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...

Minnesota’s First Vocational School

In February 1915, students poured into the first vocational school in the state. Located in the mining town of Eveleth, this school was the first education building in Minnesota to be devoted entirely to industrial subjects. The Prairie School style building was designed by William Bray and Carl Nystrom of Duluth for around $48,000. The building was constructed of gray Menominee brick and terra...

Architecture of the State – The Rochester State Hospital

In 1873, the State of Minnesota was looking for a way to house an increasingly problematic group of residents —“habitual drunkards.” In order to pay for a facility to care for these individuals, the state legislature passed a bill that year that would implement a $10 tax on all liquor dealers in the state. As you can imagine, the liquor dealers were strongly opposed...

Dirt on Their Skirts – The Minneapolis Millerettes

“It was a time when women took over men’s positions as they went off to war, not only in the field of manufacturing, but on the field of dreams.” —Annabelle Lee In 1944, a group of talented athletes took the Nicollet Park field to wild cheering from the stands. Spectators stood as the team took their places on the baseball diamond. Instead of knee...

Wilder Public Baths

It’s hard to imagine a time when taking a bath or shower in your own home wasn’t possible, but the convenience of showering on a regular basis is a modern luxury. One hundred years ago, many working-class homes in St. Paul lacked bathing facilities. People living in rooming houses and along the Mississippi flats didn’t even have running water. Public beaches were a popular...

Upper Post of Fort Snelling: Post Movie Theater

Fort Snelling was renowned for its recreational opportunities for servicemen and their families. One of the most popular activities for families was to go to the post theatre. The original theatre was nothing fancy. It was built around the turn of the century but greatly altered in the mid-1920s. The theatre was a wooden structure with hardwood floors and 12’ ceilings. The entire theatre...

Maine Prairie Corners: A Minnesota Ghost Town

A township of new settlers from Maine sprung up in Stearns County, Minnesota around 1856, but it wasn’t until 1858 that the small pioneer village officially adopted the name, Maine Prairie. During the Dakota Conflict of 1862, Maine Prairie became the site of a small log fort, known as Maine Prairie Fort. Built in August of that year, the fort was a two level,...

Upper Post of Fort Snelling: Commandant’s Residence

Without a doubt, the post commandant’s residence was the grandest of all of the homes along Officer’s Row. The Second Empire style home was nearly 7,000 square feet in size, with six bedrooms and three bathrooms. The first floor featured a large dining room, library, and two sitting rooms. A large conservatory was also located on this floor at the side of the home. The...

Minnesota’s Northwest Angle

At a glance, nothing peculiar stands out about Minnesota on a map. It’s when you take a longer look that you’ll notice it. Along the northern border there is a small piece of land that looks like it should be part of Manitoba, Canada marked as territory of Minnesota, and the United States. However, this piece of land is not physically connected to the...

Colonel Colvill of the First Minnesota

William Colvill — does that name ring a bell? Unless you’re a Civil War history buff, this name probably doesn’t mean anything to you yet. Perhaps he’s been forgotten because he was a good, simple man — hard-working and generous. He held fast to what he believed was right and stood up against wrongdoing. Perhaps it’s only natural for his name to fade into...

The Minneapolis Industrial Exposition

Minneapolis’ most prominent citizens were shocked when they learned that the Minnesota State Fair chose to take up permanent residence St. Paul. After the announcement was made, these citizens sprung into action to plan a fair in Minneapolis 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....

Upper Post of Fort Snelling: Band Barracks

The yellow brick barracks for the Fort Snelling band originally housed about 28 military musicians. Built in 1903, the barracks feature a three-story projecting bay with wooden porches on both sides on the first and second stories. The porches were originally open but the first-floor porches have now been enclosed. The second-story porches feature round, wooden columns to support the roof of the porch. Palladian...

Hamm’s Homes of Sky Blue Waters

From the Land of Sky Blue Waters, From the land of pines, lofty balsams, Comes the beer refreshing, Hamm’s the beer refreshing. The Theodore Hamm Brewing Company was established in 1865 when Theodore Hamm foreclosed on a struggling brewery in the Dayton’s Bluff area of St. Paul. After just a few years under his guidance, Hamm’s became one of the largest breweries in the...

Upper Post of Fort Snelling: Post School

Prior to Minnesota becoming a state, most of a child’s educational needs were met by either their parents or a local priest/pastor who could devote time to teaching them. Once Fort Snelling was built in the early 1800s, the wives of the post commandant and officers took up the task of teaching the children that lived at the fort. The women focused on teaching...

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 been overwhelming the company for years, so 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...