Life on the Mississippi

Eastcliff is on Mississippi River Boulevard, right along the river

“Motoring along the River Boulevard on the St. Paul side not far from the Lake Street bridge, you have doubtless often caught a glimpse of a great green-shuttered white colonial home nestled modestly back among a natural setting of towering oaks and elms, and neatly hedged in by a tall white picket fence. This, in case you don’t already know, is the home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Brooks at 176 North Mississippi Boulevard.”

So begins an article by Edith D. Williams in the November 1931, The Amateur Golfer and Sportsman magazine. Eastcliff was featured as “The Home of the Month.”

Location, Location, Location

Eastcliff, at 176 Mississippi River Boulevard North, was named for the cliff along the Mississippi River. Its location by the river is a wonderful asset.

Mississippi Park Connection, the support organization for the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, is mentioned in the book. The non-profit provides opportunities for people to get to and on the river, and have a national park experience in the Twin Cities. You can learn more on their website.

University of Minnesota Raptor Center visits to Eastcliff

A thrilling aspect of living along the Mississippi River is the regular opportunity to see bald eagles flying overhead, even as a city dweller.

Besides the birds flying high overhead, University of Minnesota Raptor Center education birds visited Eastcliff for several events during our tenure there. A particular favorite mentioned in the book is Maxine (affectionately called “Max”). She was named for Madame Maxine, a half-giantess from the Harry Potter book series. If you haven’t been to the University of Minnesota Raptor Center to meet her, you are missing a remarkable experience.

This Side of Paradise

The Town and Country Club is a short walk from Eastcliff. Knowing that F. Scott Fitzgerald attended sledding parties at the club made it even more special when our granddaughter went sledding there for the first time.

Architect Cass Gilbert turned down membership, as you can read here.

Winter is Coming

A discussion of outdoor life in Minnesota is never complete without a mention of the weather. If you’ve never lived in Minnesota, you will benefit from a brief introduction:

First, Minnesota is a tall state with diverse weather patterns. If you hear on a daily weather report that the coldest place in the country is International Falls, Minnesota, please understand that International Falls is nearly 300 miles north of the Twin Cities. And while Rochester is just seventy miles south, Rochester could get a blizzard while the weather is fine in the Twin Cities, and vice versa. (Moving diagonally across the state adds even more variation. For example, on the April day that I wrote this, the high in Worthington, in southwest Minnesota, was seventy-four degrees, whereas in Grand Marais, in northeast Minnesota, the high was thirty-five degrees.)

Second, and more important, when the weather is good it can be glorious. We often remark on the perfect weather; there are more “just right” days than in other places we have lived. People in Minnesota want to be outside whenever the weather is nice. Eastcliff events that can be held on the terrace, are held on the terrace. If the weather is unseasonably nice, everyone is particularly happy.

The caption on this old print reads
“Marshall Ave Bridge Minneapolis St. Paul, 1889”

The Marshall/Lake Street Bridge

In 1889, a wrought iron bridge was built over the river connecting Marshall Avenue in St. Paul with Lake Street in Minneapolis. The Lake Street Bridge became part of a busy streetcar route, and the Brooks’s son Ted nostalgically recalled hearing the streetcar run along Marshall Avenue during his childhood. Before Interstate 94 was completed in 1968, the bridge was part of US Route 212 and was one of the busiest two-lane bridges in the country.

In 1989, construction was begun on a four-lane replacement bridge next to the old bridge. The old bridge was demolished and the new bridge completed in 1992. The bridge was dedicated on June 25, 1991, as the Sri Chinmoy Peace Bridge—although I have never heard it called that. A sign on the Minneapolis side of the bridge reads:

“The Lake Street/Marshall Avenue Bridge spans a natural chasm of 1,273 feet channeling the Mississippi River and connecting the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Today this bridge is officially dedicated to the goals of peace and goodwill amongst peoples and nations—goals which humanity has championed from time immemorial. This Sri Chinmoy Peace Bridge joins over 200 such sites dedicated to peace worldwide, including bridges, garden trees and trails. Sri Chinmoy is an ambassador of peace and has dedicated his life to the pursuit of world harmony and to the fulfilment of the unlimited potential of the human spirit.”

The Eastcliff porte cochère in the early days of the home
Photo courtesy of the Brooks family

The Eastcliff driveway was right off the boulevard, until work on the bridge included rerouting the street immediately south of the bridge in 1990. This rerouting resulted in the removal of the original Eastcliff driveway from the boulevard, and a circular driveway was added off Dayton Avenue.

In the mid-1920s, a sign on the Mississippi River Boulevard restricted traffic to pleasure vehicles, and the posted speed limit was eight miles an hour.

In 1922, the St. Paul chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a memorial monument along the Mississippi River south of Eastcliff. The inscription reads, “In memory of the men and women of Saint Paul and Ramsey County who sacrificed their lives in the world war.” The monument is at the end of Summit Avenue, in a small lovely park with views of the river, particularly gorgeous when the leaves turn in the fall.

World War I Monument
Photos by McGhiever, September 30, 2020.

Still on the Mississippi

After moving out of Eastcliff, Eric and I bought a condominium in Phoenix on the River on the east side of the river in St. Anthony Main. It has a beautiful view of the Mississippi River waterfall. Bob Bruininks and Susan Hagstrum own a condominium across the river within four blocks west; Ken Keller and Bonita Sindelir own a condominium within four blocks north.

The site of University’s original “Old Main” is just two blocks away from Phoenix on the River, on the site of the current Chute Park in St. Anthony Main. (The Ard Godfrey house is now on the site, but that house, built in 1849 on the ox cart trail at Main and Second, was moved to its current location in 1909.) The Old Main offered to the Folwells as housing could be referred to as the newer Old Main, I suppose, as it was built in 1858 at the current location of Alice Shevlin Hall on Pillsbury Drive. (That second Old Main was destroyed by fire in 1904.)

Please note: The above text was edited from Eastcliff: History of a Home due to lack of space. It is intended as a supplement to the book.

Architect: C. H. Johnston — Junior?

Architect: C. H. Johnston — Junior?

Young Edward Brooks hired his friend, Howie, to design his home in 1921

Eastcliff First Floor

Eastcliff First Floor

Floor plans from 1921, 1930, 1960, 1990, and 2020

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