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History of Saint Paul

In 1999, Saint Paul celebrated 150 years as Minnesota's capital city since the village was named capital in 1849.  But they celebrated another 150 year milestone in 2004 since the village officially became a city in 1854 after a significant population growth.  It is the 1854 date that is listed on the official seal for the City of Saint Paul.

A small cabin built at the mouth of Fountain Cave was the first building that would eventually become the city of Saint Paul.  The cave was used by the early settlers for its cool air and cooler waters.  The cave was likely Minnesota's longest natural sandstone cave, although there is no evidence of existence remaining today.  Humans eventually destroyed the cave through a series of events: sewage and storm water were discharged through the cave by a railroad in the late 1800s; later, residential development and road construction damaged and ultimately buried the cave.

Often abbreviated as St. Paul, the city of Saint Paul is graced with historic architecture and grand mansions.  While Minneapolis can trace its beginnings to the milling industry, Saint Paul can trace a rather interesting past to the activities of a notorious, yet popular, French-Canadian fur trader turned bootlegger named Pierre Parrant, aka "Pig's Eye."  The Fort Snelling crowd was disgusted with the likes of these moonshining settlers, and through a series of events, kept sending them farther away.  They eventually settled further down river on a north bank of the Mississippi River; this new settlement was initially named Pig's Eye and is now a part of downtown Saint Paul.

By the early 1820's, Pig's Eye Landing had become an important trading center and destination for settlers heading west.  A Catholic priest, Father Galtier, was sent to minister to the wayward French-Canadians in the area, and he quickly established the Saint Paul chapel in 1841 naming it after his favorite saint. The name of the settlement was formally changed to Saint Paul in honor of this newly constructed church.  

The Saint Paul chapel was initially a humble log cabin atop a bluff on the Mississippi River.  After only a few years, the church was expanded to meet the growth; in 1851, the new Bishop, Joseph Cretin, renamed it the Cathedral of Saint Paul.  The church grew again and Bishop Cretin was concerned about the number of folks standing for service, so he made plans for a larger cathedral in downtown Saint Paul which was completed in 1856.  The church has expanded tremendously since that time and now stands as one of the most prominent buildings in downtown Saint Paul today.

The Cathedral of Saint Paul is recognized as a historical landmark and continues to operate as a Catholic church today. Guided tours are available to the public, and the Cathedral welcomes over 200,000 guests and visitors each year.  The Cathedral of Saint Paul features magnificent Renaissance architecture with rounded domes and arches; it stands 306 feet tall from the base to the very top of the lantern.

The Capitol in Saint Paul is an impressive building with a historical legacy of its own.  The current building was completed in 1905.  It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is part of the Minnesota Historical Society's historic site program.  Public tours are available where you can enjoy the soaring domes, the awe-inspiring rotunda, the historic chambers where state government is conducted, and learn about the history and art of the capitol.  On good weather days, you can also see the golden horses statue - called the quadriga - on the roof.

Another impressive architectural beauty in downtown Saint Paul is the Landmark Center originally built in 1902.  The building used to serve as the main Federal Court House and Post Office for the Upper Midwest.  The building was scheduled for demolition in the 1970's, but a group of concerned citizens saved it and lovingly restored its splendor.  It reopened to the public as Landmark Center in 1978 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the Landmark Center serves as a cultural center for the arts and hosts a myriad of special events such as corporate seminars and wedding receptions.

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