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Site of One of the Twin Cities' Best French Restaurants Once Had the Most Elaborate Movie Palace in the Upper Midwest

By Homesmsp @HomesMSP

The Hamm Building in downtown St. Paul with its exceptional terra cotta ornamentation has a fascinating history. It was built in 1914-1919 across the street from what was then the federal building and post office for the Upper Midwest. (Read about the history of Landmark Center and Rice Park in this post.)


In 1920, the Capitol Theatre was built into the Hamm Building... it was the largest, most costly, and most elaborate movie palace in the Upper Midwest. The theater seated over 3,000 people, and its orchestra pit had room for a 30-piece orchestra. Its 4-manual Wurlitzer organ was the largest organ outside New York City when it was built... the Twin Cities and New York City were arts rivals even then!

But the building's fame didn't stop there... in was also home of the St. Paul Recreation Company, whose billiard room, cigar stand, gym, boxing ring and bowling alley fronted one of the city's biggest illegal gambling operations.

All of this has passed into history, but the French restaurant MERITAGE (blend of Merlot and Heritage) is creating some history of its own in the historic Hamm Building at 410 St. Peter Street.


Zagat named Meritage one of America's best restaurants, and it is repeatedly on various 'best' lists for Mpls St. Paul Magazine, StarTribune, USA Today, Minnesota Monthly and City Pages.

Owner and chef, Russell Klein (at WA Frost before fulfilling his dream of owning his restaurant), has created a destination modeled after a traditional French Brasserie, yet blending in something new as well. Their unique offerings include an Oyster Bar, an art nouveau Absinthe fountain, tasting menus and a Chef's Table option... plus a sidewalk crepe stand and sidewalk terrace for summer dining.

We stopped for Saturday brunch a few weeks ago and were delighted by the whole experience... the food and ambiance as well as our outstanding waiter. We were very curious about Absinthe, the drink made famous by Impressionist artists and writers which was banned for many years. When we asked out it, our waiter graciously brought us a sample. Their wait staff are all service professionals... people who view restaurants as their career... and it shows!

Check out Meritage for yourself at 410 Saint Peter Street, between 6th & 7th in downtown St. Paul.

Interested in living in the area? Check out homes for sale in downtown St. Paul and along the riverfront,  and homes for sale on Crocus Hill.

Sharlene Hensrud, RE/MAX Results - Email - St. Paul Realtor

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