Swede Hollow… in the shadow of St. Paul Brewery in the historic Hamm Brewing buildings

Swede Hollow and its immigrant story has been on my radar for almost 20 years, but last weekend was the first time I actually experienced it. The Art in the Hollow Art Fair celebrated its 15th year this year and it competes with both the Edina Art Fair and the St Anthony Park Arts Festival, which also start the art fair season the first weekend in June… a testament to the thriving arts scene in the Twin Cities. Saint Paul Brewing, which opens its patio as a path to the art festival is a testament to the thriving Twin Cities micro brewery scene and worth an enchanting stop.

John came with me this year, and I already made a date with our granddaughter to go back with her next year. Tucked under the trees in the hollow, this is a beautiful setting for a more low key art fair that still had nearly 200 artists participating.

I bought a wonderful serving platter from Kyle Straiton Pottery… embossed with an engraved rolling pin he thought was Swedish, appropriate for this valley where Swedish immigrants began settling in 1860.

Tucked in a glacially carved ravine along Phalen Creek in St. Paul not far from the Mississippi River and in the shadow of historic Hamm’s Brewery with the old Hamm Mansion on the hill, I knew Swede Hollow was there but I didn’t really know how to get there… there are no roads. That is probably one of the reasons immigrants loved having it as their own little world where they lived in community with other immigrants, not quite part of the big city.

All historical photos courtesy of the Minnesota State Historical Society

Initially used by Native American peoples, Swedish immigrants began settling in the hollow in about 1860 and according to reports there were around 110 families in the hollow in 1886… hence its name “Svenska Dalen” or Swede Hollow. Most of the simple homes were clustered along the creek, and none had city water or sewer. Abundant jobs were available nearby at breweries, mills and railyards.

As the Swedes moved up to homes “on the street”, the hollow became home to Italian, Mexican, Irish immigrants as well as others. Some say it was a slum, but many think it was a nurturing community… a stopping place that welcomed immigrants to their first home in their new land as they started their new life. Tucked away from the prying eyes of the city, they experienced the comfort of being with their fellow countrymen and were free to continue their traditions and speak their native language without judgement.

In 1956, the St. Paul health department deemed Swede Hollow a health hazard since it had no city sewer or water. The last residents were moved out and the remaining homes burned.

In 1973 it was designated a Saint Paul Park, and today it is a lush green setting with paved trails on each side of the creek… and the site of the annual Art in the Hollow art fair, held the first weekend of June every year. Mark you calendars to check it out next year!

Sharlene Hensrud, RE/MAX Results – shensrud@homesmsp.com

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I love what I do! Highly insightful, analytical and creative, there is nothing I love more than helping you find the right solution for your real estate transition. My mission is to serve my clients with honesty and integrity, exceeding their expectations in service and support… and to help others by donating a portion of every transaction to Habitat for Humanity.

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