Taconite Harbor: Lake Superior’s Ghost 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...

Little Marais Lodge: A Beacon of Charm and Elegance

If it wasn’t for a sign announcing that you’ve arrived in Little Marais, you may just zip through this little resort town on Highway 61. Scandinavian fishermen settled in the sleepy town during the late 1880s, but by the 1920s tourists began motoring their way up the north shore–looking for accommodations as they went. Small resorts and gas stations popped up along the route....

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. Constructed in 1889 for $250,000, the hotel was located just three blocks from St. Paul’s exclusive Summit Avenue and catered to a well-heeled 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 the 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...

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 within...

A Grand Estate for the Owners of Watkins

As preservationists approached Rockledge, 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 1987. In 1911, architect...

The Rise of the Selby Avenue Streetcar Line

 As the population of St. Paul grew, people began moving out of the city’s core and into quieter, cleaner residential areas west of downtown. One of the most popular areas to live in the late 1800s was the St. Anthony Hill (now known as Cathedral Hill) area. People still needed to get from their homes on top of the hill, to the offices, factories,...

The Metropolitan Hotel in St. Paul

Constructed in 1869-70, the Metropolitan Hotel once stood at the corner of Washington and Third Street in St. Paul. On June 27, 1870, proprietor Gilbert Dutcher opened the hotel in grand style and for many years the Metropolitan was identified as St. Paul’s premier hotel. Prominent local businessmen and out-of-town movers and shakers would meet at the hotel to discuss business and politics. The...

The End of the Line: Wildwood Amusement Park

Take any car for Wildwood at Wabasha and 7th Streets. Fare to Wildwood, each way, 15 cents; time, 40 minutes; distance, 12 miles. Past North St. Paul and Silver Lake, with pretty farms and ever-changing verdant pictures on all sides, the line sweeps into Wildwood, the beautiful, where one may find rest, comfort, coolness, and kindred delights of the good old summertime. – Twin...

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,...

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. Over the next 30 years, more than 5,000 bodies were buried in the cemetery. Because little thought was given to the ongoing maintenance and care of the cemetery, the grounds quickly fell into disrepair. By 1894, just over 1,300 bodies and...

Walker Art Center’s Idea House

The Walker Art Center’s Idea Houses I and II were the first fully-functional homes built by a museum in the United States. Rather than selling a product, the houses were built to promote cutting-edge ideas in modern home design and the possibilities of the future. Idea House I was constructed in 1941–the height of an extreme housing shortage prompted by the Great Depression. Idea House...

A Turn of the Century Trestle in Akeley

If you travel north on Highway 64 through central Minnesota, you will likely pass through Akeley. It is a small town of about 400 residents and nearly as many lakes. Today, it’s hard to believe this sleepy community was once a lumber boom town. The first logging camp went up around the turn of the last century on the east side of the Crow...