St. Mary's

One small ethnic community made a striking contribution to the Rice Street landscape. Around 1900, a few hundred Romanian emigrants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire made their way to St. Paul, and some settled in the North End. In due course they formed an Orthodox parish and in 1914 began construction of the Falling Asleep of the Ever-Virgin Mary Church, more commonly known as St. Mary’s.

All of these people came from the Banat region of what is now Western Romania, and their church is a replica of one in the town of Sannicolau Mare (the birthplace of composer Béla Bartók). It stands unchanged at the corner of Atwater Street and Woodbridge Street (two blocks west of Rice Street). Its purely ornamental painted clock is set mysteriously and forever to 4:00. Though there is now no Romanian community around Rice Street, the congregation, though tiny, flourishes still, offering services in both Romanian and English.

The North End was one of three nodes of Romanian population in Minnesota, the others were in Minneapolis and South Saint Paul. Because there has been almost no Romanian immigration to Minnesota in the last century, and there is now no Romanian community around Rice Street, it is surprising that this congregation survives (there is still one in South St. Paul also) with its own priest, and still offering some services in Romanian.