The development of Dayton’s Bluff as a “suburban” residential location began in the 1840s. The area was named for Lyman Dayton, an early pioneer real estate operator who owned extensive properties and built a home on the Bluff in the 1850s. The community became part of what historians call “the walking city” and was started so early that many of its streets were laid out parallel to the Mississippi River rather than in a north/south manner.
Because of its attractive landscape and scenic vistas, many wealthy residents chose to construct handsome estates on large lots. A sizeable group of prosperous German Americans clustered together. However, the Bluff was never an exclusive enclave of the rich. A St. Paul paper of the time noted that “in the eastern part of the city, on Dayton’s Bluff…several hundred dwellings have been erected.” Most of the homes were “of the medium class, for the use of mechanics and employees of the numerous factories that are springing up.” The 1880s through the early 1900s was a time of prosperity. The streetcar arrived and the neighborhood expanded. New development, both commercial and residential, sprang up near the streetcar line, which went up East 7th Street and ended at Duluth Street. The era saw the arrival of new industries, including lumber companies, farm equipment companies, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M), and Seeger Refrigerator, which later became the Whirlpool Corporation.
Modern Dayton’s Bluff
Dayton’s Bluff is one of St. Paul’s undiscovered cultural resources. Beginning as a fashionable residential locale for the wealthy, it evolved in the early 1880s into a suburb of broad social and economic diversity; a place for every man (and woman) to build his house and watch the world grow up around him. That world was made up of breweries and railroads and their workers, carpenters and masons, janitors, grocers and teachers, all with growing families; and interspersed among these, a mix of clerks, salesmen and managers that collected at dawn along Third Street for their daily assault on the heart of the city.
Many of the original homes still stand today and have already celebrated their one-hundredth birthday. The current interest in the revitalization of Dayton’s Bluff focuses largely on the fine older buildings which are the record of the area’s long history.
The Dayton’s Bluff Historic District was approved by the St. Paul City Council in August, 1992. The creation of the Historic District recognizes the historical and architectural significance of this early St. Paul neighborhood and is an important part of neighborhood revitalization in St. Paul’s District 4.