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...

Upper Post of Fort Snelling: Hospital Steward’s Quarters

The home for the hospital steward, the hospital’s principal non-commissioned officer, and his family sits in a small grove of trees that gives us a glimpse as to what this part of the Fort may have looked like when people lived here. If your imagination can get you past the boarded up windows and entryways, you can almost see the family sitting on the...

Upper Post of Fort Snelling

The Upper Post of Fort Snelling will be featured in a new series of posts dedicated to the buildings located to the southwest of Historic Fort Snelling. The Upper Post is comprised of World War I and II era buildings. Our new series will focus on the buildings that are still standing, as well as those that have been lost. To get us started,...

The Legendary John Beargrease

Since 1980, the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon has attracted mushers from around the world. Beginning in Duluth and running 400 miles along the north shore of Lake Superior to the Canadian border, the Beargrease is one of the longest, most grueling race routes outside of Alaska. With the 30th running of the marathon starting later this month, many people are asking “Who is...

Lost Highway 61

History buffs and curiosity seekers revel in finding a piece of the past. Stumbling across something long-forgotten is a great way to travel back in time, even if it’s only for a few moments. Thanks to the internet, the stumbling has become easier. Over the summer, Google maps helped me to stumble across an abandoned section of Highway 61. I set off on my adventure during one...

The Gales of November: Lafayette Shipwreck

One of the earliest victims of the big blow on Lake Superior in November of 1905 was the steamer Lafayette and her barge, the Manila. After passing through Soo, the Lafayette was caught west of Devil’s Island when the great storm started churning the lake into an uproar. After fighting the storm for several hours and traveling at half-speed, Captain Dell Wright was hoping to see...

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...

Secret Ruins Give Clues to an Opulent Past

Before Summit Avenue became a magnet for the state’s empire builders, St. Paul’s elite built their estates in the Sherburne Hill neighborhood (known today as Capitol Heights.) By the time construction on the State Capitol was complete, many of the 15 mansions that stood on the hill had faded into shabby gentility or been razed, leaving barely a trace of the opulent park-like neighborhood that stood...

Mary Fridley – An Inconvenient Wife

You may recognize the name Fridley because you’ve 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. And, as with many pioneer families, if you dig deep enough there is a good chance you’ll uncover secrets, wrong-doing, or...

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. It was perched atop the 14-story Northwestern...

Taconite Harbor – Lake Superior’s Once-Upon-A-Time Town

In 1957, trucks loaded with prefabricated homes rolled along Highway 61 toward a new building site just south of Schroeder. By 1990, the homes were leaving the same way they arrived. In the 1950s, business at the Erie Mining Company was booming. Taconite pellets harvested from mines in Hoyt Lakes were sent by train to the company’s loading docks–designed to be the fastest loading...

Aberdeen Hotel: The Grandest Apartment Hotel in St. Paul

The Aberdeen Hotel may not have been the first luxury apartment hotel in the Twin Cities, but it was undeniably the grandest of them all. Built in 1889 for $250,000, the hotel was located just three blocks from St. Paul’s exclusive Summit Avenue and catered to a high-end clientele seeking the comforts of home without the annoyance of keeping house. Governor John A. Johnson called...

The Gales of November: Crescent City Shipwreck

Shortly after midnight on November 28, 1905, the Crescent City dropped anchor in 90-feet of water on Lake Superior. A nor’easter began to blow and the 406-foot steamer was digging in to ride it out several miles from port in Duluth. After successfully riding the storm for three hours, a great gust of wind struck the ship’s starboard bow, pulling the anchors free from...

It Could Have Been A Ghost Town

This time of year, many city-dwellers travel south looking to take in the beauty of the season by roadtripping down through Red Wing and Wabasha to take in the fall colors of bluff country. Many pass right by a virtually undisturbed Civil War era community that is surrounded by a state park and the Mississippi River. The old town of Frontenac is now located...

A Grand Estate for the Owners of Watkins

As preservationists approached Rockledge, just south of Winona, the home’s owner, Ernest L. King Jr., shuffled to the front door and yelled, “I’m tearing it down and there’s nothing you can do about it.” Mr. King had no use for the home, but didn’t want anyone else to use it either. Holding true to his word, Rockledge was razed just before his death in...