Rondo Avenue was a commercial-residential street just outside of the central core of St. Paul. It was home to small businesses, streetcars and busses, professional offices and services, community centers, churches, and much, much more. People of many ethnicities lived in the area, but by the 1930s, nearly half of the neighborhood’s population was Black. In 1964, the neighborhood was destroyed to make room for the new Interstate Highway 94.
In the 1980s, former residents decided to commemorate their old neighborhood and share stories, photographs, and memories from the community. They began to hold annual celebrations starting in 1983. The Rondo Days Festivals often included athletic competitions, parades, arts events, dances, dinners, and church services. On many occasions, old photographs of the Rondo neighborhood were shared among guests for identification and storytelling.
Today, the Rondo Center of Diverse Expression (RCODE), a small nonprofit based in St. Paul, manages many community events that help “rekindle the spirit of Rondo.” RCODE operates the Rondo Commemorative Plaza that honors the past and celebrates the future of the neighborhood. It also houses the Rondo Research Collection and a small museum interpreting the Rondo experience.
Recently, RCODE worked with the Minnesota Digital Library (MDL) to digitize parts of this collection. Highlights include souvenir booklets, photo albums, programs from “Remember Rondo” and Rondo Days events, information about the plaza, and maps of the old neighborhood. MDL is pleased to share that this collection is now available to browse through our website. We encourage you to check out the RCODE materials today.
One of our favorite pieces from this collection is the Remember Rondo photograph album from 1983. It is full of pictures of people, places, and events from the Rondo neighborhood before the avenue was destroyed. These photographs provide glimpses of the rich, vibrant, and unique community of Rondo. We are pleased to share these stories with a wider audience through MDL.
Image Credit: Cover from a “Remember Rondo” photograph album, 1984. Rondo Center of Diverse Expression collection.