344 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55102 | 651.560.2009 Reservations@TheDavidsonStPaul.com
Kelli McDonald, General Manager
First, a little history
Summit Avenue is said to boast the U.S.’s longest stretch of Victorian-era homes, some of which are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. One such home, now known as The Davidson, hosts Summit Avenue’s first boutique hotel.
The Davidson is a striking mansion in English Cotswold Manor House style at 344 Summit Avenue, designed by architect Thomas Holyoke. It was completed in 1915 for $40,000 – more than $1M in today’s dollars – for real estate executive Watson Davidson and his wife Sarah. It was hailed at the time as one of the finest homes ever constructed in St. Paul.
Watson Davidson amassed his fortune working for James J. Hill, entrepreneur, philanthropist and founder of the Great Northern Railroad, who also lived on Summit Avenue.
After its tenure as a family residence, 344 Summit Avenue hosted the College of Visual Arts between 1961 and 2013.
Commonwealth Companies, a private entity owned by John Rupp and Stephanie Laitala-Rupp, purchased the home from the college in 2013 and began restoring the property. The nine-unit hotel opened its doors December 2019 after a massive historic restoration to bring it back to its original splendor.
Commonwealth Companies is known for preserving iconic, historic properties and own several in the area. Sister properties include The Commodore Bar & Restaurant, The University Club of Saint Paul on Summit Avenue, downtown’s Saint Paul Athletic Club, and the famed W.A. Frost restaurant on Cathedral Hill. While staying at The Davidson, guests have access to amenities at The University Club, fine dining, fitness center, outdoor pool and tennis courts, as well as the stunning 64,000 square foot fitness center at The Saint Paul Athletic Club downtown St. Paul.
About The Davidson
The Davidson functions not so much like a traditional hotel, but more like home away from home. It includes eight suites with a ninth to be completed soon.
By design, interference from staff is kept to a minimum in order to ensure privacy and independence. While staff is just a phone call away at all times, they don’t remain on the premises outside of housekeeping duties so guests can feel as though the space is their own. What you get is a quiet retreat in a beautiful neighborhood, use of two common areas on the main floor and your own spacious suite with upscale amenities and elegant, historic charm.
Prior to check-in, guests receive an email with a code to access the property via a touch keypad located to the left of the front door. This code will also access their specific suite.
The home has been beautifully and meticulously restored. The dark woodwork, plank floors and wooden staircase of the first two floors in combination with light-colored walls, tall ceilings and lead-glass windows all provide generous amounts of natural lighting and lend a comfortable, cozy ambiance.
The third floor, which served as the servants’ quarters when the Davidson’s resided in the home, has a slightly different feel but one I really enjoyed. The ceiling is not as high as the other two floors, the woodwork and flooring lighter in color, but the use of dormers, angled ceilings, nooks and crannies, and unique window variations only adds to the ambiance from my perspective rather than taking anything away from it. They give off a warm, cozy, comfortable vibe and remind me of my family home growing up in Wisconsin and I’m guessing others would find the same to be true.
The owners are antique collectors and furnished this home with a treasure trove of fabulous period furniture, décor and accent pieces acquired throughout their travels but locally, too, and there’s a good mix of antique versus the more traditional. The kitchens, kitchenettes, bathrooms, and beds have all the modern conveniences and amenities of home. The Rupps have also brought their love of art into each and every room and hallway with original framed Audubon prints, period pieces, and prints of historic St. Paul.
The main floor of the house consists of the foyer, the two common areas (spacious sitting room and the library), and the largest of the suites (#101). There are four suites on the second floor, and three on the third floor. A ninth suite located on the lower level is yet to be finished, but when complete will be just slightly smaller than Suite 101. And, because of how the house is situated on the land, it will still have plenty of natural light.
Clientele of The Davidson tend to be business or pleasure travelers – mostly short-term stays, but they do see some longer-term stays particularly with business travelers. You must be over 21 to stay there and no dogs are allowed. To maintain a quiet atmosphere, suites are limited to two visitors and quiet hours are observed. Guests are welcome to bring in their own food and beverages and there are ample dining opportunities nearby.
On-street parking is available.
Suites at The Davidson
All suites have large windows with operable leaded glass on a least two sides allowing for abundant natural light, some with views of the Mississippi River Valley.
While room size and views vary, all suites come with the following amenities:
sitting areas; king bed with specialty linens; air-jetted tub; Keurig coffee maker; room safe; alarm clock with charging port; A/C and heating; Wi-Fi; and Smart and Direct TV. The fireplaces are decorative-only, yet charming. For guests wishing to avoid stairs, the main floor suite is available as there is not an elevator in the building.
Suites on floors one and two have kitchenettes; suites on the third floor have full kitchens. Kitchenettes have sinks, microwaves and mini fridges, dinner, glass and flatware. Kitchens have sinks, full-size stainless steel stoves and refrigerators, dinner, glass and flatware, pots and pans, etc. Both set-ups feature granite countertops.
Bathroom sizes and features vary but all have both tub and shower. Some have pedestal sinks; others full vanities. Showers all have amazing shower heads that deliver a spa-like experience.
The backyard is available to all and provides a lovely space to get some fresh air, enjoy a morning coffee or indulge in an evening cocktail.
A little about each suite
Suite 101: 1st floor | 1,844 square feet (bigger than my whole townhouse)
Access to this suite is off the lobby and through a set of French doors that opens to an expansive living room with side table, oversize sofa and side chairs, grand piano, dining table with seating for six, wood flooring and large area rugs, and kitchenette. Another set of French doors leads to the king bedroom featuring a 4-poster bed and views of the Mississippi River Valley. The bathroom has an air-jetted tub, separate shower with subway tile walls. Off the living room there’s also a large wood-paneled den with a large leather sectional, leather chair, desk and armoire.
Suite 201: 2nd floor | 549 square feet
Light, bright sitting area with light-colored Damask sofa and chaise lounge, light-colored wood floors, area rugs, king bed, kitchenette and step-up subway tiled bathroom with air-jetted tub, shower, and vanity.
Suite 202: 2nd floor | 528 square feet
Large sitting area with floral print sofa, two side chairs, china cabinet, king bed with tufted upholstered headboard, kitchenette, bathroom with air-jetted tub, and vanity.
Suite 203: 2nd floor | 1,121 square feet
Living room space, king bedroom, kitchenette, bathroom with air-jetted tub and separate glass shower. An added bonus to this suite is a large sun room with a nice view. Shares hallway with Suite 204.
Suite 204: 2nd floor | 927 square feet. Living room space, king bedroom, kitchenette, and bathroom.
Suite 301: 3rd floor | 1,141 square feet.
Sitting room space, king bedroom, full kitchen, bathroom with air-jetted tub and separate shower.
Suite 302: 3rd floor |823 square feet (my favorite)
Sitting area with light wood-tone flooring, unique dormer angled walls, sofa and chairs, secretary desk, game table for four, bookcase, king bed separated from living area by a bi-fold wood trimmed glass door, expansive arched window with small panes with WOW-like views of downtown St. Paul and the Mississippi River Valley (not to mention beautiful sunrises), full kitchen, smashing bathroom with gray marble-like subway tiles, raised air-jetted tub, basket weave tile floor, pedestal sink, and a shower with gray tone iridescent-like tile.
Shares hallway with Suite #303; the two suites can be rented together.
Suite 303: 3rd floor | 830 square feet
Sitting area with views of the Mississippi River Valley and side chairs, full kitchen, and bathroom.
To learn more about The Davidson and view some amazing pictures visit: https://www.thedavidsonstpaul.com
Other properties in the Commonwealth Companies portfolio:
The Commodore Bar & Restaurant | 79 Western Avenue
The Saint Paul Athletic Club
Hotel 340 (currently being used by the Union Gospel Mission)
Stout’s Island Lodge |Birchwood, WI | https://www.stoutsislandlodge.com/
University Club St. Paul | 420 Summit Avenue
Villa Maria | Frontenac, MN | https://www.villamariamn.com/
WA Frost | 374 Selby Avenue
Site reviewed by Mary Jo Wiseman, CMP | Author, “The Meeting Planning Process: A Guide to Planning Successful Meetings” | https/www.maryjo-wiseman.net