Swede Hollow History

                                                                                         Photo Courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

A Brief History of Swede Hollow

Swede Hollow is nestled between the Dayton's Bluff and Railroad Island communities in the ravine that once carried Phalen Creek to the Mississippi River. The first settler to the picturesque valley was Edward Phalen in 1841. He sold his claim in 1844 to William Dugus who built Saint Paul's first sawmill on the creek. Other businesses followed and in 1865 the first train rolled through the valley heading to Duluth. 

The early industry attracted Swedish immigrants who settled just south of the industrial area and   named the valley Svenska Dalen or Swede Hollow. As the Swedish moved "up onto the street", other immigrant people moved into the homes: the Polish, Italian and then the Spanish Americans.

Gentille Yarusso lived in the Hollow in the 1920's and wrote "We children often wondered why our people chose this enchanted place to settle in. Why not somewhere else? As we got older we knew; they chose this place because they were with their own countrymen, with familiar faces, family noises, gestures, facial expressions. They selected this enchanted landscape because it resembled the place they had left behind. They loved the hills, the trees, the stream, the security of friends and relatives." 

In December 1956, the city Health Department discovered that Swede Hollow had no sewer or city water service and declared the Hollow a health hazard. The last 14 families were moved out and the remaining homes destroyed. Ideas for the property at that time included filling it in for industrial use, bridging it for use as part of the highway 212 project, or making it a city park.