Full of bewildering bluffs and industrial history, Railroad Island is the authentic truth St. Paul keeps behind a gaping railroad ravine and 35E. It’s a disorienting place, 180 acres of neighborhood wrapping around the east side and smooching Swede Hollow Park. It’s lush with trees; you can’t see the St. Paul skyline from here, though it’s close. Streets are tossed around and mended together where they don’t make sense, split by the railroad gorge, thus the clutter of the place. Cross streets are a little darker, so it’s easy to feel inquisitive, even meddlesome, while you meander through. Through its history, Railroad Island has been the settling place for many Italian, Swedish, and Mexican immigrants. The neighborhood is full of buildings and tales from the past.
Jerry’s Roses splits Payne and Minnehaha Avenue, the minuscule white building a prominent eye-catcher in a listless place with “ROSES” posted on its top in bold, siren red. Sometimes, when I drive by, I dream up a story for the building. I imagine it to be a black hole on earth, a time-traveling machine. People from the future come and go to try to change history. It’s silly. But that’s the allure of Railroad Island. The place is imaginative.