Ober Boys Club, 375 Saint Anthony Avenue, Saint Paul, Minnesota

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Ober Boys Club

Address: 375 Saint Anthony Avenue
City/locality-
State/province
Saint Paul, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Year built: 1941
Primary Style: Art Deco/Art Moderne
Major Alterations: Some/mostly intact
Material of Exterior Wall Covering: Brick

Saint Paul


Ober Boys Club, 375 Saint Anthony Avenue, Saint Paul, Minnesota
(44.9517523° N, 93.1158902° WLatitude: 44°57′6.308″N
Longitude: 93°6′57.205″W
)


The Ober Boys Club was established in the 1940s by the St. Paul Union Gospel Mission. It is named after Edgar B. Ober – President of 3M from 1909 to 1929 – who was very active in the Gospel Mission. The Ober Boys Club building constructed in 1941 was located in the Rondo neighborhood which was the heart and soul of the Black community in Saint Paul. The Ober Boys Club was a recreational club that offered Bible classes and various activities including week long camps at Snail Youth Camp organized by the Gospel Mission at Snail Lake, St Paul. Such social organizations were crucial to the Black community and served to strengthen the neighborhood and networks at a time when other doors were closed.

Contents

History

Connected to the Ober Boys Club was Welcome Field, an athletic field and important social and sporting place for the African American community. However, in the 1960s when the construction of Interstate Highway 94 tore through Rondo, Welcome Field was lost.

An associated Girls Club was likewise run by the Gospel Mission and was located nearby at Welcome Hall Community Center (321 St. Anthony Avenue and Farrington). Welcome Hall Community Center also offered recreation activities, Bible classes, and the first day-care facility in the black community.

The Ober Boys Club building still exists and is now called the Ober Community Center. The brick faced Moderne style building is a tall one story structure with a low flat roof. It has some geometric-shaped detailing on the upper section and also above the projecting square entrance. The sides of the Ober Boys Club building reveal Moderne style characteristics with its symmetrical form and horizontal proportions – demonstrated in the window layout divided between vertical brick piers. The building is still owned by the Union Gospel Mission and in 1996 was leased to the Salvation Army.

Memories and stories

Memory

Memories of the construction of the Ober Boys Club have been recalled by James Milsap. Milsap in particular remembers Casiville Bullard – a well known brick and stone mason and the only African American who worked on the construction of the Ober Boys Club:

"I went down every day during the summer to watch him work. He inspired me…He could lay block, brick and cement. Mr Bullard was an artisan who could do all of it…Today, bricklayers use tool like brick saws to cut and fit the brick. Not Mr Bullard. He took a brick and hammer and knocked the corners off the brick, and laid them…When he finished, it was impeccable…I was glad to see the Ober Boys Club completed because I could play basketball in there. But I had mixed emotions because it meant I couldn't watch Mr Bullard anymore…" (James Milsap, interview with Susan Granger, Jan. 1996, transcript, Bullard House file, State Historic Preservation Office).

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