The Stutzman Success Story

The W. F. Stutzman Block, a Victorian commercial structure stands at 721-733 East Seventh Street. It was designed by August Gauger and constructed in two stages from 1885 to 1889, with the easternmost tower area going up last. Two of the original sections have been destroyed but the name of the original owner still remains in a rooftop pediment.

For many years it was a vibrant commercial corner. William F. Stutzman was a bookkeeper for a wholesale supplier of grain and produce and for a time also served on the Saint Paul City Council. William died in 1943 and his wife Bertha died in 1992 a few days before her ninety-fifth birthday. A Stutzman family member lived in a second story apartment through the 1930's.

In the early 1990s, this building was a victim of urban decay. It had become a problem for local neighbors and received many visits from the police. The area was heavily paved, littered with trash and blighted by a large billboard on the western end of the block.

The Upper Swede Hollow Neighborhood Association (USHNA) purchased the building in 1994. Their goal was to return this highly visible Victorian building to a community asset. Years of grassroots efforts and fundraising from foundations and area residents allowed the restoration of the building. It is now home to nonprofit organizations, affordable rental apartments and a busy café with an attractive outdoor patio. USHNA also made the structure more environmentally friendly and, instead of sending runoff into the storm sewer, water now goes into a rain garden area.

In September 1994, the west end of the property was named August Gauger Park, to honor the architect who lived in the neighborhood and also designed the nearby Schornstein Grocery and Saloon and many area homes. The community garden project, with its terraced flowerbeds and a stone pathway was started in 1993 with help from a class at Metropolitan State University, the Dayton's Bluff Community Council, USHNA, and many community people.

Gauger Park contains two items of women’s history. The first is a stone marker found at the base of the large cottonwood tree. It was placed there in memory of Bonnie Luke (1948-1994), a member of the nursing faculty and academic advisor at Metropolitan State University from 1988 to the year of her death. Metro students, staff and community volunteers worked to develop the surrounding park. Bonnie’s family and friends brought flowers from her former yard and planted them near her memorial.

The second item is the Maria Bates Rain Garden named for early resident Maria Bates Dayton who, with her husband Lyman, built a house in the area in 1854. Lyman became a prominent businessman and local land owner and their name became attached to the neighborhood.

Maria died in 1896 and several years later her son gave a tiny triangle for a park in her memory. The land was created when two early additions met at a forty-five degree angle at Bates and North Street. The city recently vacated a section of Bates Avenue between East Seventh and North Streets and the land was added to small the park, connecting it directly to what would later become Gauger Park. What had been the former triangle area is now known as the Maria Bates Rain Garden.