The Ramsey Hill Experience

Much of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom takes place in the Ramsey Hill neighborhood of St. Paul, MN.  The Ramsey Hill neighborhood also holds many of the landmarks of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s time in St. Paul.  This makes for a nice efficient literary field trip: with great help from this website, we took an afternoon stroll to see where one great American novelist lived and roamed, and where another great American novelist’s made up characters lived and roamed.  Lets’ call it the Great American Novel By Which All Other Great American Novels Are Judged Plus The Newest The Great American Novel Tour.  We wanted to see where F. Scott Fitzgerald set his feet, where he might have looked out his window and said “It’s snowing: I’d better bring my hat.”  And we wanted to get a feel for the atmosphere of the world Walter and Patty Berglund inhabited.  If I had a well-read literature blog, I would have taken pictures of the places without people in them for the general interest.  But I have a little-read literature blog, so knowing people can see pictures of these places elsewhere, we do a tourist thing and put ourselves in the pictures, to solidify our memories of the places we’ve been and the good times we’ve had.

Here is our whole crew at the birthplace of F. Scott Fitzgerald at 481 Laurel.  A nice gentleman who lives there came out to chat with us about Fitzgerald, the house, and the neighborhood.

Here is The F. Scott Fitzgerald house at 599 Summit, where Fitzgerald lived as an adult and wrote his first novel.

Here is the Commodore Hotel, where Fitzgerald and Zelda lived.

This is W.A. Frost (on the corner of Selby and Western), the restaurant where Connie Monaghan worked in Freedom.  I ate there once: I had the broccoli raab and a very expensive martini.  Across the street is Garrison Keiller’s bookstore.

Here is the house at 516 Summit where novelist Sinclair Lewis lived for a bit.  Members of our walking tour have a pretty strong association with the author of Main Street through Sauk Centre, MN, the town most associated with Lewis.

And here’s a statue of young F. Scott Fitzgerald at 25 North Dale, a building that was once a school that F. Scott Fitzgerald attended.  The statue is on the right.

Among other things, we drove past Taste of Thailand on Selby (in Freedom, Walter and Lalitha have dinner with the Paulsens there: there are three locations for Taste of Thailand, though this seems the most likely one these made up characters dined at).  We ate food from this location once, when my wife accidentally called here for an order, went to the Taste of Thailand in our neighborhood, was told no, the order was at the Selby location, and you’ll have to go there to get your food.  We started making our own delicious stir fry at home, so we haven’t gotten Thai food in quite a while, but this is neither here nor there.   And after exploring Ramsey Hill, we drove through downtown St. Paul just to get a glance at the F. Scott Fitzgerald statue in Rice Park.

A pretty wonderful day of gaining a sense of concrete place in our lives of loving literature.

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