This is an unusual "tour", in that none of the buildings remain. In fact, most of the streets are long gone as a result of the city's plan to demolish over 500 structures located on the flood plain of the Mississippi River across from downtown. Map locations are approximate as most of the addresses and streets no longer exist.
The first Eastern European Jews arrived in the late 1880s and settled primarily in what was once called the “Lower West Side” of St. Paul. The majority of them were fleeing not just discrimination, but the pogroms and massacres deliberately inflicted by their governments. They came from Russia, Lithuania, Poland (these latter two part of the Russian Empire at that time), and Romania. Arriving by the thousands in New York, they traveled west and many settled in St. Paul. The West Side became predominantly Jewish by the end of the 1800s.
At first, just as in other areas of the city, Jewish congregations held their services in people’s homes or in rented spaces on the West Side. As they began to construct synagogues, the buildings appeared within just a few blocks of each other. There were at least eight synagogues established between Wabasha and the eastern bank of the Mississippi River, and between Concord and the Mississippi River to the north during the late 1800s to the early 1900s. For the most part each of these congregations catered to Jewish worshipers who may have spoken a different language or held services using slightly different practices. All were Orthodox.
An additional important organization for the Jewish population of the West Side was a school. Incorporated in 1910, the St. Paul Hebrew Institute and Shelter House building was dedicated in 1911. Its purpose was to provide a traditional Jewish education for the children of the West Side since most synagogues did not have the facilities within their own buildings. The school merged with two others in 1949, but left that group in 1954.
Only two buildings, the Agudas Achim synagogue and the St. Paul Hebrew Institute survived and were in use into the late 1950s. Fortunately some photos exist. The bulk of information about the locations of these synagogues comes from the 1904 and 1939 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, since records of the majority of these congregations haven’t survived. Even the founding date of most aren’t certain.
Some are mentioned in articles in the St. Paul Globe newspaper, and some of the locations are unclear or inaccurate. Many of the streets on which they were located no longer exist, as the area was later almost completely razed and reclaimed for industrial use as a result of the constant flooding, against which nothing had yet been constructed along the Mississippi River.
Locations for Tour
Tour PostscriptThese are some of the useful resources used in constructing the tour and the map:
Pierce, Lorraine E. “The Jewish Settlement of St. Paul’s Lower West Side.” American Jewish Archives Journal, V. 28, no. 2 (November 1976): 149.
Upper Midwest Jewish Archive, Special Collections, University of Minnesota Libraries
Paul Nelson, " Fairfield and Livingstone"
Ramsey County – St. Paul Port Authority Records
Laura Weber, MnOpedia “Talmud Torah”,
Laura Weber, MnOpedia “From Exclusion to Integration: The Story of Jews in Minnesota