Minnesota News

Sign of the future: St. Paul officially brings back historic Rondo Avenue street name

A woman holds a sign
Debbie Montgomery holds a sign reading “Old Rondo Ave 1865 to 1999” outside the Rondo Center of Diverse Expression on Tuesday.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

One of St. Paul’s most remembered streets has reclaimed its name.

Before the construction of Interstate 94, which drove a multi-lane wedge directly through the center of St. Paul’s historic Black neighborhood, the neighborhood used to be called ‘Rondo,’ and one of its main thoroughfares was Rondo Avenue.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter is the city’s first Black mayor and was raised in the neighborhood. He spoke Tuesday afternoon before a crowd gathered to watch the sign unveiling.

A panel with information
“What I’ve been engaged in, trying to build back and to let young people know that we have visions of possibility, and we are a strong community with a lot of history and a lot of great leaders,” said Debbie Montgomery.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

He remarked on how this has been a long time coming, and a good replacement for the historic signs that once hung there but did not actually change the name.

“I was excited when I was young. And we started putting up those old Rondo, those historic Rondo, those Memorial Rondo street signs, but I’m even more excited to take them down,” he said. “We’ve taken down the ‘once upon a time’ Rondo signs and we’re putting up the ‘one day’ Rondo signs. We’re putting up the ‘tomorrow’ Rondo signs. We’re putting up the Rondo signs that declare where we are and where we will be and when are we going to do it? Right now.”

Carter got in a city cherry picker and unveiled the new green street sign that says “Rondo Avenue,” and beamed, putting a hand on the new sign.

A man uncovers a street sign
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter is the city’s first Black mayor and was raised in the neighborhood.
Peter Cox | MPR News

The street, which had been called Concordia Avenue, has been renamed Rondo Avenue between Griggs and Mackubin streets. The city council approved the change earlier this year.

Marvin Anderson, who has spent decades working to make sure the memory of the neighborhood would not be lost, and has worked to build a park, to get the street name changed and — still in progress — to get a land bridge built across the interstate, smiled as he watched the name change happen.

“What’s in a name for us? You see the word Rondo up there. And you think of all of the people who’ve struggled on this street, to create a better life to live an American life,” he said. “They lived on Rondo, this was a community that we felt so completely whole in. We wanted to begin healing because it’s a wonderful feeling. Now we have the name back.”

A man talks to a crowd
Marvin Anderson, board chair of Reconnect Rondo, has spent decades preserving Rondo.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Debbie Montgomery said her childhood home was torn down She said her mother had a four bedroom house on three city lots.

“They gave her $10,000. So even at that time, they just took the equity, that generational wealth that could have been passed to our family,” she said.

Montgomery has been pushing for these changes for a long time. She’s also used to making change. She was the first woman to be a police officer in St. Paul, she worked for civil rights both locally and nationally, and was the first Black woman elected to St. Paul city council. 

She said it meant a lot to see the progress the city has made in that time, thanks to her work and the work of others.

“What I’ve been engaged in, trying to build back and to let young people know that we have visions of possibility, and we are a strong community with a lot of history and a lot of great leaders.”

People sit in chairs
Residents of the Rondo neighborhood listen to speakers during an event outside the Rondo Center of Diverse Expression.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News
Volume Button
Volume
Now Listening To Livestream
MPR News logo
On Air
MPR News