Edit ModuleShow Tags

St. Paul's Landmark Center: A Cultural Destination


Published:

My first experience with the Landmark Center in St. Paul was during my junior prom 14 years ago (holy smokes, time flies!); hundreds of high schoolers dancing to a DJ on the main floor of this historic site in our capital city. Well, it’s prom season once again and it makes me think back to that day. It was a pretty cool place to have prom, especially when other schools just held them in their gymnasiums. The main floor, lined in marble columns, looks up several gorgeous stories to an amazing skylight-filled roof; it’s quite breathtaking.

But there’s so much more to the Landmark Center than hosting proms (or other events and weddings). The building, which anchors Rice Park (one of America's Top Great Places), opened in 1902 as the official federal courthouse and post office of the Upper Midwest, a place where people bought stamps, came for immigration papers, stood trial, gave speeches, and signed bills into law. The spot is probably most famous as the place where St. Paul’s notorious gangsters, like Alvin “Creepy” Karpis and “Ma” Barker, plus John Dillenger’s girlfriend, Evelyn Frechette, were convicted for their wrongdoings, and as the legend goes, had a shootout on the front steps against J. Edgar Hoover’s men.

Photo by Todd Buchanan

By the 1960s, the Landmark Center had seen better days; everything important had moved to other locations. But concerned citizens worked to restore the building so it wouldn’t be torn down, and now it sits on the National Register of Historic Places and acts as a cultural center for events, the arts, exhibits, tours, a home to the Ramsey County Historical Society, and so much more.

As a visitor, you could spend all day at the Landmark Center and learn about the past 100 years (as well as the present day, too). See contemporary art pieces designed completely from wood at the American Association of Woodturners Gallery of Wood Art; learn about instruments from all over the world at the Schubert Club Museum of Musical Instruments; discover all about immigration, prohibition, federal courts, and more in the Uncle Sam Worked Here exhibit; listen to a free concert in a former courtroom; or travel to another country without leaving St. Paul in the recurring, free Urban Expedition series (go to Norway on April 29!).

If you’re a tour taker like me, don’t miss one or all of the tours offered at the Landmark Center. Learn about the history and architecture of all the buildings surrounding Rice Park on a Rice Park Tour. Tour the building itself to learn all about its restoration and preservation during public tours (Thursdays & Sundays). Or, take the Gangster Tour and let costumed guides tell you all about the criminal justice system back in the day of Dillinger and his counterparts.

The Landmark Center wouldn’t be a true historic site without its own ghost story, too. The spirit of Jack Peifer, a carnival worker, bellhop, and gangster crony, supposedly committed suicide in his cell after receiving a 30-year sentence for kidnapping two well-known local citizens. Visitors to Landmark Center have felt Peifer’s presence in bathrooms, elevators (particularly on the third floor), and during events (drinks go missing). 

With art, history, ghosts, architecture, family-friendly events, plus a few excited brides and prom goers on the weekends, Landmark Center truly lives up to its name.

You might also like:
Segway: A Rolling Tour of the Twin Cities
Take a Bus Tour of the Twin Cities
MSP Tours Saves the Distressed Traveler
On the Line: Exploring by Light Rail
Neighborhood Spotlight: Grand Avenue
Minnesota Capitol Tour

Edit ModuleShow Tags

About This Blog

Whether you are a seasoned Twin Cities traveler or planning your first trip to Minnesota, this blog will introduce you to many new adventures to add to your itinerary. From day trips and scenic discoveries to luxurious girls weekends, travel tips, and insider scoops, our editors will give you all the information you need to enjoy your stay Up North.

Learn about the contributing writers.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Travel Blog

InterContinental Hotel Opens at MSP Airport

New lodging, restaurants, spa, gym, and skyway update the MSP Airport experience

Plan a Trip to Roanoke, Virginia

This East Coast visit comes with history, a burgeoning craft beer scene, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Appalachian Trail, and more

Cannon Falls Wine & Art Fest

Taste Minnesota wines and ciders, browse through local art vendors, and eat delicious food at Cannon Falls Wine & Art Fest, July 21-22

Day Trip to Taylors Falls

A Taylors Falls day trip made up of beautiful river views and a classic malt shop.

Record Store on Wheels

Like a food truck, but for music—and debuting this Sunday at Open Streets Minneapolis

Green Thumb Gardens

The 2018 Hennepin County Master Gardener Learning Garden Tour flaunts its foliage July 14

Best Caves of Minnesota

Explore Minnesota’s man-made and natural curiosities this summer

Amble Over to Afton

While you’re in Afton for Selma’s, stay a while and check out the state parks, historic buildings, quaint downtown, and more

Take a Trip for (Frozen) Treats

Grab a scoop from the state’s oldest ice cream shop in Afton: Selma’s Ice Cream Parlour

Journeys: A Minnesotan’s Happy Place

Time wasted at the lake is time well spent

Journeys: The Start of Adventure

To prep for wilderness canoe trips, Les Voyageurs brings campers out on the Mississippi River

Top 5 Instagram Spots Along the Mississippi River

Bluffs, hiking trails, and waterfalls make for beautiful summer photos

Summer Sunburn Solutions

Six ways to beat the burn

Brews and Views at the Hopped Up Caribou Festival

There's no better place to tie the knot than at a craft beer festival, and if you're not into that, you can cliff climb, too
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags