“Understanding what it means to be human is connected to understanding place.”
The powerful stories of how resilient people brought new life to dying neighborhoods—-like Lowertown, Summit Avenue, and now, Highland Bridge—-inspire me.
ABOUT JOAN MATHISON
My career has been based on interpreting place—-from finding new uses for old buildings, to cherishing those small businesses and shops that make a neighborhood unique, to supporting small organic farmers who replenish the soil and protect our water.
“Joan uses her voice as an entrepreneur to celebrate Saint Paul and gives back by promoting the community’s nonprofits, artists and small businesses.”
Saint Paul Parks and Recreation
I’m curious. I really enjoy doing research and connecting the dots.
Take the avant-garde Kilmarnock Bookstore in downtown Saint Paul, for example.
I found a reference that after a writing session in a secret writing room up the street, the newly famous, young Scott Fitzgerald would gather with other writers in the back room of that particular bookstore. As a bookstore lover—-you don’t know what you might find that could change your life—-I just had to learn more.
But it was a challenge. The two buildings that housed the shop from 1921-1925, according to city directories, are gone. We only have photographs to remember the Germania Life Insurance Building (1903-1905) and the original Minnesota Club (1883) on 4th Street. They were replaced by Kellogg Square (1972) and the Minnesota Building (1929).
So I had to rely on participants’ recollections and literary history for my research, spending days on end in libraries—-the F. Scott Fitzgerald Reading Alcove at the city library, as well as county and state historical societies—-and even exploring boxes of personal papers.
I was excited to learn the significance of the place and had the privilege of sharing the fascinating story with scholars at the International F. Scott Fitzgerald Conference in 2017:
The Kilmarnock Bookstore in downtown Saint Paul brought artists and writers together at the dawn of the Jazz Age and helped inspire the best work of their careers. You can read more about it at http://www.minopedia.org/place/Kilmarnock-books
The Moderns video: Take a tour of my adopted city and see how the optimistic spirit of the 1920s Moderns inspires innovators today.