School Patrol Flagpole – Saint Paul, Minnesota - Atlas Obscura
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Saint Paul, Minnesota

School Patrol Flagpole

This plaque marks the spot where the first crossing guards helped get kids safely to school. 

Directly across from the Cathedral of Saint Paul is a flagpole with a small plaque commemorating an under-celebrated but still important event: the site of the first guided school crossing.

Crossing guards are ubiquitous within the United States and beyond, shepherding backpack-bearing kids across busy roads. But that wasn’t always the case.

Kids used to make their way to school unchaperoned. But as car travel became more common in the early 20th century, school officials became aware of the dangers of pedestrian travel. While adults typically looked both ways before crossing a busy street, kids tended to be a bit less cautious, putting them at serious risk.

Sister Carmela Hanggi, the principal of the school near the Cathedral of Saint Paul, organized a group of volunteer eighth-grade boys to help the younger students safely cross the street. On February 17, 1921, the guards she appointed helped students cross the street to the cathedral in the country’s first monitored school crossing. School patrols and crossing guards have been helping kids get across the street ever since.

Know Before You Go

The flagpole is on the green space across from the cathedral. You can walk by at any time.

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