Rondo-opoly, which was recently introduced by the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, may or may not be the newest version since the game of Monopoly was created in the early part of the 20th century. But according to its inventors, it is the only one featuring the history of Saint Paul’s Rondo neighborhood, the largely Black community that was riven in two in the 1960s by the construction of I-94.

“The idea for Rondo-opoly was a group effort of our staff,” said Jonathan Palmer, executive director of Hallie Q. Brown, a nonprofit agency that has been serving the former Rondo neighborhood for 93 years. “We were exploring ideas to promote the Rondo history and our archive and this emerged as the winner.”

The group used the traditionalMonopoly board as a template inchoosing which well-known landmarks and other places to bring Rondo’s history to life. Palmer said the research did not take as long as might be expected.

Rondo-opoly
Executive director Jonathan Palmer shows off the Rondo-opoly board game in the library of the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center. Photo by Brad Stauffer

“Many of the elements we already highlight in our archive, in social media and on our website,” he said. “The harder part was digging deeper into some of the stories, distinguishing between nicknames and real names, and narrowing down the number we could include on the board. There’s a lot of history in Rondo and a lot more we could have included if there were space. We’re already considering a second edition.”

   

Hallie Q. Brown serves as the starting space in Rondo-opoly. The properties around the board are located in Oatmeal Hill and Cornmeal Valley, each card displaying the address on the front and a description of its historical significance on the back.

The Chance and Community Chest cards have been renamed for the Pullman Porters and Red Caps to honor their role in the neighborhood. One of the Pullman cards states: “You won the bet! Each player must pay you $50 because Marcenia ‘Toni’ Lyle Stone won the baseball game.”

“Bad hair day. Proceed to Finney’s Beauty Studio (437 Rondo Ave.) and pay $25 to the bank. Do not collect $200 if you visit the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center.”

 

house ad

 

An example of a Red Caps card is: “Bad hair day. Proceed to Finney’s Beauty Studio (437 Rondo Ave.) and pay $25 to the bank. Do not collect $200 if you visit the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center.”

The officer on the traditional Go to Jail space was replaced with Debbie Montgomery, the first female police officer in Saint Paul. She sends players to the Turtle Club, an after-hours bottle club on Selby Avenue and the site of what Palmer said was the largest police raid in the city.

“You won the bet! Each player must pay you $50 because Marcenia ‘Toni’ Lyle Stone won the baseball game.”

Among other places commemorated in Rondo-opoly are Pilgrim Baptist Church on Central Avenue, one of the oldest Black churches in Minnesota; the Chatsworth Inn, a beer parlor at the corner of Chatsworth Street and Rondo Avenue; the Sterling Club, a gathering place for professional Black men on North Dale Street; the home of Clarence “Cap” Wigington, the city of Saint Paul’s first Black architect, on Saint Anthony Avenue; and Tiger Jack’s, the small store owned by “Tiger” Jack Rosenbloom on Dale and Saint Anthony.

Rondo-opoly
Rondo-opoly, the board game that serves as both a history lesson and a fundraiser benefiting the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center. Photo by Brad Stauffer

The traditional Boardwalk and Park Place spots are taken by the Hallie Q. Brown House and Union Hall Association on Aurora Avenue and the Ober Boys Club on Saint Anthony, respectively.

“Most of the artwork we did in-house,” Palmer said. Many of the photos used came from the center’s archive. “The ones we were missing were generously provided by the Minnesota Historical Society,” he said.

During the creative process, Palmer said they asked longtime Rondo residents and supporters about their memories and insights on properties. Some of those who helped were Marvin Anderson, one of the founders of Rondo Days and the head of the Rondo Center of Diverse Expression; Jim Gerlich, who created a map of Rondo that was a major source of information; members of the Hallie Q. Brown Magnificent Golden Agers and the Hallie Q. Brown Retired Men’s Club; Nick Khaliq, a former head of the Saint Paul NAACP; and Debbie Montgomery, whose many roles included serving on the Saint Paul City Council.

Anderson, who is considered by many to be the “mayor” of Rondo, said he was extremely happy to contribute and believes Rondo-opoly will help with the understanding of the area’s importance.

“They asked me to help as an elder,” he said. “An old-timer like me knows Rondo front and back. They’ve included so many places that are important to the history of Rondo and Saint Paul—the two are so interwoven.”

According to Anderson, the original game of Monopoly was designed to teach important economic facts. “Rondo-opoly is modeled after it, but also amplifies our important history,” he said. “It’s an index to the living, breathing, economic, social and religious community that existed in Rondo.”

Palmer said the hope is that Rondo-opoly “both illustrates how much more there is to African-American history than we’re generally taught and that it’ll spark an interest in learning more about what’s in our own backyard. Too often history is overlooked or overwritten. As we increase the focus on diversity and inclusion, it’s crucial that people are aware of the lesson of Rondo, how much was lost and how resilient this community is.”

In addition to buying Rondo-opoly, Palmer hopes people will be drawn to the Hallie Q. Brown archive on the website. “We have a phenomenal African-American woman as our archivist, Kayla Jackson, who has done a tremendous job bringing the history to life,” he said.

Rondo-opoly is priced at $50, of which $25 is tax deductible. All proceeds benefit Hallie Q. Brown. For more information, visit hallieqbrown.org.

— Anne Murphy

COMMENTS TERMS OF SERVICE

MyVillager welcomes comments from readers. Please include your full name and the neighborhood in which you live. Be respectful of others and stay on topic. We reserve the right to remove any comment we deem to be profane, rude, insulting or hateful. Comments will be reviewed before being published.

Leave a Reply