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Twin Cities St. Paul Minneapolis

( Originally Published 1913 )

A FINE yellow train takes you from Chicago to St. Paul and Minneapolis, in the passing of a single night. And if you ever meet in the course of your travel the typical globe-trotter who is inclined to carp at American railroads, refer him to these yellow trains that run from Chicago up into the Northwest. There are no finer steam caravans in all the entire world. And when the globe-trotter comes back at you with his telling final shot about the abominable open sleepers of America — and you in your heart of hearts must think them abominable — tell him in detail of the yellow trains. For a price not greater than he would pay for a room in a first-class hotel over-night, he car} have a real room in the yellow trains. Like the compartments in the night-trains of Europe? No, not at all. These are real rooms— a whole car filled with them and they are the final and unanswerable argument for the comfort and luxury of the yellow trains.

In such a stateroom and over smooth rails you sleep — sleep as a child sleeps until Lemuel, the porter, comes and tears you forth by entreaties, persuading you that you are almost upon the brink of — not St. Peter but of St. Paul. Of course, Lemuel has let his enthusiasm carry away his accuracy — even a porter upon a yellow train is apt to do that but you have full chance to arise and dress leisurely before your train stops in the ancient ark of a Union station upon the river level at the capital of the state of Minnesota. For at St. Paul you have come to the Mississippi —the Father of Waters of legendary lore. If you have only seen the stream at St. Louis or at New Orleans, polluted by the muddy waters of the Missouri or the Ohio or a dozen sluggish southern streams, you will not recognize the clear north-ern river flowing turbulently through a high-walled gorge, as the Mississippi. There are a few of the flat-bottomed, gaily caparisoned steamboats at the St. Paul to heighten the resemblance between the lower river and the upper, but that is all.

St. Paul owes her birth to the river-trade nevertheless. For she was, and still is, at the real head of navigation on the Mississippi and in other days that meant very much indeed. A few miles above her levee were the falls of St. Anthony and a thriving little town called Minneapolis — of which very much more in a moment. From that levee at St. Paul began the first railroad building into the then unknown country of the Northwest. The first locomotive — the William Crooks — which ran into the virgin territory is still carefully preserved. And the man who made railroading from St. Paul into a great trunk line system still lives in the town.

He began by being assistant wharfmaster in the days when there was something to do in such a job. Today they know him as the Empire Builder. The Swedes, who form so important a factor in the population of the Twin Cities, call him " Yem Hill " and he loves it. But he is entered in all records as James J. Hill.

To tell the story of the growth of Jim Hill from wharfmaster to master of the railroads, would be to tell the story of one of the two or three really great men who are living in America today. It is a story closely interwoven with the story of St. Paul, the struggling town to which he came while yet a mere boy. He has lived to see St. Paul become an important city, the rival village at the falls of St. Anthony even exceed her in size and in commercial importance, but his affection for the old river town to which he has given so much of his life and abundant personality has not dimmed. He has made it the gateway of his Northwest and when one says " Hill's Northwest " he says it advisedly ; for while there might have been a Northwest without Jim Hill, there would have been no Jim Hill without the Northwest.

He found it a raw and little known land over which stretched a single water-logged railroad fighting adversity, and in momentary danger of extinction through receivership ; a trunk-line railroad at that time distinguished more for its arrogance than for any other one feature of its being. Somewhere in the late eighties J. J. Hill took a trip over that railroad. He saw Seattle for the first time and found it a mere lumber-shipping town of but a few thousand population and with but little apparent future. He saw great stretches of open country whole counties the size of the majestic states of New York and of Pennsylvania and still all but unknown. He also saw unbridled streams, high-seated mountain ranges and because J. J. Hill was a dreamer he saw promise in these things.

From that trip he returned to the budding city of St. Paul, enthused beyond ordinary measure, and determined that in the coining development of the half-dozen territories at the northwestern corner of the country he would share no ordinary part. He turned his back on the navigation of the Mississippi— already beginning to wane and gave his attention to railroading. Purchasing an inconsequential lumber railroad in Minnesota, he laid the foundations for his Great Northern system. There was a something about Jim Hill in those earlier days by which he could give his enthusiasm and his lofty inspiration to those with whom he came in contact. That rare faculty was his salvation. Men listened to the confident talker from St. Paul and then placed their modest savings at his disposal. They have not regretted their steps. The Great Northern, through Hill's careful leadership has, despite much pf the sparse territory through which it passes, become one of the great conservative railroad properties of the United States.

But Hill did more. He took that earlier system --the Northern Pacific, so closely allied to his territory — and made it hardly second in efficiency to the Great Northern itself. Both of these great railroads of the Northwest have never reached farther east than St. Paul, which Hill, with that fine sentiment which is so important a part of his nature, has been pleased to maintain as the gateway city of his own part of the land. But, while he has been a most helpful citizen of St. Paul, he has not hesitated to dominate her. A few years ago when the Metropolitan company presenting grand opera came to St. Paul, it was Hill who headed the subscription list for a guarantee — headed it with a good round figure. Three days before the opening night of the opera he walked into the passenger office of the linking railroad that he owned between the Twin Cities and Chicago. The singers were scheduled to come from Chicago.

"Are you going to bring the troupe up in extra cars or in a special train?" he demanded, in his peremptory fashion.

There was confusion in that office, and finally it was explained to him that a rival line, the M, had been given the haul of the special train, as a return courtesy for having placed its advertisement on the rear cover of the opera programmes. Hill's muscles tightened.

" If the troupe doesn't come up over our road," he said, " I will withdraw the opera subscription."

The M— road lost the movement of that opera company.

Hill is an advertiser, a patient, persistent and entirely consistent user of public print in every form. Of the really big men of the land he is perhaps the most accessible. His door swings quickly open to any resident of the Northwest. He is in demand at public dinners in the East and at every conceivable function in his own territory. And yet those folk of his own town who come to know Mr. Hill intimately know him rather as a great publicist, no poor musician, a painter of real ability, and a kind-hearted neighbor. His house in Summit avenue contains one of the finest art galleries west of Chicago. In this rare taste for good art he is not unlike the late Collis P. Huntington, or Sir William C. Van Horne, the dominating force of the Canadian Pacific.

Hill has a real faculty not only for judging, but for executing oil paintings. It is related on good authority that, having been a member of a committee to purchase a portrait of a distinguished western railroader, he found the picture as it hung in the artist's studio in Chicago far from his liking.

" He's missed W 's expression entirely," said the Empire Builder. And so saying he grasped a palette that was resting on a table, dove his brush into the soft paints, and before the astonished artist could recover enough self-possession to protest, Hill was deftly at work upon the canvas. In five minutes he had convinced the little committee of which he was chairman, that the expression of the portrait had been lacking, for it was Hill who made that portrait so speaking a likeness that the artist received warm and undue praise for the fidelity of his work.

There is in St. Paul — a city of wealthy men — a man who is even wealthier than J. J. Hill. His name is Frederick Weyerheuser, and newspapers have a habit of speaking of him as the Lumber King. Mr. Weyerheuser does not court publicity, he shrinks from invitations to speak at public dinners. He has a press agent whose chief work it was for many years to keep his chief out of the columns of the newspapers. It is only within a comparatively short time that Weyerheuser consented to give his first interview to the press.

He is quite typical of the conservatism of St. Paul. Minneapolis snaps its fingers at conservatism, social and business, and signs of progress. But Minneapolis mortgages her downtown business property. St. Paul does not. The two towns are as different as if they were a thousand instead of but ten miles apart. And St. Paul believes that Minneapolis may do as she pleases. St. Paul has a reputation to preserve. She is the capital of the state of Minnesota and as capital her pride and her dignity are not slight.

Perhaps it was that pride that made her set forth to build a capitol that should stand through the long years as the Bulfinch State House in Boston has stood through the long years a monument to good taste, restraint, real beauty in architecture. She summoned one of her native sons to do the work. He was unhampered in its details. And when he was done and had placed it upon a sightly knoll he must have been proud of his handiwork. In years to come the Capitol of Minnesota may become quite as famous as the capitols of older states, and the name of Cass Gilbert, its architect, may be placed alongside of that of Bulfinch.

St. Paul is hardly less proud of her Auditorium. It is really a remarkable building and perhaps the first theater in the land to be operated by a municipality, al-though we have a distinct feeling that the small city of Northampton, Mass., has also accomplished something of the sort. But the St. Paul Auditorium is hardly to be placed in the same class as any mere theater. It is a huge building although so cunningly constructed that within ten hours it can be changed from a compact theater into a great hall with some 10,000 seats. And this change can be effected, if necessary, without the slightest disturbance to the audience.

To this great hall come grand opera, well famed orators, conventions of state and national bodies, drama, concerts of every sort in great frequency and variety. Perhaps no entertainment that it houses, however, has keener interest for the entire city than the free concerts that are given each winter. Last year there were five of these concerts, and it was soon found that the small-sized auditorium with its three thousand seats was too small. It became necessary to utilize the entire capacity of the structure. The concerts were immensely popular from the beginning.

They were but typical of the high public spirit of the capital city of Minnesota, a spirit which showed itself in the early adoption of the commission form of city government, in the establishment of playgrounds and mod-ern markets, in the buildings of the great public baths on Harriet island, in the development of a half hundred active and progressive forms of modern civic endeavor. St. Paul, with all her rare flavor of history and her great conservatism can well be reckoned in the list of the modern cities that form the gateways of what was once called the West and is today rapidly becoming an integral part of the nation.

The first time that we ever came into Minneapolis was at dusk of a July night two years ago. That is, it might have been dusk in theory. For while the clocks of the town spelled " eight," the northern day hung wonderfully clear and wonderfully sharp a twilight that was hardly done until well towards ten of the evening. We came out of the somewhat barn-like Union station, found an unpretentious cab and drove up Nicollet avenue toward our hotel.

The initial impression that a city makes upon one is not easily forgotten. And the first impression that Nicollet avenue makes upon a first corner to Minneapolis cannot easily be erased. It is with pleasure that a stranger notes that it has not been invaded by street railroad tracks. The chief shopping and show-street of the largest city of Minnesota thereby conveys a sense of breadth and roominess that the chief streets of some other fairly important American towns lack utterly. And we distinctly recall that upon that July night the cluster lights up and down Nicollet avenue each bore a great flower box, warm and summerlike with the brightness of geraniums. In the windows of the large stores that lined the avenue were more window-boxes, up to their seventh and eighth floors. The entire effect was distinct and different from that of any other town that we have ever seen. It seemed as if Minneapolis at first sight typified the new America.

Nor was that impression lessened when a little later we drove out in the softness of the summer night to see the residence streets of the city quiet, shady streets that seem to have been stolen from older eastern towns; drove into the parks, caught here and there the strains of bands, saw the canoes darting here and there and everywhere upon the surface of the park lakes. In other cities they have to build waterways within their parks and boast to you of the way in which they have done it. In Minneapolis they can have no such boast. For they have builded their parks around their lakes, and a man can have a sheet of water instead of green-sward at the door of his home if he so choose. Where a modern canoe shoots across the waters of Lakes Calhoun or Harriet, the Indian once shot his birch bark creation. There are some two hundred lakes in Hennepin county. But the lake of all lakes the joy of the residents of the Twin Cities for a day's outing, Minnetonka was the favored gathering spot for the council fires of the Indian tribes for many miles around. Do not forget that the Falls of St. Anthony were the making of Minneapolis — and you can go by trolley within the half-hour from the center of the city to the gentler Falls of Minnehaha and there recount once again the immortal romance of Hiawatha.

Minneapolis has all but forgotten the Falls of St. Anthony despite the fact that they were the very cause of her existence. They are hemmed in by great flouring mills, great dusty, unceasing engines of industry with a capacity of some eighty thousand barrels a day, and even if you steal your way to them across one of the roadway bridges over the turbulent Mississippi you will find them lost beneath the artificial works that turn their energy to the aid of man. The roar of the great Falls of St. Anthony are the roar of the flouring-mills, their energy, the bread-stuff of the nation.

Minneapolis does not affect to forget entirely her mother river. For a long time it irritated her that St. Paul should be regarded as the head of navigation upon the Mississippi, and within the past twenty years she has put the Federal government to much trouble and incidentally the expenditure of something over a million dollars, to make herself a maritime city. A ship-channel has been dredged, locks put in, draws cut in the rail-road bridges but all apparently without a very definite purpose in mind — save possible holding her own in the expenditure of the annual rivers and harbors appropriation. For one can hardly imagine water commerce coming in great volume to the docks of Minneapolis, the one exclusive glory of St. Paul — passed long ago by her greatest rival in the commercial race of the Northwest —stolen from the older town. But one could hardly have driven out from the brisk little city of St. Paul forty years ago to the straggling mill village at the Falls of St. Anthony and imagined that in the second decade of the twentieth century it would have become a city of more than three hundred thousand souls. The men who are today active in the affairs of the city have seen her grow from a straggling town into a city of almost first rank.

Here was one of them who sat the other day in the well-ordered elegance of the Minneapolis Club — a structure instantly comparable with the finest club houses of New York or Boston or Philadelphia who admitted that he had seen the town grow from eight thousand to over three hundred thousand population, the receipts of his own fine business increase from eighty-eight to twenty-two thousand dollars a day. But he was a modest man, far more modest than many of these western captains of industry, and he quickly turned the talk from himself and to the commercial importance of the town with which he was pressing forward. Still he delighted in statistics and the fact that Minneapolis " was doing a wholesale business of $300,000,000 a year" seemed to give him an immense and personal pride.

But do not believe that Minneapolis is all commercial —and nothing else. A quick ride through those shaded streets and lake-filled parks will convince you that she is a home-city ; a cursory glance of the University of Minnesota, so cleverly located that she may share it with her rival twin, together with an inspection of her schools, large and small, would make you believe that she is a city that prides herself upon being well educated. The dominant strain of Norse blood that the Swedish immigrants have been bringing her for more than half a century is a strain that calls for education — and makes the call in no uncertain fashion. And when you come to delve into the details of her living you will make sure that she is a well-governed city. She has not gone deeply into what she calls " the fads of municipal government " but she is a town which offers security and comfort, as well as pretty broad measure of opportunity, to her residents. And in no better way can you gauge the sensible way in which she takes care of her residents than in the one item of the street railroad system. It has never been necessary for either St. Paul or Minneapolis to assume control, actual or subtle, over the street railroad property which they share. And yet each has a street railroad service far superior to that of most American towns with the possible exception of Washington. The traction company seems to have assimilated much of the breadth of spirit that dominates the Twin Cities of the Northwest.

Nor can you assume that Minneapolis is content to be merely commercially alive, well educated or efficiently governed. Down on one of the quiet business streets of the city is a printing-shop, so unique and so very distinctive that it deserves a paragraph here and now. In that printing shop is published a trade paper of the milling industry which has to make no apologies for its existence, and a weekly newspaper called the Bellman. Some one is yet to write an appreciation of the new weekly press of America, the weekly press outside of New York, if you please, such publications as the Argonaut of San Francisco; the Mirror of St. Louis, the Dial of Chicago and the Minneapolis Bellman. The part that these papers are playing in the making of a broad and cultured America will perhaps never be known ; but that it is a large part no one who reads them faithfully will ever doubt. The Bellman holds its own among this distinguished coterie. Its house is a fit temple for its soul, and you may gain a little insight into that soul when You are bidden to join its staff at one of its Thursday luncheons at the dining-board of the printing-house — a fashion quickly and easily brought from Lon-don Punch halfway across the continent and into Minneapolis.

No American of taste or appreciation would ever go to Minneapolis and miss one wonderful shop there — no huge box-like structure rearing itself from sidewalk edge and vulgarly proclaiming its wares through the brilliancy of immaculate windows of plate-glass, but a shadowy structure, set in a lawn and giving faint but unmistakable hints of the real treasures that it holds. For it is a rare shop, indeed, and a revelation to folk from the seaboard who may imagine that the interior of the land is an intellectual desolation.

It may have been one of these who dined a little time ago at a house in one of these shaded streets of Minneapolis. After dinner the talk drifted without apparent reason to painting, and the man from the seaboard found his host in sharp touch with many of the new pictures. Definitely the talk turned to Walter Graves, London's newest sensation among the portrait painters, and the possibilities of his succeeding Whistler.

The Minneapolis man beckoned the guest into the hall, and pointed silently to a picture hung there. It was a splendid portrait of Whistler, painted by Walter Graves.

" I never expected to find a picture like that out here," frankly stammered the man from the seaboard.

" You will find many things here that you do not expect," was all that the man from Minneapolis said.

If a town that is scarce forty years old can accomplish these things, how long will it be before the older cities of the land will have to look sharply as to their laurels? The new cities of America are to be a force in her intellectual progress not to be under-estimated or despised.

Personality Of American Cities:
Steel's Great Capital Pittsburgh

Cleveland The Sixth City

Chicago And The Chicagoans

Twin Cities St. Paul Minneapolis

Gateway Of The Southwest St. Louis

New Orleans The Old French Lady Of The Riverbank

San Antonio The City Of The Little Squares

Denver The American Paris

Portland - Seattle - Tacoma

San Francisco — The Newest Phoenix

Read More Articles About: Personality Of American Cities

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