No bluffing: St. Paul tearing down a pair of riverfront fixtures


Some buildings that are literally a built-in part of downtown St. Paul are disappearing this summer.

The former Ramsey County jail and the old West Publishing building are being demolished.

The structures are built into the side of the Mississippi River bluff under a busy downtown street (Kellogg Blvd.) that's now being rebuilt. The property has been for sale but the county expects that once the unused buildings are demolished, private developers will take more of an interest in the riverfront real estate.

County officials provided a final tour of the old buildings on Friday. The Pioneer Press offers a gallery of images.

Ramsey County jail

MPR News notes that when the Adult Detention Center (aka jail) opened in 1979 its computerized locks and windows instead of bars were innovative for the time.

A former sheriff's deputy tells the radio network of the time when inmates tried to break a window in hopes of lowering themselves to the riverbank on tied-together sheets – only to be thwarted by shatter-resistant glass.

Correctional News observes that with its rooftop plantings and public plaza (right), the jail actually contributed to a downtown riverfront revival.

So by the time the county realized it needed a bigger jail, the site had become "one of the nation's most valuable pieces of riverfront real estate" and there was no interest in turning more of it over to inmates.

A new jail opened a couple of miles away in 2003.

West Publishing buildings

Since West Publishing was founded in St. Paul in 1872, it provided untold numbers of books to law school students and attorneys.

In more than a century of expansion on the river, it grew to include six adjacent buildings. The site was turned over to the county in 1991 when West moved to a campus in Eagan and was subsequently purchased by Thomson Reuters.

Thomson Reuters provided a series of photos from West Publishing's history at the St. Paul site. MPR has a gallery of them here.

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