"Mansions of Summit Avenue" Top 5 Page for this destination Saint Paul Things to Do Tip by yooperprof

Saint Paul Things to Do: 124 reviews and 247 photos

  a man's home is his castle
by yooperprof

This is the archetypal "Strivers Row," a vertitable museum of late 19th century domestic architecture, reputed to be "the longest stretch of Victorian homes in the nation."

Summit begins close to downtown, at the foot of the monumental Cathedral of St. Paul, and stretches for four miles across town all the way to the Mississippi River. The grandest piles are at the far eastern end.

I'm fascinated by the concentration of wealth - both past and present - that can be found on Summit Ave. Some of it is displayed very ostentatiously - well, this is America, after all.

I purchased an excellent picture book, "St. Paul's Historic Summit Avenue," by local historian and preservationist Ernest Sandeen. Let me borrow a few of Sandeen's words:

"Although Summit Avenue's position on the bluff for its first mile contributed greatly to its character, there was something more to the avenue. Why, the 20th century observer wonders, did the wealthy everywhere in Victorian America choose to build their houses along a single street? The answer can be found in the nature of the horse and the kind of conspicuous consumption provided to the rich by horse-drawn vehicles. . . Unlike an automobile, a good horse could not be locked up in a barn until needed, but must be exercised every day. Taking the horses out for a drive became one of the most important social occasions of the day for a prosperous Victorian family."

This photo shows three of the houses near the eastern end of Summit, 261, 255, and 251 (going from left to right). You get a sense here of the diversity of architectural styles to be found on the street.

Review Helpfulness: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Jul 19, 2004
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