Where the Road Takes Us

I have a whole bunch of pictures in what I call my Empty Roads Project. It’s exactly that: A series of pictures of empty streets, pathways, roads, alleys, tracks, etc. It’s usually just an opportunity to capture a peaceful moment of a conduit that might take me or someone to a place we don’t know. Sometimes it means nothing.

Maiden Ln

This is a shot of Maiden Lane in St. Paul, part of a fairly old and historic neighborhood. It’s a bricklined street, though it seems more like an alley. At the far end of the view, partially hidden by trees, is the St. Paul Cathedral, which sits high up on a hill overlooking the downtown. The small dark buildings at the end of the street (which slightly curves) are some old stables and garages. Old as in older than that church.

On the right side you can see the ivy covered brick walls of James J. Hill’s stables. He was the railroad baron who lived across Summit, a street over to the right. This was the edge of his property.

On the left side is a small grove of birch trees where a number of working class row houses used to stand. About where the closest tree branches come out, shading Maiden Lane, is where # 1 Reid’s Ct stood. This was the home of the Keller family. The Klines lived downstairs from them.

Late one night in winter 1905, when William Williams shot Johnnie Keller and Johnnie’s mother upstairs in that home, where some of those birch branches now fill, I imagine the horses in the stable across this street were spooked and started making noises. And I imagine a Hill servant or two heard the gunshots or just the horses and wondered. Moments later Williams ran down this brick road, and past those other stables and past the home that once sat where the church now stands, looking for a doctor. But only found a policeman.

On the peaceful spring afternoon when I took this picture, on a steamy day with birds singing in the trees, I was only thinking of the violence that occurred here. I wondered who, if any, of the neighborhood’s current residents had any idea of what had happened. If they knew where this road took Williams. Took all of us.

I don’t yet know where it’ll take me.

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