Getting to Know the West Side of St. Paul

The West Side of St. Paul is a community that is always ever-changing.  From the geographic borders to the cultures within, the evolution of the neighborhood is one that is evident. Although it lies south of downtown St. Paul, it actually is called West Side of St. Paul since it lies on the west bank of the Mississippi River.  This area has always been an attractive place for many immigrant groups to settle due largely to the proximity to the river.  (Historic St. Paul)  Known for areas like Harriet Island, District del Sol, and Cesar Chaves Blvd, this vibrant community of today looks much different than it did a century and a half ago.

Many people would not immediately think of the Dakota people being the first inhabitants of the West Side of Saint Paul, but until a treaty was signed in 1851, all of the land west of the Mississippi belonged to them.  (Historic St. Paul)  St. Paul worked to annex the West Side for nearly two decades when it was finally successful in 1878 making it officially apart of Ramsey County and no longer part of Dakota County. (RCHS)  The area was already being settled by French-Canadians, Irish, and German immigrants when it began to attract industrious interests due to the limestone river bluffs. (RCHS)

This attraction was mainly through 2 brewing companies: The Yoerg Brewing Company and Bruggeman’s Brewery. (RCHS) Followed by them were other companies with manufacturing plants and quarries.  With the creation of jobs came the working class.  During 1880’s-1890’s, the West Side of St. Paul saw a large influx of Eastern European and Russian Jews fleeing from persecution from their native lands. The Neighborhood House was a settlement house that provided basic needs for a largely immigrant population such as English courses, cooking classes, or even food at the simplest level.  These types of services could arguably be one of the reasons immigrant communities have chosen to relocate to the West Side of St. Paul.  By the 1920’s, many of them had moved out towards other neighborhoods throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul.  (RCHS)

With the space opening, came a new wave of immigrants from Mexico.   For the last decade, this has been a significant cultural group living in the West Side of St. Paul attributing to more than 33% of the current population.  (Community Data Works)

By the mid 1980’s, the area known as District Del Sol became prominent in the business corridor of the West Side. Celebrating Latino heritage is just a part of their goals; they also aim to make it an urban commercial district that is full of vibrancy along with supporting a safe environment for all.  (District Del Sol)   These goals also extend out to the Stryker George area, Westside Flats, and Smith Avenue; all within the West Side.

The Latino presence in the West Side is very strong along much of the businesses corridors now, but there is not as much evidence of previous populations due to the Urban Renewal initiatives of the 1960’s.  The flats that used to stand there are now where this business region calls home.  (Historic St. Paul)  Evidence of the past mostly lies in the luxurious homes on the bluffs known as Prospect Park.  In an interview that we conducted earlier today, we learned that the landscape will probably adjust again in the future towards serving more than just a Latino community.

For those who have never been to the West Side, I would highly recommend it.  The view of the Mississippi along with the downtown St. Paul skyline from Harriet Island is truly stunning.  The area has a complex history full of socio-economic issues, large waves of immigration from many different cultures, and impressive social services.  It truly has been a haven for many groups of people and will likely remain that way due to its impressive history and notoriety among many communities.

“District Del Sol” District Del Sol. Web. 25 May 2012.http://www.districtdelsol.com/

 

“Historic Saint Paul.” Tour Saint Paul: West Side. 01 June 2006. Web. 25 May 2012. http://www.historicsaintpaul.org/newsroom/publications/west_side

 

“Wilder Research Census Information West Side, St. Paul” –Community Data Works. Web. 25 May 2012. http://www.communitydataworks.org/StPaul/data/stpaul/nhood/dist3/profile.pdf

 

“RCHS.” Profile of Saint Paul’s Historic West Side Neighborhood. Ramsey County Historical Society. Web. 25 May 2012.http://www.rchs.com/neighborhoods/westside.htm .

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