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Saturday, July 20, 2013

One of the best kept secrets in the literary world is that F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of such classics as “This Side Of Paradise,” “Tender Is The Night,” and of course the ever famous “Great Gatsby,” was born here in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Born in the Cathedral Hill area of St. Paul, he would return here to live several times during his life, and today we are able to experience that Twin Cities connection through the F. Scott Fitzgerald Walking Tour.  The tour is easily found online with your smartphone, which makes it handy to carry with you while walking the four-by-five block area.  I'd like to feature just a few of the homes from the tour.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's birthplace.

Sign commemorating Fitzgerald's birthplace.

The tour begins at 481 Laurel, the house where Scott was born in 1896 to Edward Fitzgerald and Mollie McQuillan.  His two older sisters had died a from influenza shortly before his birth, and as a result his mother was very over protective of him.  A year after his birth his father lost his job as a wicker furniture salesman, and the family moved to New York.  The family lived in New York for ten years before returning to St. Paul, and the safety of Grandmother McQuillan’s money, after Edward again lost his job. 

When Scott was thirteen years old, the family was living at 514 Holly.  They had also lived briefly across the street at 509 Holly.

514 Holly

509 Holly

During this time, Scott attended nearby St. Paul Academy at 25 North Dale, and was enrolled in dance classes around the corner at Mrs. Backus’s Boarding School for Girls.  Scott was always more focused on his writing (he kept a journal from age fourteen on) and his grades suffered.  His poor grades prompted his parents to send him to a Prep School in New Jersey when he was just fifteen years old, and for a number of years Scott would only return to St. Paul for holidays.

The former St. Paul Academy where Fitzgerald attended school.

Statue of Fitzgerald as a boy at school.

Commemorative sign at the former St. Paul Academy.

Fitzgerald was enrolled in dance classes here when this was 
Mrs. Backus's Boarding School for Girls.

While Scott was away at school his parents moved into the beautiful Romanesque brownstone at 593 and 599 Summit.  By now, his grandmother had died and had left money to pay for his education at Princeton.  Scott did poorly in college, and during a semester of illness dropped out.  When he tried going back, his low grades prohibited him from rejoining all of the clubs he had enjoyed, and frustrated, he joined the Army just as World War 1 was beginning.  While stationed in Alabama, Scott met Zelda Sayre.  Each thought the other was rich, but as it turned out neither were.  The romance took a hiatus as Scott struggled to find work that would allow him to support the two of them, and Scott eventually returned to his parents brownstone on Summit.

The F. Scott Fitzgerald House on Summit Avenue.  
This is where he lived while revising his novel "This Side of Paradise."

The commemorative sign on the Summit Avenue Brownstone.

While back in St. Paul, Scott worked on revising his novel, hoping its publication would win Zelda back.  In 1919 he received word that a publisher had accepted the novel, and he and Zelda were married at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York shortly after “This Side of Paradise” was published.

Realtor, Alexandra Greve Kalman, a life long friend of Scott and Zalda, helped them to find numerous homes when they moved back to St. Paul in 1921.  The couple lived in many different locations, always being asked to leave because of their wild partying.  They were living at the Commodore Hotel only blocks from Scott’s birthplace, when their only child, daughter Scottie, was born on October 26, 1921.

The Commodore Hotel where Scott and Zelda's daughter Scottie was born.

Scott and Zelda would soon leave St. Paul, joining the American expatriate community in Paris for a time, before returning to New York and eventually Hollywood.  While their time in St. Paul consisted only of brief interludes over several decades, they have left an indelible mark on the community, and during this “Summer of Gatsby” I’m very proud of our Twin Cities connection to it creator, the very talented and gifted F. Scott Fitzgerald.

F. Scott Fitzgerald statue and sign in Rice Park in Downtown St. Paul.


  1. Excellent post, Joe! I had forgotten just how many places he had lived in St. Paul. I'm currently living quite close to these locations so I'm going to check 'em out!

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  3. Mark, her's the link for the walking tour.