Rice Street: A Street that Works

Tour curated by: Special thanks to author Paul Nelson

Located in the North End neighborhood, Rice Street began as a commercial corridor that served St. Paul’s working class. Rice Street is unassuming; when it was rushed into being more than a century ago, there was no time for ornamentation or ostentation. Despite its utilitarian appearance, Rice Street has a character that is unique to the street and the North End. A trip along Rice Street reveals a rich neighborhood history with proud ethnic and working class roots. Rice Street was and is a street that works.

The street takes its name from Henry Rice (1816-1894) who, though one of Minnesota’s early patricians, was certainly a hard worker himself. He was a footloose Yankee brought to St. Paul by the fur trade. Rice settled here in 1849 and quickly made a fortune, chiefly in real estate (real estate speculation was the passion of many first settlers.) Then he went into politics, where he served as a Territorial representative to Congress (1853-57), and then as one of Minnesota’s first U.S. senators (1857-63). Rice served also as a regent of the University of Minnesota, president of the Minnesota Historical Society, and treasurer of Ramsey County. He is buried nearby, in Oakland Cemetery.

Rice Street begins at University Avenue, but this tour begins several blocks north, at Lyton Place. Here is where some of the historic character of Rice as a streetcar artery, can still be seen.

Locations for Tour

Located in the North End neighborhood, Rice Street began as a commercial corridor that served St. Paul’s working class. Rice Street is unassuming; when it was rushed into being, more than a century ago, there was no time for ornamentation or…

One small ethnic community made a striking contribution to the Rice Street landscape. Around 1900, a few hundred Romanian emigrants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire made their way to St. Paul, and some settled in the North End. In due course they…

All along Rice Street commercial buildings predominate, designed for profit, not for show. Between 1880 and 1925, both sides of the street from Sycamore to Maryland filled with storefronts and workplaces. These were grocers, barbers and beauty…

A century ago the Rice Street area, especially between Atwater and Front, was a new and densely populated neighborhood. There were lots of rooming houses and many big families. Lyton Place today is a quiet, two-block street running east from Rice to…

The dominant Rice Street institution for the past 120 years has been St. Bernard’s Church and School. Like St. Mary’s several blocks to the south, St. Bernard’s has its roots in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Many of the original parishioners …

Just three blocks east of Rice Street lies, very quietly, one of St. Paul’s loveliest, most serene, and most interesting greenspaces – the Oakland Cemetery. Founded in 1853, Oakland is St. Paul’s oldest public cemetery. It is also a relatively…