As Edina transitioned from a small farm town to a metropolitan suburb, residential neighborhoods grew up next to cow pastures and horses shared the road with family sedans.
Paul and Mary Carson discovered the joys of country life when they moved to Edina from Minneapolis in 1940. Their Purcell-designed home at 6001 Pine Grove Boulevard shared a border with the Anna and Carl Carlson farm, located near Vernon Avenue and Dundee Road.
"Paul and Mary told stories of how Carl's cows and sheep grazed up the hillside to the point of peering into the windows and lower level door of their new home, until they eventually fenced their property after World War II," wrote daughter Margit.
Like many early suburban residents, the Carsons tried their hand at farming, keeping a small flock of sheep for a short time and chickens and bees for several years.
Their four children - Margit, Candace, Bobb and Cary - played in the woods and skated and boated on the small pond Paul dug to catch storm water runoff.
The neighboring farm inspired Bobb to paint the view of the barn and fields for his Edina-Morningside High School art class. The family recently donated the 3 feet by 3 feet painting to the Edina Historical Society.
By the mid-1960s, the farm was gone, sold off and subdivided for residential lots. "The background noise of our childhood summers was the sound of well drilling and pounding hammers as house after house filled the fields pictured in Bobb's painting," Margit wrote.
Although the Carlson farm is gone, the Carson home remains. Designed by well-known architect William Purcell as a wedding gift to the Carsons, the property is now part of the Minnesota Land Trust that ensures that the land will remain undeveloped.
This is Southdale... before Southdale. Photographer Chester Fredon took this shot just as construction was beginning at the site, at 66th Street and France Avenues. The photo caption reads "March 16, 1955 Looking west at east side of tenant & Dayton's, Dayton's Southdale Project."
I enlarged just one small corner of the photo to see what was in the background for a visitor researching her family farm, then located just north of Southdale site on 66th Street. The Bove' family's truck farm doesn't quite appear in the photo, unfortunately. We figure it's behind the big pile of dirt on the left side of the photo. However, we had to wonder about the two-story building on the right.
I know. This is not why she came in. This did not pertain to any project I am currently working on. But we were curious. The building looked like a hotel to us, when we knew there were no hotels in that area.
We consulted a large aerial photo of the area taken in 1951, which showed a long building with a circle of small buildings in the rear (just north of 66th). We didn't get any answers from the reverse directory in the phone books for that period. (Not that surprising. In those days, some farmers still didn't have phones, and some businesses listed themselves only in the Minneapolis phone directories.)
Fortunately, Frank Cardarelle, a life-long Edina resident and a land surveyor, happened to drop in and he had the answer: Ben-Twin poultry farm. Frank went to Edina schools with the Benson twins in the 1940s and even worked there as a kid. Yes, that hotel-looking building housed the chickens and there were additional chicken coops out back.
Frank had an additional piece of trivia: the Benson twins' father owned the Covered Wagon, a famous Western-themed restaurant in downtown Minneapolis.
As it happened, the researcher had brought along a news clipping of her ancestor John Bove', who was featured because he killed a "chicken-stealing" wolf. The undated clipping from an unknown newspaper (at left) reported that after several chicken thefts in the area, Bove' followed the trail from the hen house until he sighted the animal and shot it.
"The wolf is the first to be shot this season at the city limits where wolves are rarely found at this time of year," the article stated. "Bove' today collected a $15 bounty from the County Auditor Al P. Erickson. Chicken raisers have given him an informal vote of thanks."
Although it seems shocking today, the state paid a bounty on wolves until 1956. Wolf population fell so dramatically that by 1974, killing a wolf could result in a fine of up to $20,000 or up to a year in prison or both.
As we talked with others at the museum that morning, we found out that a large commercial flower field was located north and east of the poultry business and the Peterson dairy farm operated on France Avenue just west of the mall.
You can see why scoffers questioned building a shopping mall "in the middle of nowhere," but in just a few months, the wide open farmland was filled with suburban homes, retail businesses and the Southdale medical center. If you have information or photos about any of Southdale's former neighbors, please contact me.
This time of year many Edinans head for warmer climates to golf, walk along the beach, get a little sun and open a grocery store.
OK, that last one probably only applies to one man, Jerry Paulsen, founder of Jerry's Foods in Edina.
While most people like to relax on vacation, Jerry worked during four of his winter vacations to get a supermarket built on the island.
Having wintered at the popular "snowbird" getaway for 10 years, Jerry had long seen a need for a grocery store in the area. Little did he realize that building one would take so long and meet with so much resistance.
The public, which questioned in 1983 whether the new store would change the island's character, recently named the Jerry's "Best Grocery Store on the Island." The 27,000 square foot supermarket had many features unique to the area but similar to Jerry's other stores in Minnesota. News articles went into great detail about the unheard of practice of drive-up parcel pickup.
Jerry's in Sanibel, in turn, has many features unheard of in Minnesota. The store is built on stilts 13 feet above ground level because of frequent flooding by tropical storms. Although more expensive than the typical waterproofing construction, the stilts offer the side benefit of underground parking.
The out-of-state location can sell wine, which is prohibited in Minnesota. And it does offer a sizable section of tanning aids and snacks than the Edina store - for those folks who do golf, walk along the beach and relax during their vacations.
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