The banners are easy to spot as you head east on Selby Avenue from Western Avenue. Hanging from each lamp post along the street, they welcome you to Cathedral Hill as the impressive copper dome comes closer and closer into view.
More than 100 years ago, this part of St. Paul was known as St. Anthony Hill. That was before two prominent businessmen (not James J. Hill) forked over more than $50,000 to buy a dilapidated mansion that crowned the hill.
Charles H.F. Smith and A.B. Stickney intended the commanding site to become the place where Archbishop John Ireland would build his home. Instead, Ireland accepted the gift as the site for the city's fourth — and what would become its most impressive and enduring — Roman Catholic cathedral.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Until about 1914, when the four walls of the new church were erected, nobody called the area Cathedral Hill, said cathedral archivist Celeste Raspanti. After the massive structure opened for its first mass in March 1915, everybody did.
Cathedral Hill, with its historic homes and fashionable blend of new and iconic restaurants, has become one of the city's most recognizable and coveted neighborhoods. So it stands to reason that the folks at the cathedral want to invite the neighbors over and show off a bit. Call it a centennial housewarming.
On Aug. 16, the Cathedral of St. Paul will hold an open house. Anyone can pop on by, but the parish is reaching out particularly to various neighborhood business and historic preservation groups. After all, the cathedral is a kind of giant city preservation project. Currently, work is being done to restore the church's stained glass.
"It's a little get-together for all the people who use our name," joked Raspanti about the invitations that have gone out to various Cathedral Hill entities.
The open house is scheduled from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Various exhibits, including one on 100 years of cathedral weddings, will be open. Refreshments will be served. At this open house, though, I am pretty sure guests won't be asked to take off their shoes at the door.