Saturday, June 23, 2018


If these walls could talk...

Larger view
Frank Campbasso, Dominick D'Aloia, Filomeno Cocchiarella, Rose Cocchiarella, Tony Cocchiarella in a 1925 photo at 470-472 Hopkins St. in St. Paul. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society)
An exhibit opening Jan. 14 at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul will allow visitors to explore history through the stories of people who lived in one house on the east side of St. Paul over the last 120 years. "Open House: If These Walls Could Talk" recreates the interior and exterior of a house that still stands at 470 Hopkins St.

Each room is decorated to represent a different era. It has interactive elements that help tell the stories of the families who lived there, beginning with the Schumachers who built the house in the 1890s.

Select the audio link to hear from Benjamin Filene, the curator of the exhibit.

St. Paul, Minn. — As you walk through the house, motion detectors activate oral history recordings of former inhabitants.

For example, when you enter the bathroom, the lights come on and you hear the voices of Angie and Dick Krismer, who lived in the house in the 1950s and 1960s. They describe the system they used for bathing their children.

Michelina Frascone lived in the house from 1931 to 1956. She met me at the exhibit and talked about how her parents ended up emigrating from Italy to St. Paul after World War I.

We were also joined by Michelina's younger brother, Jerry D'Aloia, who was born in 1932 while the family was living on Hopkins Street.

Michelina and Jerry told me a favorite family story about an adventure that happened during World War II. It started when the family acquired a couple of pigs from a local farmer and planned to have them slaughtered.

Curator Benjamin Filene says stories like the ones told by Michelina and her brother Jerry, are an important element of the exhibit.

The exhibit opens Saturday at the History Center with a block party featuring neighborhood musical groups, street games and local storytellers.