Gangsters and Pig Eyes


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St. Paul was a haven for gangsters in the 1920s. The town had a non-extradition policy, meaning that criminals wanted in other states/counties could hang out in St. Paul and were safe from warrants in other towns. A police officer would meet a wanted criminal at the train station and let them know that they were safe here but if they so much as picked a pocket they were screwed. If I recall one story, someone did grab a purse and the police tracked this individual down, made him give them the purse and its contents, and gave them back to the purse’s owner with their sincere apologies.

The whole Turf Club corner at University and Snelling was the site of a huge shoot out back in the day. Dillinger would hang out in that town. The Commodore (around Selby and Western) was once a hotel and home to many well-known mobsters. It had a huge fire back in the seventies and they turned it into condos. Some people lived there that I knew and I loved going over there just for the history. You couldn’t get into the Art Deco bar though, even if you were a resident. Which made me sad.

St. Paul was originally called Pig’s Eye. There was this guy who lived in a cave that was one of the first settlers to the town and he had a patch over his eye because it was pig-esque. There was no name for the growing town, so mail was addressed to “Pigs Eye, Minnesota”. When it was decided that the town would be the state capitol the people-that-be figured it needed a more respectable name, so henceforth: St. Paul.