According to Carol Carey, executive director of Historic Saint Paul, “Heritage preservation is viewed more as an elitist activity and less as a celebration of what individuals in less affluent communities have built.”
When you think of properties culturally special to the city, your mind thinks Summit Avenue mansions. What about the house at 275 Bates Avenue in Dayton’s Bluff? Built in 1884, it was first a bakery, then a home to railroad workers, tailors, cigar makers, musicians. Without feasible redevelopment proposals, the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) nearly saw to its demolition in October 2015. But the community rallied.
“The collective impact of the [proposed] demolition was felt,” says Carey.
Historic Saint Paul leads their rehabilitation. Formed by the Heritage Preservation Commission (which oversees development and improvements in Dayton’s Bluff district and separate from Historic Saint Paul), the nonprofit targets sites sufferng from disinvestment and tries to renew them without losing their character.
Since the late 1990s, this has involved financially assisting building owners in the North End, the West End and the West Side through the Restore Saint Paul Loan Program and releasing the Saint Paul Historical tour guide app, available for Android and iPhones. “It’s more than just about economic development,” Carey says of heritage preservation in neglected areas. “It tells the city’s whole story.”