Why Does This Blog Exist?

You never know what you'll find here - anything with genealogical or historical value is fair game. This blog will be updated as I clean out my office, go through boxes and piles, or find pertinent items at antique shops. In the meantime, I hope you find something of interest here.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

St. Paul - Chapter III – Surface Features

(From “St. Paul Location-Development-Opportunities” by F. C. Miller, Ph. D., Webb Book Publishing Co., St. Paul, Minnesota, 1928)
Landscapes are Nature's pictures.
—M. E. Lee

What a goodly prospect spreads around,
Of hills, and dales, and woods, and lawns, and spires!
—James Thomson

St. Paul is located on the upper Mississippi near the mouth of the Minnesota Hiver. From the time of the earliest explorers this situation has been regarded as advantageous. In addition to its geographic location it forms a striking part of one of Nature's great pictures. The river valley is really a gorge, enclosed by steep, rock-ribbed bluffs, for the most part the old channel of the retreating River Warren Falls.

On the main headlands and cliffs are the principal residence sections, while the heart of the business district is located on a beautiful terrace. Particular charm is found in the narrowness of the rock-bound channel and in the practical absence of a flood plain.

About four miles from the center of the city, the Minnesota River joins its master stream between Fort Snelling and Mendota. This tributary, which flows through the whole breadth of Minnesota, connects the waters of the Red River of the North with those of the Mississippi. Indeed, here is a natural stretch of water that needs but comparatively little improvement to form a navigable channel for medium-sized craft from the Gulf of Mexico to Hudson Bay.

St. Paul is located at 45 degrees north latitude, about half-way between the equator and the north pole, or a little more than 6,000 miles from either. Its longitude is about 93 degrees west. Accordingly, St. Paul is also very nearly midway between the Prime Meridian and the International Date Line, and enjoys a very central position.

In passing, it may be mentioned that St. Paul is in the Central Standard Time Belt. There is a slight difference between Central Time and St. Paul Time. The difference amounts to about twelve minutes. When it is noon Central Time, it is twelve minutes to twelve local time, or 11:48 A.M.

The altitude of St. Paul is from 680 feet above sea level (mean water level of the Mississippi) to about 1,000 feet in the extreme northwestern part of the city. From the point of view of health, the altitude is very favorable, insuring both good, invigorating air and an excellent grade for the flow of drainage water. And as the river altitude at St. Paul is 680 feet above sea level and the distance from our city to the Gulf of Mexico about 1,994 miles, the navigation possibilities of the river ran hardly be overestimated, as the river falls only a trifle more than four inches per mile from this city to tidewater.

No attempt will lie made to describe the natural attractions of the St. Paul surface features in detail. They are merely mentioned here to give some sort of general bird's-eye-view of the natural points of interest.
Attention has been called to the steep, bold, and frowning cliffs, headlands, and bluffs on forth sides of the river gorge. Below and beyond these rocky river banks may be found a number of strikingly beautiful terraces. Some enthusiastic geographers have seriously proposed the substitution of the name of Terrace City for St. Paul.

The ice sheet, of about 30,000 years ago, invaded Minnesota and seriously interfered with the drainage system then existing, by blocking up old channels with silt, sand, gravel, and boulders, by filling up the troughs of numerous streams with the same material and by digging out new more or less permanent channels. In this way, there came into being quite a number of lakes, swamps, bogs, and also a number of creeks and streams. Before the city spread out and began to assume metropolitan proportions, a large number of these watercourses and basins were still in existence; but, when the city began to build sewers and lay water mains, these watercourses and basins were almost destroyed. Even today numerous dried-up creek and river channels and former lake basins may be found in many parts of the city.

For a few blocks on Rondo Street the street cars run on the bed of a former stream that  flowed through the grounds of St. Joseph's Hospital and on to the river in the direction of Fourth and Jackson Streets where it was crossed by a bridge.


In the extreme northeastern district, Lake Phalen, and, in the extreme northwestern part, Lake Como have been preserved.  Both lakes are in a beautiful environment, and both offer water sport of various kinds.

St. Paul has no real mountains, though there is some slight evidence of the work of mountain-making forces in the folds of the Mississippi limestone bluffs a few miles south of St. Paul. There are, however, numerous hills in and about the city. All these hills can be put under three heads— bluffs, glacial hills, and dunes, being the result of the work of the river, ice, or wind. Starting from the Mississippi River northward, these hills appear in regular succession. Near the river are the bluffs, farther out and covering all but the outermost fringe of the city are glacial hills, and just beyond the northernmost fringe are low sand dunes. It is largely due to the river gorge and the hills that St. Paul can offer such a picturesque panorama of hill, dale, and plain, of highlands and of lowlands.

In the southeastern part of the city where the Mississippi makes a sharp turn from the east to the south is one of the most impressive lookout places. It is here that we find a number of small mounds made by the mound builders, presumably Indians who had either adopted the method of burial of the mound builders or who were their lineal descendants.

In many cases the glacial hills were partially or wholly washed away by the water coming from the melting ice. The sand, gravel, and clay, so gained, were carried by the glacial water farther from the ice front and deposited in broad sheets some distance away. In  this manner were formed the wash-plains we find in various sections of the city, particularly in Hamline and at the State Fair Grounds.

Because of the abundant supply of ground water, which can easily dissolve the upper layer of bed rock (Trenton limestone) and the softness of the second layer (St. Peter sandstone), St. Paul has numerous caves. Most of them are in the St. Peter sandstone. One of the caves (Carver's Cave) is of historic interest, both because of the semi-sacred character the Indians ascribed to it and also because it was visited and described by one of the earliest explorers of this part of Minnesota. Many of the smaller caves have been enlarged, and some of them have been entirely dug out by the hand of man for useful purposes.    As the temperature in the caves varies little during the whole year, they form excellent growing places for mushrooms and splendid storehouses for certain kinds of perishable goods.

From many good lookout points the natural beauty of the city can be observed. The bluffs, with their terraced stairways, the river as it flows on, the bridges that span its course, and that man-made skyline of massive business buildings, domes of capitol and cathedral, spires of churches, puffing locomotives pulling loads of freight and passengers, and all the countless indications of a busy city outline themselves before us and form a fascinating picture.

Some of the vantage points from which the city can be seen are the following:
Wabasha Street Bridge.
High Bridge.
Cherokee Heights Drive.
Fort Snelling Bridge.
Indian Mounds Park.
Oakland Street.
Summit Avenue and Ramsey Street near the University Club House.
Linwood Park, St. Clair Street and Victoria Street.
Agricultural School, near Raymond Avenue.
West-Side river bluff, from South Wabasha Street to High Bridge and beyond.
Wheelock Parkway in many places.
Snelling Avenue Reservoir near Otto Avenue.
Rice Street Reservoir.
Glacial Hills, St. Anthony Park.                                                                             Roofs of St. Paul sky-scrapers, such as those of the Pioneer Building, Merchants National Bank, Great Northern and Northern Pacific Office Building, Athletic Club Building.
Domes of the Capitol and the Cathedral.
Tower of the Montgomery Ward Building.
What man has done in St. Paul is scarcely less impressive than what Nature did in the dim past, since the site of St. Paul was raised above the ancient sea. It is seldom that,
away from the mountains, Nature has prepared so varied, pleasing, and suitable a situation for a city. To its natural attractiveness the citizens have added all the adornments of beauty that arc found in its boulevards and parks, the character of its architecture, and the massive homes of industry and commerce.

In what respects is the rolling character of the city advantageous?
What are the city's most striking land features?
How has the city changed the surface appearance?
In what part of the city are the natural stairways?
What 18 the altitude of St. Paul?
Where do you believe is the best outlook?

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