St. Paul, Minnesota home to the most Victorian homes in America – on one street
Without a doubt, the prettiest street in the Twin Cities is Summit Ave. in St. Paul, Minnesota. The parade of beautiful homes on this promenade runs nearly five miles, and according to Visit St. Paul, Summit Ave., also features 373 of the original 440 historic homes as well as “the longest stretch of Victorian-era homes in the United States.”
And you’ll find other charming architectural designs from other eras on Summit Ave. that’ll make you ask, “Why am I not living here?”* Architectural masterpieces such as St. Paul’s own Downton Abbey, the historic James J. Hill House (Great Northern Railway magnate), to a couple of St. Paul native F. Scott Fitzgerald’s homes and stomping grounds (including a National Historic Landmark) to many more gilded mansions and architectural wonders all line the iconic Summit Ave.
*Want to become a Summit Ave resident in St. Paul, Minnesota? Here are the current homes and condos currently listed on Zillow (also gives you a sneak peek inside some of the most beautiful homes on Summit Ave.).
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Where can I take a walking tour of Summit Ave?
As a guest of the Minnesota Historical Society, I was fortunate to take 10 history walking tours in the summer and fall of 2019. Several of the St. Paul walking tours with the Minnesota Historical Society focused on the gorgeous Summit Ave. and Cathedral Hill neighborhoods. Local guides shared stories about the social history, architecture and preservation of these stunning mansions of St. Paul.
While the Minnesota Historical Society is currently open, check their website for the latest availability of tours and operational hours of their historical buildings. For example, the James J. Hill House on Summit Ave. is open a few days a week, but you can admire the 36,000-square-foot home’s exterior – and National Historic Landmark – that sits on three acres from outside the gates. For a behind-the-scenes look of what’s inside, take a virtual tour of my Nooks and Crannies experience at the James J. Hill House.
Note: With the exception of the James J. Hill House, all of the Minnesota Historical Society walking tours in the Twin Cities were exterior only; no interior tours of the Summit Avenue homes.
Self-guided Summit Ave in St. Paul, Minnesota tour options
I recommend parking (lots of free curbside parking) near the James J. Hill House to begin your own self-guided Summit Ave. walking tour.
What’s the address for the James J. Hill House in St. Paul, Minnesota?
The address for the historic James J. Hill House is 240 Summit Ave, St. Paul, MN 55102. It’s usually where I start when I show visitors the beautiful Summit Ave.
If you or other members of your party have limited mobility, then driving along Summit Ave. is also very scenic. It’s also important to note that that some of the sidewalks are uneven or cobblestone to preserve the integrity of the neighborhood’s history.
Summit Ave photo gallery and brief history tour
Words will never capture the beauty of the historic homes of Summit Ave. So I’ll let the photos of the prettiest street in Minnesota do the talking.
Caption sources: Most of the content provided in the Summit Ave. captions are gleaned from my Minnesota Historical Society walking tour notes. For accuracy, I’ve also verified and/or gathered additional content from the Minnesota Historical Society, Visit St. Paul and Zillow websites.
240 Summit Ave. | The James J. Hill House
251 Summit Ave.
This historic home located at 251 Summit Avenue was built in 1887.
255 Summit Ave.
This pretty home at 255 Summit Ave was built in 1900.
260 Summit Ave | Louis Hill House
Next door to the James J. Hill House at 260 Summit Ave. is a home he built for his son, Louis, in 1912.
266 Summit Ave. is for sale
If you’d like to live in a mansion from the Gilded Age, this home located at 266 Summit Avenue is currently on the market for $1.53 million (as of the post’s published date). It was built in 1884.
271 Summit Ave.
This lovely Victorian home is my second favorite on the beautiful Summit Ave. in St. Paul, Minn. Located at 271 Summit Ave., this home was built in 1882.
275 Summit Ave.
This beautiful home, Charles Schuneman House, sits on a corner lot at 275 Summit Ave. was built in 1901. It replaced the original home, built in 1880, that was destroyed by fire.
302 Summit Ave.
For those living in the Twin Cities, you’re probably familiar with the ghost stories associated with the former Forepaugh’s restaurant. This historic home located at 302 Summit Ave. is the former home of Joseph Forepaugh who moved here in 1891.
312 Summit Ave. | David Stuart House
You’ll find the oldest house on the prettiest street in St. Paul at 312 Summit Ave. The David Stuart House was one of the original homes built on Summit Ave in the 1850s. Several other prominent Minnesota residents have also called this mansion home over the years including a Civil War general and a former mayor.
This oldest house on Summit Ave in St. Paul is one of my husband’s favorites – especially because the doorknockers remind him of Ebenezer Scrooge’s house in the black and white 1951 version of A Christmas Carol.
318 Summit Ave.
This beautiful historic home at 318 Summit Avenue was built in 1892.
332 Summit Ave.
Built in 1889, this historic home is located at 332 Summit Avenue.
335 Summit Ave.
This historic home was built in 1892 and is located at 335 Summit Avenue.
344 Summit Ave. | The Davidson boutique hotel
If you’d like to stay on the prettiest street in the Twin Cities, The Davidson Hotel (formerly Davidson Mansion) is located right in the heart of the historic avenue (344 Summit Ave.). According to The Davidson Hotel’s website, this English Cotswold Manor was the home of Watson Davidson who worked for James J. Hill’s railway company. Originally built in 1915 as a single-family residence, this boutique hotel features nine units.
353 Summit Ave.
This historic home at 353 Summit Ave was built in 1882.
365 Summit Ave.
This majestic home at 365 Summit Ave. was built in 1894. According to saintpaulhistorical.com, the owners of this house exchanged houses with Chauncey and Mary Giggs.
370 Summit Ave.
Summit Ave is perfect for a stroll in any season – and especially pretty in autumn when fall colors are peaking. A view of 370 Summit Avenue from across the street.
475 Summit Ave.
This beautiful home at 475 Summit Ave is one of my top three houses on the prettiest street in the Twin Cities.
476 Summit Ave. | Chauncey Griggs Mansion – the most haunted house in Minnesota
Yes, this four-story Victorian mansion on Summit Ave. with solar panels is believed to be haunted by up to six different ghosts. Built in 1883 by Chauncey Griggs (who made his fortune in grocery stores), you can find this historic home at 476 Summit Ave.
Considered by some as the most haunted home in Minnesota, the Chauncey Griggs mansion on Summit Ave. takes on a little more sinister look in black and white. Unless you’re my husband who started singing the The Addams Family theme song when he saw the pic.
513 Summit Ave. | Mrs. Porterfield’s Boarding House
Here’s another view (from across the street) of my favorite house on Summit Ave. Located at 513 Summit Ave, it was formerly known as Mrs. Porterfield’s boarding house when F. Scott Fitzgerald lived in the neighborhood in 1919. I believe this Queen Anne is a single-family residence today.
516 Summit Ave. | Former home of Nobel-prize winning Sinclair Lewis
A Minnesota native and Pulitzer Prize winner for Literature winner called Summit Ave. home at one point (or at least leased it for a year or so). You can find the historic home of Sinclair Lewis at 516 Summit Ave. Fun fact: Lewis declined the esteemed literary award as at the time he did not believe one author should be recognized over another.
599 Summit Ave; F. Scott Fitzgerald House (Summit Terrace)
One of the most iconic homes on Summit Ave is the F. Scott Fitzgerald House. Designated as a Registered National Historic Landmark, this rowhouse at 599 Summit Ave. was built in 1899. This is where he penned his first novel, This Side of Paradise.
1006 Summit Avenue; Minnesota Governor’s Residence (National Register of Historic Places)
You can find the Minnesota Governor’s residence at 1006 Summit Ave. in St. Paul, Minn. The governor’s home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
1345-1347 Summit Avenue: Pierce and Walter Butler House
This duplex located at 1345-1347 Summit Ave., built in 1900, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
2022 Summit Avenue; Dr. Ward Beebe House
A little different from many of the homes in the area, this three-story stucco house (aka Dr. Ward Beebe House) at 2022 Summit Avenue is a prairie-style home and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Historic preservation efforts in St. Paul, Minnesota
Most U.S. cities featured a promenade of showcase mansions in the late 1800s/early 1900s; however, they were destroyed as new developments replaced the historic homes. St. Paul is unique as they put laws into place to preserve the historical integrity of the homes. Although some of these homes on Summit Ave have been converted to apartments and condos, owners must heed the historical preservation guidelines.
What famous St. Paul native didn’t fall in love with Summit Ave homes?
It’s reported that St. Paul’s very own F. Scott Fitzgerald (who lived in a couple of different homes in this and nearby historic neighborhoods) was not a fan of Summit Ave. or anything ostentatious (“characterized by vulgar or pretentious display; designed to impress or attract notice”).
Here’s one of his oft-repeated quotes.
“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.”– F. Scott Fitzgerald (Anyone else read that quote in Leonardo DiCaprio’s voice?)
On that note, this concludes my tour of some of the most beautiful homes on the historic Summit Ave. – the prettiest street in St. Paul, Minnesota. Keep reading to learn about some other nearby historic places of interest. And let me know which Summit Ave historic home is your favorite in the comments.
FAQ: Can I take pictures of the homes on Summit Ave. in St. Paul, Minnesota – the prettiest street in the Twin Cities?
Yes. Although I still feel kind of weird taking photos of people’s homes on Summit Ave. I know someone who used to live in this historic neighborhood. He said that people taking pictures of his and other homes is part of the experience of living on the prettiest street in the Twin Cities.
When our tour with the Minnesota Historical Society stopped at one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s homes, the next-door neighbor came out and provided some additional insight about the home. And I spoke briefly with the owner of the allegedly haunted house (the Chauncey Griggs Mansion at 476 Summit Avenue). I’m pretty sure he wasn’t a ghost because he was winterizing the home and carrying patio chairs.
Of course, be mindful that families live in these homes and to always be respectful when walking through the Summit Ave. neighborhood.
What’s nearby Summit Ave. in St. Paul, Minnesota?
As long as you’re on the prettiest street in the Twin Cities, make sure to stop by these nearby points of interest and historic places when touring Summit Ave. in St. Paul, Minnesota.
633 Fairmont Avenue | Former home of Nobel Peace Prize winner Frank B. Kellogg
Just a few blocks from Summit Ave (approx. 0.25 miles) at 633 Fairmont Avenue, you’ll find this beautiful National Historic Landmark built in 1889. It is the former home of the 1929 Nobel Peace Prize winner Frank B. Kellogg (who also served in the U.S. Senate and as the U.S. Secretary of State).
Cathedral of Saint Paul
The breathtaking Cathedral of Saint Paul is located near the James J. Hill House on the corner of Selby and Summit Ave. in St. Paul. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Cathedral of Saint Paul is home to the Shrine of the Nations. The Shrine honors the national patron of saints of many of the immigrants that settled in Minnesota.
The Cathedral of Saint Paul offers weekday one-hour tours Tuesday through Friday with the exception of holy days and civil holidays. The church is also an active place to worship so tours may be canceled for other reasons. You can also visit on your own. Until then, here is the Cathedral of Saint Paul’s virtual tour.
The Commodore Bar & Restaurant
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birthplace
St. Paul native F. Scott Fitzgerald was born on the second floor of this historic home located at nearby 481 Laurel Avenue. He and his parents lived there until he was two years old.
The 140-year-old building located at 301 Summit Avenue is home to the Germanic-American Institute, a non-profit that focuses on the culture of German-speaking people. It’s also a popular venue for special events like weddings.
Nathan Hale statue – Daughters of the Revolution
You can find a statue of patriot Nathan Hale, donated by the Daughters of the American Revolution, at the corner of Summit Ave. and Portland in St. Paul. Minn. Hale, who was executed by hanging by the British during the Revolutionary War for spying, is known for his quote, “I only regret that I have but one life to live for my country.”
St. Paul Academy
F. Scott Fitzgerald attended the St. Paul Academy 1908-1911 and published his first short stories in the school magazine. The former location where Fitzgerald attended is located just off Summit Ave at 25 Dale Street North. Interesting note: While Fitzgerald’s first novel, This Side of Paradise, was an overnight success, The Great Gatsby was not well-received. It only become critically acclaimed after Fitzgerald’s death.
The University Club
The University Club of St. Paul was constructed in 1913 and is located at 420 Summit Ave.
I have hundreds of other images of Summit Ave – the prettiest street in the Twin Cities – and neighboring neighborhoods. Will save them for another time. Or come follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter as I will share more photos in the coming days and weeks.