What began as a casual sketch outing in Saint Paul’s charming Irvine Park neighborhood during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic became Neighborhood Architecture – Irvine Park, Saint Paul: a coloring book. Twin Cities-based illustrator Jeanne Kosfeld and author Richard Kronick have together transformed a simple sketchbook featuring pen and ink drawings into a brief storytelling of the Irvine Park neighborhood’s unique 172-year history. Artists of all ages and abilities may colorize their own imagined versions of these historic edifices, including fanciful Queen Anne-style homes, simple clapboard houses, and elaborate French Second Empire-style mansions, while learning about the architecture and history of the area and its inhabitants at the same time.
John R. Irvine arrived in Saint Paul in 1843 and made his money selling real estate. In 1849, the year the Territory of Minnesota was established, the area around the Upper Landing became one of the city’s first residential neighborhoods, where Irvine donated a square plot of land at the top of the bluff as a city park. As the territory and its capital city grew, residents, including Irvine, built relatively modest houses there. Over time, larger, more majestic homes claimed their places around the park, which was eventually named for Irvine in 1872. In 1881, the City of Saint Paul installed a central fountain. The area attracted many prominent citizens, including Alexander Ramsey, a territorial and state governor; Dr. Justus Ohage; Michael Murray, who owned Northern Cooperage Company; and, Elizabeth Robbins, who as a widow, purchased land and had her Queen Anne-style home built at 40 Irvine Park, where she, her sister, and a boarder lived for many years.
A slow, steady deterioration of Irvine Park began around the turn of the twentieth century and continued through the Great Depression, World War II, and into the early 1970s. In 1971, the West Seventh Street Association proposed that the Saint Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority level and redevelop four blocks of the Irvine Park neighborhood. Residents dissented. Since then, with support from city officials, homeowners have restored dozens of buildings and moved houses to fill in vacant sites around the park. In 1973, the Irvine Park neighborhood was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the city’s first designated historic district.
This coloring book, the first in a series of Saint Paul neighborhoods featuring local architecture and history, is published by Ramsey County Historical Society (RCHS) and celebrates the far-reaching results of the Irvine Park residents’ hard work and dedication.
- RCHS will host a COVID-safe kickoff event and short tour of the Irvine Park neighborhood on Saturday, May 15, 2021. The first tour begins at 11:15 am followed by a second tour at 12:30 pm. Tours are limited to sixteen people, and masks are required to be worn throughout the event. Tickets are $30 or $27 for members and include a copy of the coloring book, which will be distributed at the end of the tour. Register at www.rchs.com.
- In addition, RCHS will host an online Irvine Park Coloring Book History Revealed program on Thursday, June 17, 2021, from 7 to 8:30 pm. Kosfeld and Kronick will discuss the history and architecture of the neighborhood homes and mansions and the story of its inhabitants. The program is free, but requires pre-registration at https://www.rchs.com/event/history-revealed-irvine-park/.
- The author and illustrator also are planning private Irvine Park tours and sketching classes during the spring and summer months, depending on COVID-19 restrictions. To schedule a walking architectural tour, go to www.richardlkronick.com. Contact Kosfeld at firstname.lastname@example.org for sketching workshop details.
About the Illustrator:
Artist Jeanne Kosfeld paints primarily with water-based media, but her large body of work also includes print and board game design and public sculpture. She started her career as a newspaper illustrator and cartoonist. Along her creative path, she led the design department at the University of Alaska, where she was also an adjunct faculty member. In Minnesota, she worked as the creative director at Ordway Center for the Performing Arts for eighteen years.
Kosfeld has won several awards, and her work resides in many public and private collections. She has been honored with artist-in-residences around the globe.
About the Author:
Richard Kronick has been a full-time freelance writer since 1985, specializing in architecture and engineering. He is the co-author with Rick Harrison and Greg Yoko of a 2010 book on suburban planning titled Prefurbia: Reinventing the Suburbs from Disdainable to Sustainable. Kronick has written over one hundred articles and reviews on the built environment and has planned and led more than sixty architecture tours in the Twin Cities, the Midwest, and Italy. He is a member of the board of directors of the nonprofit Preserve Minneapolis (PM) and is editor-in-chief of PM’s MinneapolisHistorical.org, a guide to the city’s architecture. He often lectures and teaches continuing education courses on the history of architecture and is an expert on the Prairie School architects Purcell & Elmslie.
Neighborhood Architecture – Irvine Park, Saint Paul: a coloring book is available in softcover with eighteen house sketches, brief histories of the homes’ owners and architecture; and an architectural style guide and glossary at the end of the forty-eight-page book. Cost is $20; $18 for RCHS members. Order at www.rchs.com.
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