April 25, 2012

A Walk Back in Time

Yesterday, I took a walk back in time.  As I mentioned in my last blog post, Swede Hollow has always held a special place in my heart.  It was a beautiful spring day here in Minnesota:  warm sun, brilliant blue sky, trees just beginning to leaf out.  So I decided to spend it down in the Hollow.

What was once a thriving, bustling neighborhood of immigrants nestled in a deep narrow ravine is now a park.  Back in the 1956, officials of the city of St. Paul discovered there were still people living there without sewer or water facilities, a situation that had been ignored for a hundred years. The families were moved out, the creek that ran through the ravine was diverted underground, and Swede Hollow was set afire and out of existence. Over time, the Hollow deteriorated into an overgrown dump.  Angry Eastside citizens, bent of preserving this special place, prevailed, and a nature center was born in 1976.

 Yesterday, walking through the ravine, there is a still a sense of the families that lived there:  a few blocks from an old foundation, a vine covered stone wall, the steep stairway that leads up and out of the Hollow.  I could almost hear the laughter of the children at play, see the housewife hanging the laundry out to dry, hear the whistle of a steam powered train as it chugged along the tracks overhead.  As Gentille Yarusso, a resident of the Hollow from 1905-1915, remembers:
“We people were happy, we dressed the same, spoke the same language, ate practically the same kinds of food, we were very emotional, we sang almost continuously, and yet, we cried, too.”

Swede Hollow:  Sheltered Society for Immigrants to St. Paul.  Mollie Price.  Ramsey County Historical Society.  Vol. 17. No. 2. 1982

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