Dayton’s Bluff is the most picturesque and beautiful district of the city. Sloping back from the river bluff for nearly a mile, it commands from every point a wider and finer prospect the city and the Mississippi valley than any other portion of the city east of the Mississippi.


St. Paul Pioneer Press,
January 1, 1887

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.

The plan of gridded streets employed by Lyman Dayton’s land surveyor was generally like that used elsewhere in the city, but many of the streets were oriented toward views of the Mississippi River and the growing city below. As the blocks of Dayton’s Bluff were developed with a diverse collection of residences and commercial buildings, a sense of the steep, rolling terrain was retained. Houses crowned terraced hilltop sites, and porches and prominent windows were oriented towards views of distant river bluffs. Today, the District has strong edges at the south, where I-94 divides it from the Mounds Park area, and along the western and northern edges, where the Swede Hollow ravine and the edge of the bluff form natural boundaries.

A typical block within the District is densely built. Streetscapes are not uniform, but often have a great variety of housing styles and types. It is not uncommon to find a large three-story mansion anchoring a block with a collection of simple one- and two-story houses. Setback from the street is quite uniform, however, and most houses have a small yard at the front. The steep slopes have required the construction of a variety of retaining walls. Many handsome old walls are built of limestone or brick.

It is important to conserve the historic buildings of this area, but the natural setting should also be conserved and enhanced. The first settlers of the area who sought large lots perched near the edge of the bluff highly valued their special view of the city. Today, the broad vistas of the river and downtown St. Paul remain among the reasons new residents are drawn to this unique neighborhood.

Exterior alterations, new construction, and demolition of buildings within the District boundaries are reviewed by the St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission according to the guidelines explained in a Historical District Handbook. The Handbook is intended for the use of residents of the Dayton’s Bluff Historic District, as well as all other St. Paul residents with an interest in the conservation of historic buildings. Click here for a copy of the Dayton’s Bluff Historic