History Highlights from the St. Louis Park Historical Society

Significant tidbits from the St. Louis Park Historical Society.

Remember encyclopedias—those hardbound volumes of compiled information about everything from A to Z? With the arrival of the Internet and the advent of Wikipedia, a web-based collection of knowledge that readers can edit or contribute to, encylopedias are often relegated to the library shelves, but it never hurts to go a little old-school every once in a while. With the help of the St. Louis Park Historical Society, we present to you a St. Louis Park-a-pedia, tidbits of historical significance for inquiring minds.St. Louis Park~ A railroad town whose founders hoped linking its name to a railroad line would establish the small village as a center of trade and industry. A deal between the city and the Minneapolis and St. Louis railway included the building of a depot in exchange for the village adopting the railroad’s name.   Nordic Tower~ Not just advertising for America’s finest kitchenware. This 122-foot-high poured-concrete grain elevator built in 1899 was the first of its kind in the United States. The structure was originally commissioned by Frank Hutchinson Peavey in an effort to reduce fire risks associated with wooden grain elevators but was filled only once. In the 1950s, the tower became the property of Lumber Stores Inc. and was later sold to Northland Aluminum (Nordic Ware) in 1969. Renovations were made to shore up the aging tower and it was placed on a list of historic places with the Department of the Interior in 1978.   Roadside Parks~A 1939 phenomenon consisting of a half-dozen parks along a 12-mile stretch of Highway 100. The growing popularity of car travel brought families to the highway for road trips and roadside picnicking. The roadside parks were designed to create a rustic ambience and were built with native materials. Hand-crafted stone picnic tables and fireplaces were among the amenities in the parks. Only one of these historic roadside parks remains, the renovated and renamed Lilac Park, previously called St. Louis Park Roadside Park, at Highway 100 and Minnetonka Boulevard where visitors will find an original stone barbecue grill called a “beehive.”   Roller Garden~  Decades of roller skating fun have occurred in this classic setting, but the building was originally constructed as an indoor horse arena in 1930. Pastime Arena and Indoor Riding Academy was the first permanent building outside of the Minnesota State Fairgrounds for holding horse shows in the Twin Cities, but its dirt floor was occasionally flooded to accommodate ice skaters. A wooden floor came later, and the building would become home to a tennis club, weekend roller skating and dances at what was once called “a rock and roll” dance venue. But roller skating is the activity with longevity at the Roller Garden. Next time you’re bopping to the beat on eight wheels at the Roller Garden, remember all the St. Louis Park history—including hay—beneath your skates.   T.B. Walker~ A transplant from Ohio who made his fortune logging in Minnesota. Walker’s business dealings involved the purchase of 1,700 acres of land in St. Louis Park that is still known today as the industrial circle. Walker had groundbreaking ideas in urban planning, dividing industrial from residential zones. Although Walker’s desire to develop his own company town was crushed under the weight of an economic depression in 1893, his work had the long-term benefit of bringing a lot of business into the area. Today, Walker’s name is most widely associated with the Walker Art Center, which was originally funded by the T.B. Walker Foundation.   Monitor Drill~ Joining agriculture and industry, Monitor Drill was a manufacturer of farm fertilizer drills and other machinery. A major employer in St. Louis Park from 1892 to 1929, Monitor Drill employed more than 300 factory workers at its peak of production and is considered a driving force in the community for more than a generation.   Jorvig Park~ The first suburban park outside of Minneapolis and home to the historic Milwaukee Road Depot. The park is named for longtime council member Torval Jorvig, who served the city of St. Louis Park from 1934 to 1961. Jorvig was known to be against the consumption of liquor and the carousing often associated with overindulgence. It is said he voted against most liquor licenses and would head down to Excelsior Boulevard with a fellow council member to make sure the bars closed on time.   Methodist Hospital~ The first hospital built in the Twin Cities suburbs. Methodist Hospital was constructed in the 1950s, an offshoot of Asbury Hospital, founded in 1892 in Minneapolis. Asbury Hospital was experiencing a baby boom and took a risk in building a facility so far out of town. More than 50 years later, Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital is renowned for high-quality patient care, medical expertise and disease management.  St. Louis Park Historical Society~An organization formed in 1971 with the purpose of discovering, preserving and disseminating knowledge about the history of St. Louis Park. Founder Marie Hartmann led the society from its inception until her death in 1996.   Three years prior to the founding of the St. Louis Park Historical Society, Hartmann led the charge to save the Milwaukee Road Depot from demolition. The historic depot, built in 1887, is the first property in St. Louis Park to be listed on the Register of National Historic Places. The building is now used exclusively by the St. Louis Park Historical Society and is open to the public on Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m. from June to mid-September.   For more detailed historical information about St. Louis Park, visit the depot or the historical society’s website at slphistory.org. The St. Louis Park Historical Society meets on the first Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at Lenox Community Center from October through May and at 7 p.m. at the depot from June through September. The public is encouraged to participate in the preservation of St. Louis Park history.   SIDEBAR: Park-a-pedia Trivia~   1). Which of these famous people did not hail from St. Louis Park? a.      Ethan Coen          Al Franken          Al Gore             Harry Reasoner   2). Circle the names of the four historic railroad lines that came through St. Louis Park. a.       Dan Patch          Pacific           Milwaukee Road          Great Northern          Minneapolis and St. Louis   3). Who was St. Louis Park’s first woman mayor? a.      Dorothea Nelson         Evelyn Raymond          Angie Dickenson         Phyllis McQuaid   4). What innovative and iconic kitchen product is Nordic Ware known for? a.      Bundt pan          Squeezy Freezy Slushie Maker          Ginsu knives          Mini Muffin pan  Answers:  1) c. 2) b.  3) d. 4) a.