class bar with meat raffles, a jukebox and a "Cheers" vibe, it has been home to the Baseball Old Timers Hot Stove League since January 1939. The original group…