Fredrick C. Pillsbury Mansion in Minneapolis

The Fredrick C. Pillsbury mansion in Minneapolis was considered the finest of all of the homes in the Pillsbury family. The house was built in 1888 and designed by noted architect Leroy Buffington. It was located at 303 Tenth Street South—just across the street from his brother George’s mansion that was built nine years earlier. This 1888 drawing from Buffington shows the elaborate front door that featured panels inlaid with colored glass, metal studs, and swirling wrought-iron patterns.

Inside, the central hall led to a library, drawing room, and a dining room with a fireplace surrounded by Mexican onyx and Tiffany tiles. Fred died in the Richardsonian Romanesque home in 1892 at the age of 40. Just 38 years after being built, the mansion fell to the wrecking ball in 1916. An addition to the Curtis Hotel took its place.

District #28 School in Ramsey

The District #28 School was constructed in Ramsey in 1892 to replace a smaller, wood frame school house. Buff-colored bricks manufactured by the nearby Kelsey Brickyard cover the exterior of the school. Inside, one large classroom dominates the space. It has a pressed metal ceiling and chalkboards covering the walls. All windows and the original double entry door are arched to match the decorative brick arches above.

From 1947 until 1977 the old school house served as Ramsey’s Town Hall. One of the cloakrooms was converted into a kitchen, the chalkboards painted over, and many of the interior walls covered with fiberboard. The beautiful arched windows and front door were blocked in with plywood so rectangular windows and a standard door could be installed.

After being abandoned by the local government, the Anoka County Historical Society formed a restoration committee that concluded many of the school’s historical integrity remained intact. It was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and accepted on February 11, 1980. It continues to be one of only a handful of one room schoolhouses in Minnesota on the Register.

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Frank E. Little Mansion in Minneapolis

Frank E. Little was a partner in a Minneapolis-based real estate firm. He didn’t leave behind much of a legacy in the city he called home, but this architectural rendering of his mansion near Loring Park proves that he did alright for himself. Little’s home was located at 1414 Harmon Place—about halfway between Spruce and Willow.

Built in 1889, the home was designed by acclaimed architect Leroy Buffington. Buffington mixed design elements from Queen Anne and Shingle styles with other inspirations such as a beehive tower, checkerboard trim, tiled upper walls, and a front overhang that some have compared to a railroad lounge car.

In 1903, banker Edward W. Decker purchased the home for $10,000. Decker sold the mansion to the Luther Ford Company after constructing an automobile sales building next door. Luther Ford Company owned the property until it was razed in 1936.

Terrace Theatre Gallery

Located in Robbinsdale, the international-style Terrace Theatre opened on May 23, 1951. At the time, it was one of the most luxurious and modern theaters in the country.

The Young-Quinlan Housewarming

It was on this day ninety years ago that the doors to the Elizabeth C. Quinlan building in Minneapolis first opened its doors. It was the new home of the Young-Quinlan department store. The building was designed by residential architect Frederick L. Ackerman from New York to be a  “beautiful home” for customers to shop in. In fact, the grand opening of the building was dubbed a housewarming by Quinlan.

Thousands of people lined up along Nicollet, as well as Ninth Street, which was almost shut down to automobiles because of the crowd, for the chance at being among the first to see  Quinlan’s “perfect gem” of a building. The store would be open from 10:00 am until 5:30 pm, and again from 7:30 until 10:00 pm to allow everyone a chance to tour the store.

Minneapolis Mayor George Leach spoke at the opening ceremony and remarked that Quinlan “would always be remembered as one of the true builders of this city.” He then called for three cheers for Quinlan, which the crowd of thousands gave enthusiastically.

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Fred D. Young of the Young-Quinlan Company

While many people recognize the name Elizabeth Quinlan because of her public role and decades of leadership at the Young-Quinlan Company, few know about Fred Young.

Frederick Dean Young was born in Freeport, Illinois in 1862. By the time he was thirty years old, Young was living in Minneapolis with is mother and brother and one of the top salespeople at Goodfellow and Eastman Dry Goods. It was there that he met Elizabeth Quinlan. Young and Quinlan became good friends and he convinced her to join him in opening their own specialty shop for women. Quinlan agreed to join Fred D. Young and Company as a buyer and salesperson for three months. If it didn’t work out, she would return to her job at Goodfellow and Eastman.

Young opened his first store in a subleased corner of Vrooman’s Glove Company in the Syndicate Building. And of course, the business worked out. Young handled the business administration and advertising for the store, while Quinlan did the buying and selling. Quinlan saved her money and was able to buy an equal partnership with Young in the early 1900s. In 1903, Young recognized the “value of [Quinlan’s] name in connection with a store devoted exclusively to fashion to women,” which led him to change the name of the store to the Young-Quinlan Company.

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Elizabeth C. Quinlan Building: The Ramp

This week marks the 90th anniversary of the opening of the Elizabeth C. Quinlan building in downtown Minneapolis. The building at 901 Nicollet was home to the Young-Quinlan Department Store. I’ll be sharing interesting tidbits about the building, the store, Elizabeth Quinlan, and Fred Young all week. First up: The Ramp.

Even before the Elizabeth C. Quinlan building opened in 1926, word began to spread about the building’s underground parking ramp. The underground ramp was the one of the first of its kind in the country, and the concept was quickly copied by other retail establishments.

Quinlan asked all of her employees to refer to the underground parking as “the ramp” or “the parking floor”, and never as a parking garage. The ramp wasn’t just a convenience for Young-Quinlan customers; it was a public service as well. It was the largest parking ramp in the city with stalls for 250 automobiles. It was open twenty-four hours a day, every day. This convenience made the ramp an attractive place to park in the evenings. Anyone could park in the ramp between 6:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. for just a quarter. As an added benefit, expert washing and oiling services were offered in the ramp as well.

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Japanese Garden at Normandale Community College

Earlier this week I visited the Japanese Garden at Normandale Community College in Bloomington. The garden is only two acres in size, but there is plenty of room for quiet contemplation. It was designed by Tokyo-based garden architect Takao Watanabe and dedicated in 1976.

Visitors enter through a cedar gate and are greeted by the sound of a waterfall in the distance. The more than 300 trees in the garden require artful pruning to create an overall feeling for the landscape, and the lagoon is stocked with nearly 200 goldfish whose ancestors were brought to the garden from Loring Park Lake in Minneapolis. Two bridges cross the lagoon, one is a flat bridge, and the other is a zig-zag bridge designed so that evil spirits, who follow a straight line, cannot cross. Three hand-carved granite lanterns from Japan also dot the landscape. The Bentendo (hexagon-shaped building) and drum-shaped bridge were constructed with funds donated by Military Intelligence Service Language School veterans who were stationed at Fort Snelling during World War II as a memorial to their time spent in Minnesota. The garden is a cozy alternative to the Charlotte Partridge Ordway Japanese Garden at Como Park and well worth a trip when your spirit needs renewal.

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Schmid Farmhouse Ruins

The Schmid Farmhouse is located on a hill above Lake Minnetonka. It was constructed in 1876 by German immigrants Joseph and Benedict Schmid. Although Benedict was known to have lived in the home at one time, Joseph and his family spent the most time living and working on the 156-acre farm. Their livestock included dairy cows, horses, cattle, pigs, chickens, and sheep and the primary crops were wheat, oats, corn, hay, potatoes, and apples.

Joseph’s son, Joseph jr. began selling acreage in the 1890s after the farm was transferred to him. It wasn’t until 1905 that the farmhouse and the last of the land was sold to a nearby dairy farmer. That farmer rented the old farmhouse out to workers of his farm until 1948. Thankfully, the abandoned farmhouse was spared the wrecking ball because it was located within the private estate of professional wrestler Verne Gagne. Gagne gifted the land to be used as a park after his death. The Schmid farmhouse is now part of the Lake Minnetonka Regional Park.

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The Horatio and Charlotte Van Cleve House

On March 22, 1836, Charlotte Ouisconsin Clark married Horatio Phillips Van Cleve, a graduate of West Point Military Academy and Second Lieutenant with the United States Fifth Infantry Regiment. Horatio had been serving frontier duty at Fort Howard and Fort Winnebago in the territory that is now Wisconsin, and Charlotte lived with her parents at Fort Snelling. After their wedding, the couple moved to Davis Prairie, Missouri and later to Michigan. In 1856, they moved to Long Prairie, Minnesota where they stayed until 1861 when Horatio received an appointment as a colonel of the Second Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Horatio and Charlotte then moved to St. Anthony Falls (Minneapolis).

Horatio Van Cleve was born in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, on November 24, 1809. He was fifty-one years old when he received his appointment as colonel of the Second Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He served throughout the Civil War, and beginning in 1863, he was in charge of Union forces at Murfreesboro, Tennessee. After mustering out in 1865, he returned home to Minnesota and served as Adjutant General.

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Edith Robbins Daniel

Edith Robbins was the eldest daughter of Robbinsdale’s founder Andrew B. Robbins. She attended prep school at Macalester and Carleton Colleges, and then went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Minnesota in 1894, and a Master of Arts in 1896. For several years, Edith Robbins taught in the various grades of the public school of Robbinsdale. Her experience teaching in Robbinsdale helped her secure the position of Principal of the Madelia High School. That experience lead her back to Minneapolis where she accepted a position at East Minneapolis High School. From there, she was transferred to Central High School where she worked until her marriage to Thomas Lester Daniel in 1907. In 1920, she was elected as the School Director in Independent School District 24 in Robbinsdale. She served two, three-year terms in this position. Edith Robbins Daniel served on the Robbinsdale School Board for twenty-four years.

In addition to her work in education, Edith Robbins Daniel did extraordinary work on the home front during World War I. Under her personal supervision, several thousand garments were made from dozens of bolts of new fabric donated for the cause. Edith’s workrooms included the T. B. Walker offices at 807 Hennepin Avenue on “heatless Mondays” and the Charles Pillsbury residence, where she kept scores of sewing machines supplied with material and volunteer workers. All these garments were sent to people in need in France and Belgium.

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Hotel Del Otero on Lake Minnetonka

Lake Minnetonka’s glory days began after the Great Northern Railway extended their line into Spring Park around 1882. More than fifteen trains per day pulled into Spring Park bringing hundreds of tourists to the area. In 1885, James J. Hill began construction on the Hotel Del Otero. Visitors either arrived by steamer to the hotel’s dock, or by train. The railway depot was located just a few yards northwest of the hotel.

Hotel Del Otero was a sprawling three story structure situated on a large knoll. It boasted a large ballroom, screened promenade, and well appointed sleeping rooms. For recreation, the hotel provided sailboats, lawn bowling, croquet, private beaches, a casino, and a dancing pavilion with live music. In 1906, James J. Hill sold the hotel to George F. Hopkins and Company. Hopkins maintained the hotel, the dance pavilion, a ball park, and picnic grounds until 1918 when Adam King became the proprietor.

Hotel Del Otero burned down on July 4, 1945. The fire-scorched shell of the hotel stood as a reminder of Lake Minnetonka’s heyday well into the 1960s. Today, the Mist Apartments on Shoreline Drive occupy the site of the hotel. Just to the east were the hotel’s rental cottages, and the casino was located where the Hennepin County Water Patrol headquarters are located today. The railroad tracks were removed and turned into the Dakota Rail Trail for recreational use. 

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Dakota and Ojibwe Battle Near Anoka

On this day in 1839, Dakota warriors engaged in two battles with the Ojibwe. The first took place near the mouth of the Rum River (Anoka) near where this photo was taken. The other, at Battle Point (Stillwater), claimed many Ojibwe lives. Both of the battles together claimed more than 100 Ojibwe lives (no report on how many Dakota were lost). The Dakota spent the next month along the shores of Mde Maka Ska (Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis) honoring their victory with dancing and singing.

The Eight Days in May Protests

For many at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus, May 9, 1972 started out like any other day. The weather was much cooler than normal, so students rushed to and from their classes. The buzz on campus concerned President Nixon’s announcement that the United States would lay mines in North Vietnam’s Haiphong Harbor in an attempt to impede the supply of weapons and material to the North Vietnamese military. Later in the day, a rally against the mining was planned, along with an off-campus demonstration at the Cedar-Riverside housing development’s opening ceremony. Tension was low on campus. However, the next few days would turn into the most turbulent in the University’s history.

The rally against the mining of Haiphong Harbor was scheduled to take place at noon in front of Northrup Memorial Auditorium on May 9th. More than 250 students and faculty attended the peaceful, but enthusiastic demonstration. About ten University police officers were on hand in case of any disturbance. Meanwhile, there was a mounting concern that this group of demonstrators would meet up with a group protesting the opening of the nearby Cedar-Riverside housing development. The combined unease could lead to an unmanageable situation for University police officers.

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John S. Bradstreet – The Apostle of Good Taste

Names like Louis Comfort Tiffany and Gustav Stickley are well rooted in many American’s minds as two of the key players in interior design and the decorative arts of the early twentieth century. For the emerging upper-middle class in Minneapolis, it was a craftsman closer to home that excelled in creating handsomely-crafted pieces locally. John Bradstreet’s position as a tastemaker in the city was solidified into history when the Minneapolis Journal eulogized him in 1914 by proclaiming, “If this section of the country is to furnish a name that will be known to the America of one hundred years from today, that name is more likely to be that of John Scott Bradstreet than any other.” 

Bradstreet got his start in Minneapolis in 1878 when he established a custom furniture business partnership with Edmund Phelps. The firm grew steadily over the next five years, and their showroom eventually occupied six floors of the Syndicate Block on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis. Bradstreet wasn’t only building his business; he was earning a reputation for being the city’s leading interior decorator and furniture designer. In 1884, Phelps sold his share of the business to pursue other ventures. That same year, Bradstreet partnered with the Thurbers of Gorham Manufacturing and formed Bradstreet, Thurber, and Co.

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Kresge’s Five and Dime

A 1957 Valentine’s Day window display at Kresge’s Five and Dime in downtown Minneapolis. Kresge’s was located on Nicollet Mall, across from Donaldson’s. Kresge’s Five and Dime stores would later evolve into K-Mart.

Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society

Van Cleve Park

Ice skating at Van Cleve Park in Minneapolis in 1901. This 1.5 acre pond was created in the southern half of the park in 1890. That winter, and for several years after, the park board cleared the snow from the pond so it could serve as a skating rink in the winter. A warming house was added for skaters in 1905.

Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society

A. Knoblauch and Sons

Alois Knoblauch arrived in Minneapolis from Germany in 1854. The following year, Alois established the first shoe store in the city at 26 First Street N. Alois ran the store for more than 30 years with his sons Anton and Frank. After Alois’ death, Anton took over A. Knoblauch and Sons Fine Shoe Store. The brothers operated stores 41 Washington Avenue S, 121 Washington Avenue S, 239 Nicollet, and 514 Nicollet. They also operated shoe departments in several department stores. In 1911, Anton and Frank decided to dispose of their shoe business. Anton went on to a career in real estate investment.

Lilac Way: Showcase of the Belt Line

Although it’s difficult to tell now, Highway 100 in the west metro was once one of the most beautiful and serene roads in the nation. The roadway was conceived just after the start of the Great Depression as a joint venture between the National Recovery Work Relief Program (which would later become the Works Progress Administration) and the Minnesota Highway Department. Highway 100 would be the first piece of a larger road system that would bypass the Twin Cities, called the Belt Line. This western portion of the project would be the showcase section because of its innovative design and thoughtful landscaping.

Turnblad’s Painted Window

This hand-blown, enamel-painted window can be seen on the grand stairway landing of the American Swedish Institute (formerly the Turnblad mansion). The ornate window is a reproduction of the painting Valdemar IV Atterdag Holding Visby to Ransom by Carl Gustaf Hellqvist. The Danish King Valdemar IV is seen sitting on his throne to the right with his army in the background. The Danish have threatened to destroy the town of Visby, Sweden unless the citizens give up all their valuable possessions. The mayor of Visby is seen in the center with his fist clenched. His beautiful wife is by his side looking toward the heavens for divine intervention. The original painting was too small to be placed in the space allowed for the window, so the craftsman extended the length by placing himself in the artwork on the left side.

The Nankin Cafe

The Nankin Cafe was a downtown Minneapolis landmark for over 80 years. Founder Walter James opened the Chinese restaurant at 14 South Seventh Street in 1919. The restaurant’s popularity soared — customers would come from all over the upper midwest to eat at the Nankin. In the 1950s, the Nankin moved into a larger space across the street and then relocated to City Center in the 1980s. The 1990s were troublesome for the restaurant — a labor strike and a drug raid where 19 customers and staff were arrested damaged the Nankin’s reputation. Customers that once flocked to the best Chinese restaurant in the midwest began avoiding the Nankin. The restaurant was forced to close in 1999.

This postcard shows what the first and second level dining rooms looked like in the mid-1920s.

A Daring Robbery

The Queen’s float at the Anoka Street Carnival on October 13, 1906. Queen Margaret Saunders and King Robert Streetly are seated in the back of the float.

A daring robbery took place during the street carnival that year. At around 9:00 p.m., while most of the town people were gathered on Main Street to watch the carnival, two masked men with revolvers attacked the operator at the Northern Pacific Railroad Depot. The operator had been working at his desk when he heard two men enter the waiting room. A moment later he looked up to find the two masked men pointing their revolvers at him and demanding that he open the till. They removed $39 from the drawer and ran out of the building.

Photo courtesy of the Anoka County Historical Society

The Minneapolis Industrial Exposition

Minneapolis’ most prominent citizens were shocked to learn that the Minnesota State Fair would take up permanent residence St. Paul. When the announcement was made, these citizens sprung into action to plan a fair in their city to rival the one in St. Paul. In 1885 the idea was born to create an exposition centered around industry and technology instead of around agriculture. Minneapolitans rallied around the idea that industry and technology were the future of Minnesota, and agriculture was the past.

By December 15, 1885 supporters had raised over $250,000 in public funds and began discussing where to build a modern building to house the exposition. Eventually, the site of the Winslow House Hotel in southeast Minneapolis was chosen and the hotel was quickly razed so construction could begin as soon as possible. The committee in charge of planning the exposition wanted the first fair to begin in August 1886 — so they had less than nine months to construct the building and create exhibits for the fair. The design of Isaac Hodgson and Son was chosen and the cornerstone was set on May 29, 1886 with much fanfare. The idea of the exposition and the modern building were so popular with the citizens of Minneapolis that over 5,000 people attended the public ceremony.

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How Betty Crocker Became America’s First Lady of Food

Betty Crocker was born in a boardroom of The Washburn Crosby Company of Minneapolis in 1921. A flood of questions from the public about baking had overwhelmed the company. In a brilliant marketing move, Washburn Crosby created a personality to answer all of the inquiries individually. They combined the last name of a recently retired company executive, William Crocker, with the first name Betty because it was thought to sound warm and friendly. Next, they decided that it would be more intimate to sign responses with Betty’s name in handwriting rather than a typed valediction. Betty Crocker’s signature came from a secretary who won a contest among the female employees of Washburn Crosby. That signature is still used as Betty’s today.

In 1924, Betty Crocker acquired a voice with the radio debut of the nation’s first cooking show on WCCO radio. The Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air became such a big hit that it expanded to thirteen other regional radio stations. Each station had their own “Betty” who read from a script produced in Minneapolis. The Betty Crocker School of the Air ran for twenty-four years, making it one of the longest running radio shows in history. In 1928, the top six milling companies, including the Washburn Crosby Company, merged together to form one — General Mills.

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Quinlan’s Renaissance Revival Palace

Elizabeth C. Quinlan was the cofounder of the Young-Quinlan Department Store in downtown Minneapolis. The popularity of her store was due, in large part, to offering exceptionally-made clothing and accessories to not only the elite women of Minneapolis, but also to the upper-middle class. The lower cost of ready-to-wear clothing meant that upper-middle class women could buy off the rack — thus having more than a handful of outfits for each season, and a quick and easy way to obtain the latest fashions. Quinlan’s enormous success enabled her to do many things that most women during this time could not. At the height of her success, she built a beautiful home for herself and her sister, Annie. Their Minneapolis home would become a top address on the Twin Cities movers-and-shakers circuit.

After their mother’s death in 1914, the Quinlan sisters lived in rented apartments, including 1770 Hennepin Avenue and The Leamington — a swish residence hotel at 10th and Third Avenue S.  Annie, who owned the corset shop at Young-Quinlan, and Elizabeth decided to build a comfortable home for themselves in the prestigious Lowry Hill neighborhood in Minneapolis. Together, they purchased two-and-a-half city lots on Emerson Avenue S and set about finding an architect to build their dream home. Elizabeth knew New York architect Frederick Ackerman through his wife. Ackerman was a Cornell graduate and had studied architecture in Paris for two years before earning a reputation for building beautifully private country residences.

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Elizabeth Quinlan – The Queen of Minneapolis

In an age before women had the right to vote, Elizabeth C. Quinlan was a natural entrepreneur who had a business acumen that rivaled most men of her era. Quinlan made a name for herself by buying and selling the finest ready-to-wear clothing and accessories in downtown Minneapolis. Her innovative retailing ideas were copied by merchants from coast to coast. An acute business sense and cutting-edge fashion instinct made her hugely successful, but it was her warm and witty personality that made her the queen of Minneapolis.

Born in Madison, Wisconsin to Irish immigrant parents in 1863, Elizabeth C. Quinlan started working for Minneapolis’ leading dry goods store, Goodfellow and Eastman, at the age of sixteen. Over the next fifteen years, Quinlan would go from earning ten dollars per week to becoming the store’s top-earning sales person—making more than any of her male colleagues.

While working at Goodfellow and Eastman, fate dealt Quinlan a life-changing opportunity in the form of Fred D. Young, the store’s second most successful sales person, and her close friend. Together, they dreamed of opening an exclusive salon selling only the finest silks, satins, and furs. Young said that he wanted to open a store and begin “clothing the women of the northwest in a manner to make Paris fashionistas sit up and take notice.”

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The Brickyards of Coon Rapids

The first road through Anoka County was established in 1835 to aid those traveling between Minneapolis and Anoka. The road was commonly known as the Red River Ox Cart Trail, now East River Road and Coon Rapids Boulevard, followed the Mississippi River north before turning toward Anoka. The journey took about two days by horse or wagon and rambled through farmland, forest, and peat bogs. Along this road is where the first locally based industry in Coon Rapids was located – the brickyards. Today, barely a trace of the brickyards remain. But for the curious, a few clues can still be found.

The first brickyard in Coon Rapids was the Anoka Pressed Brick and Terra Cotta Company. In 1881 Dr. D.C. Dunham located a large deposit of red clay not far off of the Red River Ox Cart Trail. The company only employed a handful of workers. Even though they used the best machinery of the day, it was still an extremely laborious job. Workers dug clay from a pit by hand and used a crane to bring it to the surface. After being excavated, the clay would be transported on a on a track, unloaded, mixed with water, and then sent through a machine with rollers that would compact it into a ribbon as thick as brick. Wires were used to cut individual brick lengths from the ribbon of clay. The bricks were then piled by hand and fan dried with hot air until the outside was dry and set. Finally, the bricks were placed in a large coal-fired kiln where the brick was burned. It would take several days for the fires to temper the brick. When the process was complete, each brick weighed about 5.5 lbs.

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Mary Fridley – An Inconvenient Wife

You may recognize the name Fridley by having passed through the northern suburb of Minneapolis while driving along 694, or recognize it as the home to the corporate behemoth Medtronic. But, as with most cities in Minnesota, there is a pioneer family behind the name. As with many early families, if you dig deep enough there is a good chance you’ll uncover secrets, wrong-doing, or tragedy. The Fridley family was victim to the worst tragedy – murder.

Mary Fridley was the granddaughter of Abram and Betsey Fridley. Abram was a Winnebago Indian agent, lawyer, Minnesota territorial and state legislator, farmer, merchant, and land agent of the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad Company. Holding both wealth and power, the town of Manomin was newly named Fridley Township in 1879 to honor the first territorial representative for the area. Mary’s father, David, was a grocer and land owner in what now comprises the cities of Fridley, Columbia Heights, Hilltop, Spring Lake Park, and part of Northeast Minneapolis. Mary was raised with wealth and refinement but lacked the physical qualities that would land her a husband at an agreeable age. She was often referred to as being slight, pale, and boring, but managed to hold a job as a teacher at Adams School for several years. When traveling salesman Frederick T. Price entered the picture, Mary was perhaps too eager to overlook his two previous marriages and criminal past for love. In 1907, at the age of 28, Mary and Fred were married and set up in Mary’s spacious apartment on Knox Avenue N in Minneapolis.

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Wonderland’s Glass Castles

At the turn of the 20th century, urban amusement parks were a popular form of communal entertainment. Throughout the country, parks modeled after Coney Island in New York were popping up in most major cities. Attractions varied from city to city, but most featured a roller coaster, carousel, an aerial swing for thrill-seekers, a dancing pavilion for couples and teenagers, flower gardens and picnic spaces for families, and an electrically lit tower that could be seen for miles to guide crowds to the park.

Mr. Weatherball

When the Weatherball is glowing red, warmer weather’s just ahead.
When the Weatherball is shining white, colder weather is in sight.
When the Weatherball is wearing green, no weather changes are foreseen.
Colors blinking by night and day say, precipitation’s on the way.

On Thanksgiving Day in 1982 Minneapolis lost one of its most enduring landmarks, the Weatherball, which was perched atop of the 14-story Northwestern National Bank building at 600 Marquette Avenue. The Weatherball was a fixture in the sky for 33 years and could be seen from 15 miles away at night – there was no excuse for weather-cautious Minneapolitans to be caught unaware. A sing-along advertising jingle made the forecast easy to remember. Red meant warmer weather ahead, white meant colder, if it was blinking there was probably going to be some precipitation moving in, and green mean that you could expect more of the same.

Unveiled with great fanfare on October 7, 1949, it was hailed as the tallest lighted sign between Chicago and the West Coast. The base of the sphere sat 367-feet above the street and was the topmost feature of a 78-ton illuminated sign that flashed “NW” in 30-foot letters, followed by “BANK” in 13-foot type. The Weatherball was illuminated by 1¼ miles of neon tubing and built to withstand winds of up to 140 miles-per-hour. In fact, it survived hurricane-force winds just three days after it began operating.

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Tangletown’s Guardians of Health

The Washburn water tower sits on a hill in the heart of the Washburn Park (commonly known as Tangletown) neighborhood. It is  surrounded by winding city streets and picturesque south Minneapolis homes. It is hardly forgotten – quite the opposite really. An online image search will load hundreds of images from numerous vantage points, photos from every season, black and white, color… it’s all there. However, for me, this is a perfect representation of something which is often forgotten – a beautifully designed municipal structure.

In the early 1930s the City of Minneapolis decided to replace the aging water tower originally on the hill with something larger to accommodate the growing population south of the city. Upon hearing this, three notable professionals from the neighborhood decided to lend their expertise in designing and engineering the new tower. Their idea was simple – if the community needed a larger water tower, and it was going to be in their backyard, why not make it a work of art? Why not take a functional public structure and turn it into into a community treasure?

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The Original Plan for the Anoka Asylum

The serene group of cottages around a horseshoe shaped drive that we see today was not the first plan for the new asylum in Anoka. The original architect, Warren B. Dunnell, had a different vision for the site.

Dunnell, a Minneapolis-based architect, was probably best known as the architect of the Fergus Falls State Hospital, the State School for Dependent & Neglected Children in Owatonna, and the Metropolitan Opera House in Grand Forks. His plans for the Hospital for the Insane at Anoka in 1897 followed a modified cottage plan which specified the buildings remain rather plain with a touch of modern gothic architecture.

According to a Minneapolis Tribune article from January 10, 1897, Dunnell took in to account, no doubt due to the devastating fire in which 18 patients were burned to death at the St. Peter State Hospital in 1880, the safety of the buildings and the patients in them. His design called for the buildings to be made of brick or stone and not more than two stories high. Dunnell’s plans also proposed that the buildings be connected by a narrow, one story corridor to make each cottage feel separate – but still facilitate moving patients and staff around the complex.

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Maple Hill Cemetery

Dedicated in 1857, the rolling slopes of Maple Hill became the final resting place of early settlers of Minneapolis, and Civil War veterans. During the first 30 years, over 5,000 bodies were buried here. Without much thought to perpetual care at the cemetery, the grounds fell into disrepair.

By 1894, 1,321 bodies and 82 monuments had been moved to the Lakewood and Hillside Cemeteries. The rest were left neglected and uncared for in a now abandoned cemetery. In 1908 the Minneapolis Park Board had taken possession of the land with the intent of keeping the cemetery intact, but neighborhood residents complained that the cemetery had become an eyesore and so neglected that many caskets were exposed to view. As the debate on how to handle the cemetery raged, neighbors fed up with the inaction took it upon themselves to do something about it.

One day, the residents woke up to find the cemetery cleared of debris and most of its remaining tombstones. They had been carried away by the cart full and dumped in a nearby ditch. City officials were outraged that memorials to Civil War veterans had also been dumped. Police vowed to find and prosecute the men involved. In 1916, George T. Frost and Frank O. Hammer were arrested on suspicion of destroying and dumping the monuments, but a jury acquitted them of the charge. By this time the cemetery had been improved and became a neighborhood park. A fence was placed around the few remaining Civil War area monuments to protect them from vandalism but it was removed in the 1920s due to lack of money to repair it.

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Walker Art Center’s Idea House

An explosion of interest in domestic design took place in the early 1940s. Families were becoming interested in the benefits of open and efficient home planning and the practicality of cutting-edge features. In June of 1941, the Walker Art Center opened an ambitious exhibit to the public – a full-scale, fully functional house that would demonstrate the advantages of modern design by utilizing standard building materials and mass-produced furnishings. The project sought to show that quality design was attainable for the middle-class. The exhibit was known as Idea House I.

Over 20,000 visitors toured Idea House I. The exhibit created discussion in the community about how modern features could be integrated into existing homes. Ladies were often heard discussing the features that they were the most impressed with, and those they didn’t find very practical, at lunch counters around the city.

By 1947, the post-war boom had brought modern living to the forefront of the American dream, as well as the technology to vastly improve on amenities designed before the war. To showcase the new wave of modern design, the Walker opened Idea House II on a patch of wooded land behind the Walker, near Idea House I. It contained many innovative features such as a kitchen with stainless steel walls and electric appliances, an open floorplan in which the living and dining spaces flowed into each other, a two compartment bathroom, floor-to-ceiling windows that made the most of natural light, and the concept of a children’s apartment. Many features of this modern living house would make their way into homes built in the decades that followed.

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