Our History

In 1985, the City of Saint Paul requested the Planning Department develop the Summit Avenue Plan as part of the Saint Paul Comprehensive Plan.  The Summit Avenue Plan, a planning vision for the survival of the Avenue as an irreplaceable asset for Saint Paul, was adopted and published in September of 1986 (‘Plan’, excerpts attached).  Residents were encouraged to form an organization (Plan, p. 3) to help ensure that the plan would be observed.  Within three months, SARPA was born.

In intervening years SARPA has taken seriously its responsibility, outlined in the Summit Avenue Plan, “to sponsor historic district proposals; to serve as a ‘watchdog’ for the Avenue; to lobby on zoning or capital improvement items; to initiate improvement projects; to monitor implementation of this (Summit Avenue) plan; and to use peer pressure for design and maintenance standards” (Plan, p. 37).  In order to meet these responsibilities we work in close partnership with agencies such as the Planning Commission and the Heritage Preservation Commission, while keeping Summit Avenue residents informed of pertinent issues through mailings and meetings. On occasion, particularly when land use or historic preservation rulings are appealed, we need to bring our mission and standards to the attention of the Saint Paul City Council.

Concern for preserving the integrity of Summit Avenue, far from being a recent trend, is deeply rooted in the history of Saint Paul.  Early planners took measures to retain the avenue’s character throughout its 4 ½ mile length.  For example, in 1886, property owners fronting Summit from Lexington Avenue west to the Mississippi River each donated a fifty-foot-wide strip of land to enable the creation of a wide, park-like boulevard. (attached excerpt, National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, West Summit Avenue Historic District, section 7, p. 3)

Current residents of Summit Avenue are strongly motivated by awareness of the deterioration of similar historic avenues in many cities, and the knowledge that these irreversible changes were brought about through a series of individual exceptions to residential land use.  SARPA is concerned that incremental changes jeopardize the survival of Summit Avenue as envisioned in the Plan.

SARPA maintains itself as a forum of ideas, a clearinghouse of information, and a springboard for collective action to preserve and enhance the character of Summit Avenue.

Historic Districts

Summit Avenue runs through the center of Saint Paul.  It begins at the Cathedral of Saint Paul, atop a bluff overlooking downtown Saint Paul, and runs west all the way to the Mississippi River, at the city’s western edge.

The two National Register-listed Districts are:

  • The Historic Hill District (listed 1976), an area roughly bounded by Lexington Avenue, Portland Avenue, Dale Street North, Marshall Avenue, Pleasant Street, and Grand Avenue.
  • The West Summit Avenue Historic District (listed 1993) running from Lexington west to the Mississippi River along Summit Avenue – see attached excerpt, National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, West Summit Avenue Historic District.

Please see Results of National Register Property Search maps attached.

The locally designated Saint Paul Heritage Preservation Districts are:

  • Summit Hill, a triangular region from Lexington Avenue on the west, Summit Avenue on the North, and the bluffs (just north of Interstate Highway 35E) on the south.
  • Ramsey Hill, the area bounded by Summit Avenue, Dale Street, Interstate 94, and a line running north from the Cathedral of Saint Paul.