Saint Paul, Minnesota
In the heart of downtown Saint Paul, at the corner of Fifth and St. Peter streets, a building has witnessed the evolution of the Twin Cities for more than a century. This historic corner has been home to the St. Paul Hotel since 1910, but it wasn’t the first hotel to occupy this spot.
The Greenman & the Windsor
The first hotel on this corner dates back to the 1860s when a carpenter named John Summers erected the first hotel on the site, the Greenman. While poorly documented, we know the Greenman evolved into a 60-room establishment, offering amenities like hot and cold running water—an extravagant luxury in its time. However, tragedy struck in 1877 when a fire razed the wooden structure. Undeterred, Summers swiftly rebuilt, creating the fire-resistant Windsor Hotel in 1878, a four-story Italianate-style marvel.
The Windsor Hotel became a hub of cultural and political activity in the 1880s. Noted figures like Hamlin Garland, Ignatius Donnelly, and Richard Mansfield graced its halls. Even local politicians found comfort within its cheerful confines, enjoying full-course dinners and camaraderie in an era when political maneuvering and lively conversation went hand in hand.
Despite its allure, the Windsor’s reign was relatively short-lived. It persisted as a second-tier hotel until the early 1900s, eventually making way for the present-day Saint Paul Hotel in 1910. This transition marked the beginning of a new chapter for the historic corner.
The Million Dollar Hotel
The Saint Paul Hotel was heralded as “Saint Paul’s Million Dollar Hotel” when it opened its doors on April 18, 1910. It boasted a grand ballroom, fine dining, and scenic views from guest rooms. Over the years, it became a magnet for presidents, gangsters, celebrities, and local luminaries that solidified its status as the backbone of charm and elegance in downtown Saint Paul. The hotel’s opulent facade even harbored a secret during Prohibition—the tunnels below the building facilitated the discreet transportation of bootlegged booze for guests.
Throughout its history, the dining room at the Saint Paul Hotel has had a reputation for elegance and exceptional food. The formal, multi-course dinners and private dining rooms may be less popular with today’s diners than in the past. Still, the tasty food and excellent service keep the restaurant a favorite place for romantic and celebratory dinners, lunch with friends, and other occasions when a little extra je ne sais quoi is desired.
As the mid-20th century saw a shift to the suburbs, the hotel experienced a decline in guests. By 1982, the community recognized the Saint Paul Hotel as a local landmark needing restoration. A rallying effort led to a meticulous renovation, and in 1991, the hotel joined the Historic Hotels of America program.
Today, the Saint Paul Hotel still stands proudly. Its journey from the Greenman to the Windsor and finally to the Saint Paul Hotel mirrors the ever-changing landscape of downtown Saint Paul. Guests continue to bask in the historic charm and elegance that has defined this iconic hotel since its inception over a century ago.
Chilled Strawberry Champagne Soup
- 1 pint strawberries, rinsed and topped
- 1 cup fresh orange juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 6 ounces champagne
- 2 ounces raspberry liqueur (optional)
- ½ cup sour cream
- Whipped or sour cream for topping
- Mint leaves for garnish
- With a food processor or blender, combine strawberries, orange juice, lemon juice, honey, sugar, champagne, raspberry liqueur and sour cream; puree until the mixture is smooth. Chill well.
- Serve in chilled soup cups. Garnish with fresh whipped cream or sour cream and a mint leaf.