Williams Hill, reportedly the site of Saint Paul’s first cemetery, was once one of the fabled Seven Hills of Saint Paul, which city boosters referred to when boasting of the growing metropolis in the late 1800s, according to The Phalen Corridor. Medium- and larger-sized houses sprouted up in the neighborhood, including the famous 37-room Swedish Castle. Located at the then corner of Williams and Pine, the Castle provided housing for newly arrived Swedish immigrants.
As early as 1902, however, portions of Williams Hill began to be cut away to make room for the encroaching rail traffic. By the mid-1980s, the area was a brownfield. Bulldozers carved out portions of the hill, loading trucks with fill, as other trucks would dump off polluted debris from construction sites. An asphalt plant and a concrete recycling operation were located there as well, sending columns of smoke into the air and, coincidentally, into the offices of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
The Port used 10 different financing sources to remove the towers of dirt above ground, clean up an underground garbage dump, and prepare the site for redevelopment. The result was a state-of-the-art business center that anchored ongoing revitalization work along the new Phalen Corridor.
By 1999, nine businesses – now with nearly 400 employees that might otherwise have chosen to locate in the suburbs or out of state – expanded into Williams Hill. The companies generate over $735,000 annually in property taxes.