Courtesy The Davidson

Developer John Rupp lives just a few doors from his latest restoration project, a new boutique hotel called the Davidson Hotel that he created in a century-old mansion on Summit Avenue.

The Davidson sits on a double lot at 344 Summit Avenue in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood and features eight, stately suites. The hotel is the first boutique hotel to open on Summit Avenue.

“I am very familiar with this building, and I thought it was one of the finest if not the finest mansions that was built in St. Paul during that period before WWII,” Rupp said.

The Davidson opened in December.

Watson P. Davidson, an entrepreneur and developer who worked in real estate for the Great Northern Railway, and his wife Sarah had the 18,000-square-foot Tudor-manor-style house built in 1915. Davidson had wanted to build “the finest house that had ever been built in the city,” Rupp said. Local architect Thomas Holyoke designed the home.

Davidson lived in the house until his death in 1954, and his family later sold the house. Beginning in 1961, the building housed the operations of the College of Visual Arts. When Rupp’s Commonwealth Properties bought it in 2013, most of the internal details had already been stripped by the college, Rupp said.

“The biggest part of the project was not converting it from a mansion to a hotel it was putting the mansion back together,” he said.

A lot of woodwork needed to be reproduced, doors fabricated, custom chandeliers and doorknobs sourced and lot of things had to be custom made, Rupp said. Rupp declined to give an estimate for the multiyear renovation, but he said the mansion could serve as a single-family house in the future.

Each suite is individually furnished and some rooms feature views of the Mississippi River valley.

The hotel provides guests with breakfast vouchers for use at nearby Bon Vie Cafe. Guests are also provided with a free drink at two other Rupp properties that are close by, W.A. Frost & Company and the Commodore Bar and Restaurant. Commonwealth also extends membership privileges to guests to some of its other nearby properties the University Club of St. Paul for dining and use of the athletic facilities and the Saint Paul Athletic Club in downtown St. Paul.

In Minneapolis another hotel has recently opened though it’s the complete opposite of the Davidson as it was newly built.

The new Element Minneapolis Downtown opens for reservations starting Friday though the hotel opened its doors last week.

The 156-room hotel sits above the new Fillmore music venue in the North Loop. The hotel is the first of Marriott International’s extended-stay Element brand in the state.

All of the rooms have kitchenettes with the largest three-bedroom suites, called studio commons, having kitchens with full-size appliances and kitchen islands.

“It shouldn’t feel like you are stuck in a hotel,” said Sarah Traczyk, director of sales marketing at the Element.

The hotel’s lobby is decorated in hues of blue and has a kayak hung near the entrance that was inspired by Minnesota’s nickname as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” The fourth floor of the hotel has guest laundry, a fitness center and a rooftop above the Fillmore, which is set to have its first show in mid February.

“I think once the concerts start coming people are really going to understand that you can go to a concert and stay here,” Traczyk said.

The studio commons suites at the Element have full kitchens. Photo by Nicole Norfleet


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