Along Selby

Follow Selby Avenue west from where it begins. At Selby Avenue’s beginning, you will find remnants of the empire-building years of the late 19th-century atop Cathedral Hill. Here lived people of wealth, ambition, and ostentation. A little farther along, there are vestiges of the city’s expansion along streetcar lines.

This tour follows the streetcar line west, with short forays into the neighborhoods north and south. It has literary, architectural, and commercial features.

Those with time and transportation may want to follow Selby all the way west, outside the scope of this tour, to observe the evidence of two declines: declining density as the city spread west, and the declining fortunes of Selby Avenue as it emptied out in the 1960s and 70s – many lots remain vacant. But follow it all the way and you will, in a way, follow the path laid out by Archbishop John Ireland. The Cathedral on one end, overlooking downtown, and the University of St. Thomas on the other end near the Mississippi; the two landmarks connected by Selby Avenue.

Selby Avenue: An Introduction

Since 1840, St. Paul has taken on different identities: frontier hamlet, steamboat burg, provincial capital, and railroad boomtown. These transformations have left their marks all over town. Nowhere can one see them better than on Cathedral Hill,…

The Streetcar Era

The electric streetcar service began on Selby Avenue in 1890. St. Anthony Hill, however, proved to be a vexatious impediment; the steep grade made for slow and hard going travel, especially in winter. At about the same time that work began on the…

St. Paul Curling Club

The sport of curling involves sliding 42-pound stones of polished granite down a sheet of expertly prepared ice towards a target. One team member launches the rock in a slow, majestic procession, while others influence its trajectory with frantic…

Engine House #5

Before swift fire trucks, every neighborhood – especially those of wood frame construction, like most of St. Paul – needed a fire station. Making a fire call was slower and more complicated then. You had to alert and gather the firefighters, then…

Dayton Avenue Presbyterian Church

This is the largest of Cass Gilbert's four churches in the area (the others are the Virginia Street Swedenborgian Church, St. Clement's Episcopal, and the former German Bethlehem Church at the foot of Ramsey Hill). Though Gilbert was…

F. Scott Fitzgerald Birthplace

This is one of three F. Scott Fitzgerald landmarks in this part of St. Paul. The building itself is merely a solid representative of late Victorian apartment buildings. Its sole claim to fame is that Fitzgerald was born on the second floor on 24…

Restaurant Row

The familiar Midwest urban decline began along Selby during the Depression, accelerated after World War II, then hit its nadir with two nights of violence after the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968. Several Selby Avenue businesses were…