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History & Mystery

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Saint Paul History & Mystery

Immerse yourself in the colorful legends, interesting sites, and fascinating events that define the history of Saint Paul. Founded near historic Native American settlements as a trading and transportation center, the city rose to prominence when it was named capital of the Minnesota Territory in 1849. The Saint Paul area features 104 landmarks listed on the National Register of Historic Places, many of which offer a variety of tours, educational courses, and distinctive conference and event spaces.

Modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in Rome, the Cathedral of Saint Paul is one of the most distinctive cathedrals in the nation. Historic Fort Snelling is a preserved U.S. Army military post featuring costumed guides that portray residents of the 1820’s. Up and down Summit Avenue, beautifully restored Victorian mansions offer glimpses into turn-of-the-century life in Saint Paul – a few are even said to be haunted.

Gangster History

Saint Paul’s history as Prohibition-era hotbed for gangsters, gals and whiskey runners is well known. The city became a haven for notorious names like John Dillinger, Babyface Nelson, Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, and the Barker gang, whose activities extended to robbing banks, holding up mail trucks and trains, and kidnapping hostages for ransom. Saint Paul celebrates this storied past by offering tours of sites where the gangsters once lived as they planned and executed the most notorious crimes perpetrated in the upper Midwest. Gangster tours highlight the sites of nightclubs, kidnappings and gun battles associated with the lawlessness of the 1930’s. The most famous, of course, are the Wabasha Caves, actual caves that were transformed into an underground speakeasy known as the “Castle Royal.” Read more.

Once a safe haven for gangsters in the 1930's, there are many remnants of that period still around today. Take this exciting self-guided tour through the streets of Saint Paul to see all the famous spots of the past. [Tour]

Other tours:

Landmark Center

Imagine that you're living in St. Paul's tumultuous era of prohibition and gangsters. Our Gangster Tours are enhanced by costumed guides who adopt the personae of the infamous gangsters who resided in St. Paul during the 1930s and whose path took them (perhaps unwillingly) into the Federal Court House (now Landmark Center). Guides tell of their “lives as gangsters” and how the criminal justice system functioned during that era. Told with humor, accuracy and liveliness, these tours educate about the life and times of people like “Ma” Barker, Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, John Dillinger and his moll Evelyn Freschette, and more. Many of them were held in our third floor Detention Room, were tried in Courtroom 317, or faced down J. Edgar Hoover's G-men on the front steps.

Tour details:

  • $6/person (minimum $75)
  • Two-week advance reservation required through our tour office.
  • There is a fee for no-shows and late cancellation.
  • There is an additional charge of $25 per tour guide for all evening tours.
  • See website for complete details: www.landmarkcenter.org/visit/tours.htm#gangster

*Public Tours will not take place on holidays, during A Scottish Ramble, the IMDA's Irish Day of Dance, Philippine Day and the Old Fashioned Holiday Bazaar. Dates for the listed events vary each year. Please click here to check the programs calendar for conflicting events.

Wabasha Street Caves

Learn about Saint Paul’s gangster pastime as you journey on a Saint Paul Gangster Tour put on by the Wabasha Street Caves. For just $24, visitors and tourists can embark on a two hour long tour led by costumed professionals that guide groups through some of the most notorious gangster areas in Saint Paul! Learn about the hideouts, night clubs and bars that regularly held some of America’s most wanted. See the sites where John Dillinger, Ma Barker, Babyface Nelson and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis planned and executed some of the nation’s largest heists and crimes. Saint Paul’s gangster past is unmatched in comparison to most other United States City, as some of the nation’s most notorious crimes happened right within the borders of Saint Paul. You won’t be sorry roaming the streets of Saint Paul on a gangster tour put on by the Wabasha Street Caves.

Tour details:

  • Tours last about 2 hours and involve a tour of the caves as well as a motorcoach tour around the city.
  • $24.00/person (tax included)
  • See website for tour schedule: www.wabashastreetcaves.com
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