The longest stretch of Victorian houses in the United States can be found along Summit Avenue in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and it’s unquestionably an intriguing place to visit for those who appreciate history and architecture.
Although you can walk down the street and admire the houses for free, there’s also a walking tour you can take to learn more about them, and I think it’s absolutely worth the price. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and college students, and $6 for children ages 5 to 17.
The tour involves 1.5 miles of walking and begins at the James J. Hill House, the former home of James J. Hill, a Canadian-American railroad businessman and executive. The house, a beautiful Richardsonian Romanesque-style stone mansion, is a National Historic Landmark that visitors can also tour.
The guide on my tour told us that the biggest houses on Summit Avenue are on the same side as the James J. Hill House, which is on the left if you’re heading northeast on the road. And about 35 of the houses on Summit Avenue were built by Clarence Johnston, who was the Minnesota State Architect for 30 years.
Most of the buildings along the avenue are houses, but some are businesses. One of those building is a non-profit organization, the Germanic American Institute.
Because people actually live in the houses, we always stayed on the sidewalks and never walked onto the properties.
The tour I went on also took some detours through streets and alleys off of Summit Avenue.
If you decide to take this tour, be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and check the weather forecast on the day you plan to go. It rained a bit on the day I went and it would’ve been inconvenient to go on it if I had gone without an umbrella.
Within walking distance of the starting point of the tour (which is also the end point) is the Cathedral of Saint Paul, so it’s a good idea to plan on going there before or afterward as well.
I highly recommend checking out Summit Avenue in the Twin Cities!