About Frogtown

So, why is Frogtown called Frogtown???

One of the more popular explanations is that Frogtown is an ethnic slur aimed at the French who first settled this area. There is some historic truth to this, the area was settled by the French. An early French landowner, Benjamin Lafond, left his mark on the area by naming Lafond Avenue after himself. It is even said that some of the surrounding streets are named for his sons Edmund, Charles and Thomas. Sherburne Avenue may have once been named Ellen Avenue for his daughter.

Others say that Archbishop John Ireland coined it almost 100 years ago. It is said that while standing in Calvary Cemetery he looked across a large section of marshland filled with croaking frogs and said "That sounds like a frog town" (Pioneer Press 7/28/74.) The land was particularly marshy and could have contained a high frog population. The Austro-Hungarians in the area called it Froschburg (frog city.)

Yet another theory I have heard is that the name may have come from the fact that the couplers on the railroad cars were called "frogs" and so many railroad workers lived in the area.I guess we may never really know for sure!

District 7, known historically as Frogtown and officially as Thomas-Dale, is located northwest of downtown St. Paul in the north central part of the city.

The Frogtown area is one of St. Paul's few "inner-ring" neighborhoods, so called because it was settled between the 1860's and the 1880's as the tiny city expanded and spread beyond the limits of present day downtown

Minnesota's first successful locomotive run occurred with the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, now Burlington Northern, which was built across the northern edge of present day District 7 in 1882.  Railroad shops, abandoned in the early 1970's, provided employment for residents of Frogtown and the nearby North End for over one hundred years.

The streets extending westward between Rice and Dale Streets are lined with working class housing built primarily in the 1880's.  They are many of St. Paul's most important examples of Victorian working class construction, and many have dog-eared and segmental arched windowand door openings, brick window hoods, and frilly intact open porches. Much of the residential development west of Dale Street occurred in the 1890's. The Historic Sites Survey identified a number of vernacular versions of the Queen Anne, Eastlake and Colonial Revival styles, and many remain basically intact. 

The Frogtown neighborhood has been largely unappreciated for its architectural value. This is unfortunate since the area continues to be one of the city's most intact working class neighborhoods with a large number of historically and architecturally significant buildings deserving preservation.
District 7 contains a large number of churches and schools, most of which have ethnic origins and many of which are architecturally significant. Most important is the Church of St. Agnes, which was founded by German Catholics and was designed by George J. Ries showing the influence of Middle European Baroque churches. It was built between 1909 and 1912 and stands at 550 W. Lafond Avenue. It is on the National Register.

Commercial development in District 7 was linked historically to the establishment of streetcar lines, between 1881 and 1906 on University, Como, and Thomas Avenues, Rice and Dale Streets, and Lexington Parkway. The busiest of these streetcar routes was the University Avenue line, and it became St. Paul and Minneapolis' first interurban streetcar line in 1890.University Avenue remains one of St. Paul's most important commercial streets. The proposed Metro Transit Central Corridor light rail line is expected to once again serve the neighborhood beginning in 2014, with stops on University Avenue at Victoria, Dale, and Western.

Today many view Frogtown as a new enclave for Vietnamese and now Hmong immigrants, who, in Saint Paul, comprise the largest urban contingent in the United States. A profusion of immigrant-owned businesses line University Avenue.  The avenue is dotted with restaurants serving Cambodian, Thai, Laotian, Hmong, Vietnamese, Chinese-American and Mexican cuisine. A notable local barbecue sells Southern-style barbecued pork ribs, beef ribs and chickennear the northwest corner of University Avenue and Dale Street. During the summer and fall, a Hmong-American farmer's market operates in the Unidale Mall parking lot at the intersection of University Avenue and Kent Street, with vendors offering a wide selection of fresh produce including many exotic Asian herbs and vegetables.

533 Dale St. N    St. Paul, MN 55103
Ph) 651-789-7400 Fax) 651-789-7401

(information from the Ramsey County Historical Society)