History teachers always say that history can be fun and exciting, but sometimes that's hard to remember when you're slogging through pages and pages of readings. This summer, the Minnesota History Center has found a better way to teach the subject--with two series of food and pub crawls that let history buffs eat and drink their way through St. Paul's many historical neighborhoods.
The first of these tours, the History Food Crawl of University Avenue, Frogtown, and Rondo in St. Paul, begins Saturday, July 16, and also runs July 23, August 6, and August 20, from 1:30 to 4 p.m. (providing the state government doesn't shut down).
The 2.5-hour tour stops by neighborhoods that will soon be changed drastically by the new light rail route, but which hold historical significance worth exploring before the changes. Frogtown is home to a large Vietnamese and Hmong population, while Rondo is the city's historically African-American neighborhood.
Danielle Dart, public program specialist at the Minnesota History Center, finds that most people only think of the famous Summit Hill neighborhood (which is the focus of their History Pub Crawl) when thinking of St. Paul's historical areas. "The Food Crawl of University Avenue, Frogtown, and Rondo is a great way to introduce people to St. Paul's past and its present," says Dart. "The more recent arrivals to these areas are part of Minnesota's long story of immigration and refugee resettlement," she adds.
If the stories of the beautiful St. Agnes Catholic Church or Pilgrim Baptist, Minnesota's oldest black congregation, don't convince you to attend, the food is sure to entice. Included in the $35 ticket price ($30 for MHS members) are samples of traditional smokehouse barbecue, Vietnamese banh mi, and a number of other snacks and drinks from Southeast Asia.
Summit Hill, St. Paul's famous Victorian neighborhood, is the focus of the History Center's History Pub Crawl. Starting on Wednesday, August 3, at 7 p.m., the 21-and-up trolley tour weaves its way through the streets of one of the biggest stretches of preserved Victorian mansions in the country. This is a popular tour though: the August 3 tour is already sold out, but you may want to reserve tickets early for the August 10, 17, and 24 tours.
The neighborhood has had its share of famous residents over the years, including the writers F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sinclair Lewis. Dart says the tour usually stops at W.A. Frost, a locale that housed a pharmacy and soda fountain that Fitzgerald was known to frequent while at home. However, the bars on the tour do depend on availability.
Of course, Fitzgerald is not the main focus of the tour: the history of the buildings, the neighborhood, and the area are featured more prominently. "People treat St. Paul as if it's mysterious, with all the street names and the way it's laid out," says Dart. "But these tours are a great way to understand why St. Paul is the way it is"
What better way to spend a summer afternoon or evening? Have a drink or two or enjoy some authentic ethnic cuisine as you learn about St. Paul's past on one of the History Center's food and pub crawls this summer.
The History Food Crawl of University Avenue, Frogtown, and Rondo runs July 16, July 23, August 6, and August 20. All tours run from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., and depart from the Minnesota History Center. $35 ($30 MHS members). Reservations required, call 651.259.3015.
The Summit Hill Special History Pub Crawl runs August 3 (sold out), 10, 17, and 24. All tours depart from the Minnesota History Center. 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. $25 ($20 MHS members). Reservations required, call 651-259-3015. Drinks not included in ticket price.