Saint Paul Website Project

“Transitions: University Avenue,” an oral history/photo project, is a multiyear project that documents the lives and work of University Avenue residents and business owners before, during and after Central Corridor Light Rail Transit (CCLRT) construction through photos and recorded interviews combined together in sound slides.

St. Paul Website Project
  • Intro
  • Photos
  • Product
  • Learn More/How We Did It
  • Additional Resources

See what people had to say about this project!

"[I enjoyed] just learning something different. Something that is really going to affect our community not just something in a book. We actually got involved."

"This was a great experience for young, multi–ethnic people. My perspective, as African American, is that it is important for our kids to learn about our neighborhood history, and learn important skills. [Minnesota Historical Society] is creating opportunities for learning. We are tapping into young peoples’ talents and building self worth. Documenting the Corridor now is an exciting legacy and piece of historical documentation. This will help market our community and create more opportunities for our residents. I think it will help change perceptions of this community."

"This is the second project I’ve done with youth. I enjoyed it. I liked telling students stories; I enjoyed they were surprised about not having video games and pumping water."

"It allowed me to go down memory lane and express my thoughts. I really liked having our stories be a part of the Minnesota Historical Society. It’s a record for posterity."

"I like how the kids worked together to get the program together. They were dedicated. They did a good professional job. I didn’t know them, but felt close to them when we worked together."

"[I enjoyed] taking pictures of the elderly and seeing their homes and businesses; hearing their stories."

Click on image to browse all photos.


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Enjoy a sample of student work below. To see more, visit the website that was created!

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This school-wide project initiated by Gordon Parks High School (GPHS) brings together photography and journalism mentors, students, teachers and historians to create a website to explore and document University Avenue before, during and after light rail expansion. To prepare for this project, students participated in cross-curricular lessons about local literature, displaced communities like Rondo, and even the statistics of construction.

Additionally, they visited with curators and historians from the Minnesota Historical Society. In art class, students learn the fundamentals of photography, and during English & Social Studies class, they studied journalism, interview techniques and sound editing.

Oral history narrators, recruited through local business organizations, community organizers, and teachers’ personal contacts, committed to two or more interviews and shared materials like wedding photos, business licenses and scrapbooks with students to enrich the sound slides they create.

See more information on the 2011 final event.

2010 Youth Participants: Adonai, Brittany, Cassandra, Darnesha, Douglas, Jeneica, Kaying, Micheal, Othello, Tanisha, Zach, and hundreds of other proud students of Gordon Parks High School.

2010 Adult Participants: Arnellia Allen, Eddie Ballard, Dianna Bui, Stan Gardner, Nathaniel Khaliq, Warnell Mims, Gloria Massey, Winston Nguyen, Nieeta Presley, Mychael Wright

2011 Adult Participants: Linda & Nikolai Alenov, Ngoan Dang, Damon Johnson, Jim Segal

2012 Adult Participants: Al Brown, Tim Wilson, David Dominick, Hortensia Ambrocio, Va Mengh

2011 and 2012 Youth Participants: The proud students of Gordon Parks High School.

For more information: Contact Project Manager Aleah Vinick at or 651-259-3417.



Background on the University Avenue Area

University Avenue was originally several blocks north of where it currently runs, connecting the University of Minnesota to Hamline University, giving the avenue its name. The construction of a large train yard forced the moving of the avenue, to what was called Melrose Avenue.  Part of the original University Avenue is now Minnehaha Avenue. University Avenue is the planned expansion of the Central Light Rail Corridor.

The area just south of University Avenue between Rice Street and Lexington Avenue, known as the Rondo Neighborhood, was a vibrant, largely African American neighborhood that was displaced in the 1960s by freeway construction. The tight-knit community, which was the center of black culture in the 1930s, was torn apart, displacing thousands of people into a racially segregated city and a discriminatory housing market.

Historic Rondo Resources

History Topics:  The destruction of Rondo and the Building of I-94

Rondo Neighborhood Documentary

Days of Rondo (MHS Press book)


Streetcar Resources

History Topics: Streetcars

Twin Cities by Trolley: The Streetcar Era in Minneapolis and St. Paul


Gordon Parks Resources

A Choice of Weapons, Parks' autobiography

MN150 - Gordon Parks

Legends Online: Gordon Parks



Project Details

Date: May 2010 - June 2012
Partner(s): Gordon Parks High School Students in partnership with the Minnesota Historical Society. Paul Creager, Elizabeth Curran, Tom Davies, Ted Johnson, Tarik Lemtouni, Kathy Kelley, Randy Star and Terry Talbot, Saint Paul Public Schools; Catherine Squires, Department of Communication Studies, University of Minnesota Imagine Fund for Arts, Design & Humanities; Bethany Khan; Tom Davies; Tobechi Tobechukwu; Kimberly Nightingale, Saint Paul Almanac; Kathy Kelley; Randy Starr; Maya Park; Ted Johnson; Metric Giles; Va-Megn Thoj; Eddie Ballard; Heidi Chung; Samantha Steinbring; Public Art St. Paul; Aurora/St Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation. Aleah Vinick, Minnesota Historical Society, Project Manager.
Location: St. Paul, MN

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