What’s going on with the Mohawk Theater?

photo(3)Earlier this month, the old Mohawk Theater was seized by the state for back taxes. The building’s most recent business incarnation as an occasional rental hall clearly hasn’t panned out, and the owner, with an address listed in Florida, owed the county more than $72,000, according to tax records.

It’s unclear at this point what happens next for the Mohawk – a source with the city tells me a sheriff’s sale is usually the next step, and the future of the building will be determined by whomever ponies up the dough to buy it. At a listing price of $400,000, it’s been sitting on the market for years, and although lots of people have great ideas for this structure, no one so far has come forward with the business plan or the capital to open the doors again.

Interior, upper floor. Probably not what you were expecting.

Interior, upper floor. Probably not what you were expecting.

The theater dates to 1921 and was a movie house for much of its early life. Darlene Lewis, a former West St. Paul city council member and Smith Avenue resident, grew up on the West End of St. Paul and recalls walking up the High Bridge to see movies at the Mohawk when she was a child. A comment on this history website says a Wurlitzer organ was installed in the theater in 1927.

According to a neighborhood history compiled for the Smith Avenue Task Force by Rebecca Harnik, the theater closed in the 1960s and has gone through a series of incarnations since then, none of which lasted more than a few years. This photo from 1984 shows the building in use as a Masonic Lodge, and later it was the High Bridge Sports Club, which Harnik’s report says was controversial but doesn’t elaborate.

The lower level.

The lower level.

Which brings us to today. I’ve been unable to find any interior photos of the theater in its heyday,and  the space was long ago split into two levels with most elements of the original movie house removed. While retaining much of its historic character outside, the interior can best be described as a church basement atop another church basement. It has a large commercial kitchen on the lower level, and a sort of performance space on the top floor. Practical, functional, but not exactly awe-inspiring.

By all accounts, it’s a solid, reasonably well maintained building. But what to do with it? It could be a restaurant, but with no windows, no parking and no other entertainment venues nearby it would need to be a major destination in and of itself. A small performing arts house? A church? Possibly – if a group has a large enough budget to buy and maintain the structure.

Meanwhile, we’ll continue checking for developments on this crucial piece of our streetscape.

Also, if you have any details, historical info or images to share, please post a comment or drop us a line at stubbornlylocal@gmail.com.

Night to Unite events in St. Paul, West St. Paul

By popular demand, here is a listing of Night to Unite events in the neighborhood this evening. A full list of St. Paul events can be found here, and because the West St. Paul list doesn’t seem to be posted online anywhere, I’ve included the rest of the listings at the end of the post. If your event isn’t listed, post a comment and I’ll include it.

Smith Avenue neighborhood (more or less):

Taste of Love Bakery, 870 Dodd, 3-7 p.m.
St. James Lutheran Church, Cherokee and Annapolis, 6-8 p.m. Free root beer floats!
200 block of Stevens Street West, 5:30-8:30 p.m.
800 block of Cherokee Ave., 6-9 p.m.
800 block of Winslow Ave., 5-8 p.m.
900 block of Manomin Ave., 6-9 p.m.
900 block of Ottawa Ave., 6-8 p.m.
1100 block of Ottawa Ave., 6-8 p.m.
800 block of Charton Ave., 6-8 p.m.
1000/1100 block of Smith Ave., 6-7:30 p.m.

Complete St. Paul Central District list: Click here.

Complete West St. Paul list (via Laura Vaughn at WSP Police Dept.)

900 Manomin Ave. 600-900pm
1100 Ottawa Ave. 600-800pm
1000 Livingston Ave 530-900pm
900 Ottawa Ave 600-800pm
800 Charlton 600-800pm
900 Stryker 600-800pm
460 West Annapolis 600-800pm
1000/1100 Smith Ave 600-730pm
870 Dodd Rd 300-700pm
200 Stanley St 500-900pm
White Oaks, 425-455 Arion St. E. 500-730pm
100 Bernard St. E. 500-800pm
900 Dakota 500-700pm
200 Bernard 600-900pm
1000 Waterloo 600-800pm
900 Oakdale 500-900pm
100 Hurley 500-800pm
300 Edith Dr. 600-800pm
400 Emerson Ave W 530-900pm
1300 Galvin 600-830pm
50 Langer Circle 600-830pm
400 Thompson Ave 600-800pm
105 Carmel Ave # 207 500-900pm
400 Felix Lane 600-800pm
100 Altman Ct 600-800pm

Art on the Avenue – this weekend!


Smith Avenue, like you’ve never seen it before

After months of preparation, Art on the Avenue is finally coming together. This weekend, our normally sleepy Smith Avenue will come alive with art exhibits, live music, and other excitement. The weather forecast is shaping up for a perfect weekend (knock on wood).

Here’s the rundown of events (subject to change, of course. Also a more detailed program is at the WSCO website and is available at businesses throughout the neighborhood):

TONIGHT (Thursday): Check out the weekly hot rod show and live music at the Pizza Shop, Dodd and Ottawa.

FRIDAY: Art exhibits open during the day at Bank Cherokee (featuring Christine Olson), Capital View Cafe (Mark Cosimini), Stoneflower Salon (Ed Steinhauer), Tradewinds Art Supply, and Amore Coffee (Rebecca Reilly and Ellie Leonardsmith).

Exhibits opening at 6 p.m.:
Open studio by sculptor Sarah Stengle, 586 Smith
Gallery exhibit by Cristina Plaza Ruiz at Cherokee United Church, 371 Baker
Electric Machete Artist Collective at the soon-to-be-open St. Paul Classic Cookie Company, 778 Smith
Live wood carving demonstrations at Eclectic 887 (887 Smith)

Live music!
The Jinnies at Amore Coffee, 7 p.m.
Karaoke at the Cherokee Tavern, 9 p.m.

Film festival!
Starting at 9:30 p.m. outdoors at Metric Auto Parts, 550 Smith (note: content not intended for children). Program will be repeated on Saturday night, also at 9:30.

SATURDAY: Art exhibits continue throughout the day (Bank Cherokee closes at noon, Stoneflower closes at 1 p.m.)

Children’s craft activities and interactive art car project (for adults and kids both) at 624 Smith from noon-4 p.m.

Live music!
Highbridge Tattoo’s First Anniversary celebration with Astronomo, Crash Cuddle, Independent Progress, In Defence and Liquor Beats Winter, starting at 4:30, parking lot at 592 Smith.

The Eddies, 7 p.m., Amore Coffee

Paul Ottison, Yonkeytonk Band, Good Night Gold Dust, starting at 8:30 p.m., Cherokee Tavern

Bike scavenger hunt!
Capital Deals, 710 Smith. Register at 7:30, ride at 8 p.m. Helmet, lights, and camera/smartphone to take photos of scavenger hunt items required.

So please come out and have a good time! Tell your friends and neighbors!