Summit Hill is full of history, with grand mansions, the historic cathedral, and famous residents. It's also one of St. Paul's most fashionable neighborhoods, with many chic salons, interesting stores, and a mini eat-street covering a couple of blocks of Selby Avenue.
The Louisiana Cafe is a popular local spot for breakfast on the northeast corner of the intersection of Selby Avenue and Dale Street with twists on old favorites like Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pancakes, Zydeco French Toast (made with thick-cut sourdough bread), and a Carnita Benedict (a biscuit with pulled pork, refried beans, poached eggs, hollandaise, and pico de gallo).
The Mississippi Market is kitty-corner to The Louisiana Cafe. It's a food co-op selling locally grown, organic produce, and worth a stop in for some fresh seasonal fruits or vegetables.
The Summit Hill neighborhood dates from the 1860s. You'll pass by many Victorian homes, some brightly painted, some more true to the original colors. Summit Hill has always been a wealthy neighborhood and most houses have been well maintained.
Five Two Six Gallery
The Five Two Six Gallery is free to visit and exhibits contemporary works from local artists. It is also a salon and spa, one of several chic salons on Selby Avenue.
Both at 485 Selby Avenue, Bon Vie Cafe is one of our recommendations for lunch (for its croissant and club sandwiches, quiche of the day, and cobb salad) and A Piece of Cake has an impressive and delicious selection of cakes, brownies, and cookies if you're up for a treat.
If you've been curious about curling since the last Winter Olympics, The St. Paul Curling Club headquarters has been in this location since 1912. Stop in to learn more about the sport and maybe even catch a round.
Treat yourself to a beer at the ivy-covered Happy Gnome bar, which has a silly name but great craft beer, and nice options for Sunday brunch (Breakfast Poutine, Brisket Sausage Burrito, and Pork Belly Hash) and dinner (Dry Rubbed Wings, Grilled Shrimp Tacos, Beet Salad).
The Blair Arcade
On the southwest corner of Selby Avenue and Western Avenue is one of Summit Hill's most impressive structures. The Blair Arcade, or the Blair Flats, was built in 1887 and was originally the Angus Hotel. It's one of several buildings in Summit Hill to appear on the National Register of Historic Buildings.
Several businesses operate from the first floor and basement, and the rest of the building is apartments. Nina's Coffee Cafe occupies the corner of the building, and right downstairs is Common Good Books where you can pick up "Classic American Literature or Quality Trash." It's a cozy, inviting space where book-lovers can browse for hours.
Across Western Avenue from the Blair Arcade is the Dacotah Building. Built by William A Frost in 1888 for the princely sum of $700,000, it fell into disrepair in the 1940s.
Renovated and turned into The W A Frost And Company bar and restaurant in 1975, it's probably the finest place to have dinner, and certainly the most architecturally impressive place to eat in Summit Hill.
The Dacotah Building also houses Paper Patisserie, for exclusive handmade paper, fine pens, custom printing and engraving, and beautiful cards and gifts.
Virginia Street Swedenborgian Church
On the corner of Virginia Street and Selby Avenue is the green wood frame Virginia Street Swedenborgian Church. The church was built in 1886. It was designed by Cass Gilbert, architect of the Minnesota State Capitol. The simple yet elegant interior of the church is in almost original condition and may be visited when no service or event is in progress.
The magnificent Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Paul is another few blocks further on, on your left. It is the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.
It was designed by architect Emmanuel Louis Masqueray, also the chief architect of the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. Construction began in 1906 and was completed by 1915.
Considered to be one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the United States, it is constructed almost entirely from Minnesotan marble, travertine, and granite. The interior has a stunning open design. Masqueray envisioned a church where all the congregation would be able to hear and see Mass.
The interior is lit by 24 stained glass windows, and the building is topped by a copper clad dome and a 30-foot lantern.
Anyone may attend Mass, but if you wish to explore the cathedral you can only do so when there is no service. The cathedral is also closed to visitors on holidays and holy days. Service times are listed on the cathedral's website. Free tours are given several times a week, again check the cathedral's website for times and dates.
If you can't visit the inside of the cathedral, the outside is certainly magnificent too. You are now at the top of Cathedral Hill and can look out across the skyscrapers of downtown St. Paul, and see St. Paul's other famous dome, the Minnesota State Capitol.
Grand Mansions on Summit Avenue
After visiting the cathedral, turn right on Summit Avenue. This is a prestigious street of Victorian mansions built by railroad and lumber barons. The earliest houses date from the 1860s, and each one seems to be more impressive than the last. Stroll down Summit Avenue and admire, or imagine you are back in the nineteenth century and you are surrounded by St. Paul's elite exercising their horses on the avenue.
The James J Hill house, at 240 Summit Avenue, is the largest single-family residence in Minnesota. Hill was a railroad baron who built the house on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River and downtown St. Paul. After Hill's death, his children gifted the house to the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, who used it as offices. The church preserved the house well, and after the offices were moved elsewhere in 1978, the house was restored and opened to the public.
The house is home to the Minnesota Historical Society's art collection. The public can visit the house and galleries, and guided tours are available.
There is a small park on the north side of Summit Avenue, at Western Avenue. The park has a fountain with a bronze sculpture of the legendary Native American warrior, Hiawatha. The land was gifted to the city as a park by the owner of the house behind it after she found out that local children had no other open space to play.
Aptly named, Lookout Park overlooks the Mississippi river bluffs. It's currently in a seemingly endless renovation project but worth a visit for the gorgeous view. The park is home to the New York Eagle, a 1980 bronze statue, and St. Paul's oldest public sculpture.
Visit Nathan Hale Park to see a bronze statue of Nathan Hale, hero of the War of Independence, who was captured and hung by the British. The moving statue depicts Hale with his hands tied behind his back, noble in the face of his execution. His famous quote "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country" is engraved on the base.
F. Scott Fitzgerald's House & Statue
At 599 Summit Avenue is the rowhouse where author F. Scott Fitzgerald lived for several years, and where he wrote his first novel. Houses similar to this one appear in many scenes in his novels.
The building at 25 Dale Street is the former St. Paul Academy, the private school Fitzgerald attended. There's a bronze statue of the author seated on the steps at the entrance.