Ramsey County History – Winter 2019: “Eliza Edgerton Newport and St. Paul’s Floating Bethel, 1891-1903”

Christine Podas-Larson

Eliza Edgerton Newport and St. Paul’s Floating Bethel, 1891-1903
Author: Christine Podas-Larson

Eliza Newport knew how to get things done. The well-educated and well-connected St. Paul resident led many charitable organizations and community efforts throughout her lifetime, but one that was especially dear to her was the city’s Floating Bethel, a refuge for the working poor that was docked off Sibley Street on the Mississippi. Newport recognized the dignity of those in need, and over thirteen years, organized committees to provide educational, vocational, and religious instruction for the guests. She thought of everything: clean beds, wholesome meals, daily baths, afternoon teas, and clubs for boys and girls. Not even a fire aboard the ship could stop her. Rather, she was more determined than ever to rally the community for donations to rebuild. Eventually, though, a deteriorating neighborhood, complaints from some businesses, and another accident led to the boat’s demise. But the legacy of the Floating Bethel lives on today through the Bethel Hotel, a transitional housing program for men run by Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities. Mrs. Newport would be pleased.
PDF of C. Podas-Larson article