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St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
April 02
chief instigator
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I'm not dead yet


Ladyslipper's Links
JUNE 30, 2010 5:07PM

My Neighborhood and F. Scott Fitzgerald's

Rate: 11 Flag

I live in St. Paul, Minnesota. My husband and I have lived here for twenty-four years. I did not grow up here, but F. Scott Fitzgerald did. The author of The Great Gatsby, the book I consider the quintessential American novel, was shaped in this romantic city.  There are places in his life that intersect with mine: some merely by proximity and some by intimate acquaintance. I want to show you some of those places. Their mixture is like that of daylilies and daisies - Daisy Buchanan being the name of Jay Gatsby's paramour and a common, everyday flower; daylilies symbolic of a life burned out after a brief moment of brilliance, as Fitzgerald's was.



Plaque in front of 599 Summit Avenue


This is where Fitzgerald lived when he wrote his first novel, This Side of Paradise. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Summit Avenue is truly the finest street in a beautiful city. It is where all the captains of industry lived - timber barons, railroad moguls and the like. The Governor's Mansion is on Summit, and at the very end is the State Capitol.



The Minnesota State Capitol.


Note the golden horses. My sixth-grade field trip was to this place. I remember eating bologna sandwiches on the smooth marble steps.



The Capitol, interior view. Lights like a string of pearls.


The street is laid out like an imperial pathway to the state capitol, designed by Cass Gilbert, who also designed New York's Woolworth Building and the building that houses the United States Supreme Court. When I was a child, and into my adult life, I gazed at the mansions along this elegant parkway, trying to choose the one in which I would live. I couldn't: there were too many. Fitzgerald lived in several of them. I have lived in none of them. They still provoke envy and awe.  



599 Summit Avenue.


When This Side of Paradise was accepted for publication by Scribner's, he ran up and down the street, yelling and stopping friends and strangers to inform them of the news.

I once worked with a woman who lived in this house with her parents and two Himalayan cats. People rang their doorbell constantly, asking for tours, even though it is a private residence.



W.A. Frost & Co.


W. A. Frost was, in Fitzgerald's time, a pharmacy, a "smoke and Coke" place where one could meet girls. A favorite hangout of the time, it is now a much-loved restaurant; I have dined there many times. The decor is Victorian. Don't order the portobello mushroom sandwich.



Blair House 


One example of the elegant architecture in Fitzgerald's neighborhood. It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Once an apartment building, it now houses office, retail and condominium space. The author and humorist Garrison Keillor owns a bookstore here.



The Saint Paul Seminary 


Fitzgerald had a friend who studied - and later became a priest - here. They played golf, inventing their own course and tearing up the expansive lawn. I come here on my walks. It is within walking distance of the Mississippi River. I cringe when I look at that gorgeous swath of grass, and think of how they ruined it. What a shame.  



The Commodore 


The Commodore was once a hotel. It has been converted into condominiums. Scott, his wife Zelda and their infant daughter Frances Scott moved here after being evicted from a house they were renting in a nearby town. (The wood-burning stove that heated the place - it was winter - went out during a raucous party and nobody noticed. The pipes froze, burst, and ruined the place.) Fitzgerald lore has it that that they gave the baby vodka in her bottle so she would sleep while they went out. Before we were married, my husband and I regularly visited the elegant Art Deco bar in the building. We felt glamorous and sophisticated, drinking our gin and tonics.  



A Memorial 


As I take my walks along the river, I sometimes stop here to contemplate - and grab a sip of water. It isn't the right evocation of Fitzgerald's memory, though. A better one would be: 



Daisies and daylilies. 


"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby 













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thanks for the wonderful tour!
Thanks, Pavanne! I love my city, and I love Fitzgerald.
Thanks for a wonderful walk with you. Eating baloney sandwiches near the golden horses. Some very nice photos here. This was very fun and entertaining. Good travelogue, too. Excellent.....
Thanks, Dr. Spudman! I had a great time assembling this.
what a lovely trip. i've only ever been to minneapolis for business and in the winter -- such a different feeling, obviously. as dr. spud does, i love the bologna sandwiches on the steps below the golden horses -- and the other personal bits and pieces. excellent writing and piecing the pics and stories together. thanks for this dreamy wander.
femme, Ouch - winter. This is what a perfect summer day looks like here. Glad you enjoyed this.
Ladyslipper, thanks for this wonderful tour of St. Paul! I didn't know a great deal about Fitzgerald's life there and am grateful to you for enlightening me! A few years back I learned that Great Neck, NY on Long Island was the location for the inspiration of West Egg in "The Great Gatsby." My great-grandparents lived in Great Neck at the time of "The Great Gatsby" so I gained a new interest in the book after discovering that. Back in July, 2008, I put together a photo essay about their garden in Great Neck in the post entitled "The Beautiful Garden That Bit the Dust."
Beautiful. I really want to visit your city (PHC fan) and now you have given me so many more reasons to do so. A slice of Americana. Thanks for a wonderful post. R
Great tour and history and pix! Merci!
What a wonderful tour! I love the art and entertainment culture of St Paul. Your post makes me want to hop on a plane and go visit. Or maybe, I'll put the grandkids in the car and go on another road trip. :)
Brilliant and timely - I recently finished a re-read of Gatsby. It's nice to see what Fitzgerald saw in his life. Thank you!
American beauty.
well, this is just about the best thing i have encountered. history, architecture, beauty, nature, and even a personal side of you to ice the cake. i just love it.
designanator - How fascinating to have that in your family history! I'd love to see your essay if it's still up.

Bernadine - The Fitzgerald Theater (home of PHC broadcasts) is named after the author. Please visit, it's a great little city. Glad you enjoyed the piece.

Muse, I'm really happy you liked this.

Fay, it would be wonderful if you could come. Not in the winter, though! Glad to have put the thought in your head.

Lucy, I'm pleased you enjoyed this. One can never read Gatsby too many times - the book always catches me with some detail or sentence I hadn't noticed before. I'm reading it again right now.

Ablonde, thanks.

dianaani, you are a sweetheart. I'm really pleased you enjoyed this post. Fitzgerald's life encompassed places that are literally a block from my house. He is a writer very close to my heart.
Any post about a writer is a friend of mine. Creative folks there in Minnesota. And you right to lay claim to highway 61!
Wow -- what a wonderful glimpse of your home town and glimpse into Fitzgerald's world. I love his books too. Thank you so much. I will probably never visit your city so this was a real treat.
Scarlett, it must be the long winters. And I can't tell you how many times I've travelled Highway 61 - it's iconic.

gal80, I'm glad you enjoyed this.
Thank you. I do love a trip and one so drenched in history and words. Beautiful words. Finishing with the quotation and the fragile beauty of the flowers, juxtaposed with the silly things we humans erect, pardon the expression, to honor our memories and our loves.
Gail, Ha! Hadn't thought of it that way, but that monument just seemed inappropriate to Fitzgerald's memory. Thanks for visiting my neighborhood.
I always thought that F. Scott was the best of his generation and my personal favorite from that time period. I once visited the home of Emily Dickinson in Amherst. Thanks so much for this tour. I'm kicking myself that my daughter used to live in Minneapolis and I never took in these sights.
Sarah, I would love to visit Emily Dickinson's home. Next time you visit, cross the river and visit St. Paul. It is a very different city from Minneapolis: the author Patricia Hampl, in "A Romantic Education," characterizes St. Paul as a romantic city, unlike our sister city. It definitely has a different feel to it. Maybe it's the older homes and the original streetlights.
"St. Paul is the end of the East. Minneapolis is the beginning of the West." That's what my dad always said.
Nerd, I like that. Your dad was a smart man.
He was and he worked in St. Paul. I don't think he was the first to say that, though. (I do prefer the address/street numbering system in Mpls, though.)
He was smart enough to work in St. Paul!
About the streets: I think it's charming. And you get used to it. And that's what GPSs are for.