Traditionally, on Photo Friday, I provide the photo and you provide the explanation. So here's a 1957 aerial photo of Southdale mall. Discuss.
Oh, all right. I'll provide a little more info. I know you all can identify the newly opened Southdale at the center of the photo, but you may not recognize the area south of the mall. Instead of the Galleria, you'll see the round Southdale Ford building, Gabbert's Furniture with the rounded arches on the roof, and at the bottom, the gravel pits. In this era when the auto was king, I see at least three gas stations and I think the Good Year tire store is at the upper right. What else do you see... or not see, as the case may be, since much of the area around the mall is still vacant.
To compare to the present day, here's the Earth view provided by Google Maps.
Okay, NOW you can discuss. Please comment here with your memories or insights about the Southdale area, then and now.
Happy Friday! The Edina History Museum is open tomorrow (Saturday), 10 a.m. to noon, if you'd like to stop in.
We played New York and Los Angeles and so many small college towns in between. We had a joke at the time -- "that town's so small John Denver's never played there." - Bill Danoff, friend and part of Denver's opening act Fat City
John Denver performed at Edina High School in the 1969-1970 school year.
Before you think that's so stereotypical Edina to book one of the top-selling artists in history, keep in mind that in 1969, John Denver was barely known. He most likely performed for free or for the opportunity to sell his albums. And based on yearbook coverage, Edina kids apparently didn't think it was a big deal at the time. The concert merited one photo (below) with no caption or further explanation.
By 1971, Denver was a household name -- in part because he played in so many small towns to build an audience in 1969 and 1970. Edina High School was hardly unique in hosting John Denver, according to this source:
"Although RCA did not actively promote Rhymes & Reasons with a tour, Denver himself embarked on an impromptu supporting tour throughout the Midwest, stopping at towns and cities as the fashion took him, offering to play free concerts at local venues. When he was successful in persuading a school, college, American Legion Hall, or local coffee-house to let him play, he would spend a day or so distributing posters in the town and could usually be counted upon to show up at the local radio station, guitar in hand, offering himself for an interview."
Edina does have one small role in Denver's career. On his way to stardom, Denver lived in Edina and wrote much of the material for his first three albums here, including his first No. 1 song, "Sunshine on My Shoulders," according to Denver's obituary written by StarTribune writer Jon Bream.
For those who weren't around in the 1974 when this song hit No. 1 on the charts, here it is. (From the John Denver Archives on YouTube) For those who were around in the 1970s, this song is no doubt burned in your memories because of its constant play.
Minnesota weather inspired the song, Denver told Bream. "It was one of those late-winter early-spring days. It was one of those cold, dreary days where everything is gray," he said. "Spring is in fact happening. That's why the song is slow and melancholy."
Several sources say that Denver and his wife Ann Martell Denver made an Edina apartment their home base while Denver was on the road from 1968 to 1971. Our phone directories from that period don't list Denver, Martell or Denver's birth name Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., so I'm guessing that he had an unlisted phone number even though he hadn't hit super stardom yet. Anyone know where he lived? (I've heard several theories.)
How did Denver, who is most associated with his adopted state of Colorado, happen to live in Minnesota?
He married a St. Peter girl Ann Martell, whom he met while on tour in 1966. "After a concert at Gustavus Adolphus College, he spotted a pretty sophomore in the student union. 'I wore blue jeans, lumberjack shirt and penny loafers. John later told me he fell in love on the spot,' recounts Annie. But it wasn't until a year later, when John was giving a concert 10 miles away, that they had their first date," People magazine reported in 1979.
The interview with the couple revealed that their years in Minnesota were not easy because of John's long absences while he toured. On top of that, John went from "obscure folkie" when they first met to an artist with gold albums, TV specials and even a part in a movie.
The change was not without benefits - the couple built their dream house in Colorado and started a family. While Annie kept the home fires burning, Denver returned to Minnesota several times for concerts. This time, instead of high school gymnasiums or college student unions, he filled the St. Paul Civic Center five times in one year, the Minneapolis Tribune reported on May 11, 1975.
Do you know where John and Annie Denver lived in Edina? Were you in the audience when Denver performed at Edina High School? Was it a bigger deal than the yearbook coverage suggests? If you can fill in the gaps of John Denver's Edina history, please email me or comment here.
If you want to research the history of your house or neighborhood, you can look through a number of public records like old maps, aerial photos, city directories and more. However, some of the most interesting records are in private collections, tucked away in scrapbooks and family photo albums.
I'm always happy when people share those private family photos with the public. Morningside residents, especially those living on the one-block long Alden Drive, should get a kick out of these photos from the Parsons family photo album. The Parsons were among the first residents in the neighborhood and helped document its history as it happened.
Janet Parsons Mackey recently sent these photos to us, with the following descriptions.
Here are three photos from my grandmother's (Clara Parsons) album.
The first one is labeled "Alden Drive," 1910.
The second one is their first house on Alden Drive. I think it was built on the upper flat part.... I don't think they had houses on the lower part until later.
The third one, labeled "when the vines had grown" in my grandmother's handwriting, is a house I can't identify. If one of you can do so, please let me know!
To answer those questions, I dug a little in our files. We happen to have quite a bit of information about Mackey's grandparents, Clara and E. Dudley Parsons, Sr., because the Parsons family were influential in Morningside's early development. The family dates back to Mackey's great-grandfather Rev. Henry Parsons and his wife Sarah, who helped establish Morningside's first church, now called the Edina-Morningside Community Church. Henry and Sarah owned five lots near their house at 4232 France Avenue.
Soon they were joined by son E. Dudley Parsons, Sr., and his wife Clara, when he got a a teaching job in North Minneapolis in 1907 (according to the Winter 2006 issue of About Town). The couple soon purchased seven lots, amounting to some 3.5 acres, near E. Dudley Sr's parents and built a house at 4220 Alden. From the street view image from Google maps (below), I believe the house with the vines is that house.
What do you think?
The bones of the house are the same, but the location is barely recognizable just over 100 years later. What was once a little farmstead is now part of the suburban landscape.
Instead of being surrounded by fellow homeowners, the Parsons "pastured cows and raised chickens and gardened vegetables to provide a significant part of their subsistence," according to the About Town story. “We used to cut all of the wood necessary to cook with and for winter heat,” Dudley Jr. remembered. “[And] we sold milk to the neighbors. I delivered the milk in shiny tin pails with tight-fitting covers.”
Mackey's grandmother Clara helped bring about the transformation from farm to suburb. Like many homeowners in Morningside's early platting, the Parsons bought their lots with an eye for future development. Many Morningside housewives sold off lots and built homes one by one to add income to the family coffers. While the husband worked in the city, the wife often served as designer and general contractor on the housing projects. Clara wrote in her letters how much she enjoyed the work:
The great joy about the building on the lot is that I do like to build and am right now having such fun getting bids from contractors. ... I talked with another contractor, this is going to be good. They each say they know just how it should be done and the other fellow doesn’t, but believe me like Johnny who can show the smallest figures is the man who gets it. This last one seems to know his business, he said “I’ll make specifications and tell you exactly what I will do and if any one is smarter than I am let him have it.” Another one is coming at 5:30 I wonder what he is like. Jensen was over this morning and Alm last evening. (undated letter to son E. Dudley Parsons, Jr.)
Unlike many post World War II neighborhoods that developed all at once, often with identical floor plans, Morningside developed piecemeal as lots were sold off by the original homeowner. I think part of the charm of the neighborhood is that houses from different styles and eras stand side by side.
While I'm fairly confident that the third photo is of 4220 Alden, I can't figure out the other two photos without additional research. Because of the neighborhood transformation with more houses, remodels, teardowns and lots of trees, it's difficult to match up the houses from the first photo. One of my volunteers is going to walk the neighborhood to see if he can find the addresses.
Soon the suburban landscape will change again, as many of the small bungalows and farmhouses built in the early 1900s are being torn down and replaced by larger homes. In fact, 4220 Alden recently sold to a developer and may be slated for demolition. The current homeowner graciously allowed Janet Mackey to walk through her grandparents' home when she visited earlier in June. She also had an opportunity to see their second home at 4210 Alden Drive built 1928. The house still stands for now.
Even though they had a hand in the transformation, the Parsons still mourned the loss of the having cows in the backyard and space all around them. E. Dudley Parsons, Sr., wrote to his son Dudley about his mixed feelings:
Just a little while ago, I went into the yard of our former residence on the hill and looked about at the trees I planted and stood on the old well platform and recalled our pumping so many thousands of strokes to fill our tank in the attic – and came away sad at the thought of leaving it to strangers, even though it seemed to pay us to do it at the time. ... Maybe I’m wrong about it as your mother thinks I am – but I can’t help the feeling of sadness.
From her and her husband's letters, we know that Clara Parsons built and designed what she called "cottages" at 4224, 4220, 4218, 4216, 4214, 4212, 4210 (their final home), 4202 Alden Drive as well as 4207 W. 42nd Street. She may have built more.
Do you have information and photos about your Edina home? Please share them with us! Email me or call me at 612-928-4577 to chat or comment here.
This is the view out my window of the Edina History Museum at Arneson Acres Park. The landscape changes from a winter wonderland to a riot of colors every year, thanks to the work of the Edina Garden Council and City Horticulturist Tim Zimmerman and his crew. These are just a few of the 28 flower beds in the park; my view doesn't take in the mall of flowers in the lower parking lot by the gazebo or the new Monarch garden just out of the frame to the left.
Sigh with me. All I have to do to relieve stress is look out my window, or if I'm feeling ambitious, stroll through the 14 acres just outside my door. Come visit the museum during regular museum hours this summer and allow some time to see the amazing flowers while you're here.
I was glad to see that the Edina Garden Council was among the garden clubs featured in today's StarTribune: "Twin Cities garden clubs retool for a new generation." EGC celebrated its 60th anniversary in December 2013 and has survived because of its efforts to change with the times. In the 1950s, EGC members enjoyed flower arranging lectures; now, the group is more interested in growing native plants. For more on the history of the club, see this timeline put together by one of its members Elizabeth Franklin. I also wrote this story for Edina Magazine on the 60-year history of EGC.
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