The Sibley Manor Apartments were built in 1952 as a 22-acre, 55-building group of low-income apartments with between 1,800-2,000 residents. Sibley Manor has hosted thousands of tenants who arrived as immigrants to St. Paul beginning with Korean War veterans and military families at Fort Snelling, just across the Mississippi. When the Ft. Snelling base was closed and vacancies skyrocketed the complex gradually became a first or second stop for successive groups of immigrants.
As people fled to the United States owing to trauma in their homelands, the apartments have housed people from each successive wave beginning in the 1960s with Cuban refugees, then Southeast Asians from Vietnam and Laos, Cambodian and Hmong people, the Russian Jewish immigrants fleeing the Soviet Union in the 1980s, people from Hispanic cultures and the most recent emigres from East African and other African regions. Many moved to the neighborhood for work at the MSP Airport, a short bus ride across the Mississippi River, or at nearby stores, and in other service industries.
This group of brick and stucco 2-story buildings surrounds grassy courtyards with trees and sidewalks connecting the apartment buildings to the streets, garages, and driveways. It belies its size because of the street and building plan. Two streets, Maynard Drives East and West, wind throughout the neighborhood, and the buildings are located in a pattern that eliminates the “straight line” aspect of most standard apartment groupings. Playgrounds are well-used by the hundreds of children who live there
In addition to a very well-maintained exterior, the neighborhood houses a number of sites for services. Among these are a convenience store that includes foods from the various cultures of the residents along with a tax and travel service, health clinics, food shelves, and others. Before Cooper’s Foods grocery store closed in 2017, it also served as a location where residents of the apartments could purchase food familiar to them, such as in the large Kosher section of the store, or as African tenants arrived, in that section of the store.
Former residents have included Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame star Zoilo Versalles and Manager Billy Martin, along with current Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, whose family came from Korea in 1973. He was sworn in as the first Korean-American chief prosecutor in the country in 2011. He talked about his family’s history in St. Paul in a 2011 interview for a Minnesota Historical Society oral history project.
Another former resident is Marisella Veiga, an author whose book, "We Carry our Homes with Us", includes her recollections of her family’s arrival from Cuba in 1960 only eight years after the apartments were built.
The Sibley Manor Apartment complex has recognized and respected the cultures of all residents. As the asset manager for the apartments noted in a recent interview, the residents become “family” and as in families there are sometimes conflicts, most often arising from language barriers. But the community feeling remains strong.