Frogtown has always been one of Saint Paul’s most ethnically diverse neighborhoods. Much of the neighborhood’s ethnic history can be followed through its churches, its community institutions and its businesses and industries. Several of those destinations are noted in the other tours.
French-Canadians were among the earliest settlers here. Also present in the early days were Germans, Austrians, Irish, Poles, Hungarians, Romanians and other Eastern Europeans. Scandinavians and Italians also made their homes here, although not in the same numbers as seen in other Saint Paul neighborhoods. Some residents were from the so-called “Low Countries” of Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium.
Eastern European Jews and African-Americans moved in later in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Numerous immigrants came to Saint Paul and Frogtown due to the railroads’ recruiting in Europe. Workers were sought by mailing brochures to their home countries. People were also recruited to work in the fields, as migrant workers. (Many of the first migrant workers were from Eastern Europe and it was not until the early 20th century that migrants were recruited from Mexico.) People looking for a better life or a fresh start were enticed by the chance to come to America.
Others came at the behest of family members and friends from their home communities, or to escape turmoil there.
In the 20th and 21st centuries, Hmong, Lao, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Thai and other Asian groups have settled here, as have many from African nations. People from Central and South America have also settled in Frogtown in recent years.
This tour looks back at some of the neighborhood’s ethnic landmarks, in the context of those who came here.