The oldest house on Hill Street

A chance encounter

My friend Mat agreed to go for a run with me one morning in St. Paul. We were passing through the Twin Cities on our way to San Francisco, our second stop on a two-week cross-country train trip. We planned to run eight miles.

As we reached the top of a steep street leading up to a ridge overlooking the Mississippi River, both of us nearly threw up. It was hot, and we were hungover. Not the best combination. By pure luck, our struggles were a blessing in disguise.

Both feeling nauseous, we agreed to walk for a block. In that time, we passed this intriguing ivy-covered house. Curious (and stalling for time), I stopped to shoot a few photos.

As I did, a man seemed to appear out of nowhere. I started to apologize for the intrusion, but he soon cut me off. Instead of shoeing us away, he offered us a tour.

It turns out it's the oldest house on this historic block, the former home of the mayor of St. Paul. Railroad tycoon James J. Hill lived just up the block, in a better-known estate. But this one remains a private residence.

Since purchasing the house in the 1980s for about $400,000, Steve Bailej has maintained it exquisitely.

He walked us through five bedrooms, and shared the house's secrets.

My favorite story was of the Vietnam War veteran who has lived here longer than Steve. When Steve bought the house, the man approached him and said, "Hi, you're my fourth owner." He's rented the basement apartment since the 1970s.

I felt silly touring in my running clothes, but he didn't seem to mind.

Steve lived here with his wife for more than 20 years. She passed a few years ago, and he now maintains the house and accompanying apartments by himself. It's a massive undertaking, but a labor of love. She used to offer tours to passerby. Today, he's proud to continue her favorite tradition.

Thank you for inviting us in, Steve!

Wander the world with me: IG: shesalwayssomewhere Twitter: @daniellelliot #stpaul #USA #housetours #history Photos by Mat Rick