Saint Paul Foundry

(Within Great Northern Business Park North)

Walk around some of St. Paul's historic buildings and look for metal base plates, which often bear the name of the St. Paul Foundry. The foundry was started in 1863 by C.N. Parker and H.W. Topping. It operated for most of its history on the Frogtown-North End border and provided jobs for thousands of area residents. While the work was hot and dirty, jobs at the foundry were prized because the work paid well in those days.

Workers had their own little green space, Foundry Park, near Arundel, Topping and Burgess streets. (The park site was redeveloped in about 1937.) Originally launched as a supplier for the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railroads, the foundry soon began to produce a wide variety of other goods including building materials. One unique remnant of the foundry is metal ashtrays bearing its name, which turn up from time to time at antique shops.

Parker and Topping were civic leaders as well as industrialists. Topping served as a St. Paul alderman (now city council member) and chaired the city's Park Board. The foundry was the scene of a few spectacular fires over the years. The last occurred after its closing, when paper pellets in an old production building caught fire. Smoke could be seen for more than 40 miles.

Foundry ownership changed several times after its incorporation in 1883. At one point the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railway was a major stockholder. The foundry became the St. Paul Engineering and Manufacturing company in the 1940s and in the 1960s was purchased and operated by the Maxson Steel Corporation before closing in the 1980s.