The Edina Historical Society co-sponsored a walking tour of western Morningside and Browndale Park on Tuesday (July 10). I love walking tours. Let me count the ways. Here are just a few reasons:
1. The people. Oh, I know. Historic walking tours focus on houses, but I love talking to the people who show up:
People who grew up in the neighborhood. People who live here now. People like Burt Grimes, whose ancestor Jonathan Grimes owned nearly all of Morningside in the late 1800s. People like Kate Q. who grew up in one of the first homes built after Grimes' property was platted.
2. The publicity. Forty people walking down the street captures the entire neighborhood's attention -- much more so than a 40-person event inside a building. I felt like our tour guides were the "Pied Pipers" of history, as their talk brought people out on their lawns to hear about the history of their home and neighborhood. On past walking tours (with cooler temps), our tour group grew as more and more people joined in.
3. Special access. This beautiful house is partially obscured by hedges and tall catalpa trees (built by Grimes as a horticultural experiment to introduce non-native shade trees.) With permission from the current owner (an Edina Historical Society member), our tour walked onto the private yard to get a closer look at the private residence of Browndale Park developer George Dartt.
4. The great outdoors. Let's face it, history work often means sifting through research files and cataloging and cleaning dusty old artifacts. Walking through a beautiful neighborhood on a sunny summer evening makes a nice change of pace. I've read about George Dart's home here in the historic Minneapolis Tribune, but seeing the showcase home in person adds another dimension of knowledge.
5. The partnerships. We worked with the Edina Heritage Preservation Board on the tour. Architect Peter Sussman (light blue shirt below) from the HPB Board led the tour....
... along with HPB consultant Bob Vogel (baseball cap below).
St. Louis Park Historical Society provided research materials and support as well. The Morningside Neighborhood Association and the Edina-Morningside Women's Club helped publicize the event. Everyone brought a different area of expertise, and I loved hearing their perspectives.
5. Spontaneity. This lovely home was not a scheduled stop on the tour, but the owner happened to be outside and graciously answered our questions. During the last tour, one homeowner provided an abstract to their property. Another offered lemonade.
I suppose I could have categorized each one of these reasons under the first one: "the people." While walking tours do focus on houses, people really make the difference between a good tour and a great one. Thank you to those who led the tour, provided information, allowed us access, participated, and spread the word.
We're working on future walking tours. If you would like to be put on our event email list, please email me with "walking tours" in the subject line.
What is this suburban housewife doing?
Select one. The photograph from the 1960 Edina phone directory shows her:
a. Cheering at a sports event.
b. Waving to a friend at Southdale mall.
c. Working out at an athletic club.
d. Sitting at a bus stop on her way to work.
Don't let the pencil skirt, white dress blouse and pumps fool you. The answer is c. Working out at an athletic club.
I realize unofficial dress codes have changed in the past 50 or so years. Men dressed in suits and hats to watch the Minnesota Twins when they first came to town in the 1960s. Women dressed nicer then to go to the grocery store than we do today for church. Children were forbidden to wear jeans or shorts to school.
But high heels to work out? Really?
Granted, advertising doesn't always mirror reality, but here is the proof in the 1960 ad for the St. Louis Park Sports & Health Club. Nothing like pumping iron in pumps.
The club was located at 4916 Excelsior Boulevard in St. Louis Park, but apparently attracted Edina area folks who didn't belong to the Edina Country Club or Interlachen. The club even had enough of a local connection that it was one of the sponsors for the Miss Edina pageant in 1968.
According to our friends at the St. Louis Park Historical Society, "When the Sports and Health Club opened on November 23, 1959, it was the first anyone had ever seen of a family-oriented exercise facility." As you can see from the full ad below, it had a supervised nursery, game room and canteen along with the usual exercise equipment and pool.
It looks like a nice facility. So nice that I'd almost think about wearing a skirt and pumps to work out.
I lie. The thought would never cross my mind.
Hope you enjoyed the ad as much as I did. Did you work out at the club before it moved down the street to 4900 Excelsior Boulevard in 1983? (It's now a Bally's athletic club.) The original building still exists today, as medical offices for Methodist Hospital. (See Google image below) The SLPHS web site notes, "Today a conference room sits where the pool used to be. Traces of the former use still exist in the tiled staircases on either side, leading down to what were the male and female changing rooms."
If you know anything about this building or business, please share your comments here or email me.
1. Morningside name
A couple of readers commented on the history of Morningside's moniker. (See Neighborhood names: Morningside.)
Kim Ode wrote, "I'd never seen that phone book logo and, while I figured there was a Scottish component to Morningside, I've always considered us as living on the 'morning' side of Edina, being the first to greet the sun!"
I like that. I also love that Morningside, appropriately enough, has a "Sunnyside Road" running through it.
Mollie Kennedy-Harper wrote, "Some of us occasionally refer to Morningside as 'Nordeast' Edina." Good one! (although I wonder what the Minneapolis Nordeasters would make of that.)
2. Mystery mansion in Morningside - Parbury house
I wrote about the alleged haunted mansion in Morningside more than two years ago, and it still prompts a few emails and comments, which I always enjoy. But I was especially excited to receive an email last week from an actual Parbury.
Michele Parbury wrote, "Yes, I am a Parbury, if only by marriage. My husband is the grandson of the owners. His father was raised in this house and that is his dog, Chrissy. I was so excited to find your story! I know they left sometime in the late 60's to build a home on Bull Shoals Lake in Protem, MO (near Branson)... I'm going to call my father-in-law right now!"
Michele sent me her email and we hope to exchange some information about the house, pictured here.
We also have some photos of people who we think are Parbury family members. Isn't this a sweet picture of Helen Josephine (Parbury?) and her grandpa?
3. Wooddale dancers
Susie Paplow's essay of Growing Up in Edina: Dancer's life formed at Wooddale School brought back memories for another Wooddale dancer.
Helen Akers wrote, "My goodness! What a surprise! My brother sent me this link. I attended Wooddale from K thru 5th, which would be 1958 thru...1965? I also was in the dance recitals in 1960, 61 and 62. Does anyone remember the name of our dance instructor? I can picture his face but not his name. Our principal was Van Sarff. Kindergarten was Ms. Bemis. Fourth grade was Mrs. Blashfield I think. Third...Mrs. Spalding? I remember Mr. Kenyon also. Science I think. We played jacks on the front steps of the school...I loved that school. I remember the carnivals also and yes, the school did seem to transform into a magical place!"
I have heard about Ms. Bemis from many generations of Edina students. Someday, I'll have to figure out how many decades she taught at Wooddale School. While I can't tell you that today, I do know she was a much beloved teacher, based on the reminiscences of our visitors.
4. Growing Up in Edina
Several class reunion groups have made the Edina History Museum's "Growing Up in Edina" exhibit part of their activities. Take a trip down Memory Lane yourself. Visit us free during regular museum hours, Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to noon. The display will be up until at least October.
I'm pondering the next exhibit now. I would like to say I'm "working on" the project, but I haven't moved past the thinking stage yet. I do know that the exhibit will celebrate Edina's Quasquicentennial (125th birthday) in 2013. This part of my job is very fun (and a lot of work for one person.) I could use some talented volunteers to help brainstorm and create the display. Email me or call me at the museum (612-928-4577) to find out more.
Happy Monday, everyone!
Where do you buy flowers and plants every spring?
If you lived in Edina in the 1950s, you had a number of choices. Halla Nursery stood on the same site as today's Perkin's restaurant. Savory's Greenhouse, which still operates today, sold a wide variety of plants in addition to their hostas that is their claim to fame today. Just down the road from Halla's, Greguson's Nursery operated on 14 acres across from the Biltmore Hotel.
Helmer Greguson, his wife Crystal and son Paul lived next to the business at 5125 Vernon Avenue. The business address was 52nd Street at Highway 169 (Vernon Avenue).
Here's a closer look at the building with its prominent GREGUSON NURSERY lettering on the roof.
Here's the 1959 Edina phone directory ad.
We have a larger aerial photo of Vernon Avenue business that shows the business just south of today's Jerry's Foods site. Imagine 14 acres of plants and trees on Vernon Avenue today.
Does anyone remember the Gregusons? Did they move their business elsewhere, just as Halla's did? (Halla still operates today in Chaska.) Or did they sell the land and retire? Share your knowledge with us, by commenting here or emailing me.
Happy Friday, everyone! (I'll be spending part of the weekend replace a couple of flower pots that fried in this heat.)
One of my favorite stories from our current "Growing Up in Edina" exhibit involves the annual Aqua Show at the Edina pool and a man who set himself on fire on the diving board...
Wait... I'm getting ahead of myself.
Let's start at the beginning of this story with the opening of the Edina Pool in 1958. While virtually every community now operates a pool, Edina was the first suburb in the metro area to do so.
An average of 4,000 people a day escaped the heat at Edina’s newest attraction. (Considering Edina’s population was about 20,000 in 1955, that number is even more impressive.) The pool was the place to be in the dog days of July and August, and the biggest event of the season was the annual Aqua Show.
People lined the edges of the pool...
... to watch their swim instructors and Park and Rec staff perform. Some of the acts were traditional high dives or synchronized swimming performances.
Other acts were strictly hijinks - comedy acts dreamed up by the Park Director Ken Rosland and his intrepid assistant Bob Kojetin. They'd do things like ride a bicycle into the pool while wearing a clown suit. Or pretend to be a Richfield resident bragging about his city's new pool.
Some skits involved crazy dives from the high diving board. Some involved wearing silly costumes. (Can you see the man wearing the dress and knee socks in this picture?)
And some involved setting yourself on fire.
And some involved all three. Here's Bob Kojetin wearing the skating version of his swimming costume. (Just imagine it without the tutu. Keep the wig and the striped union suit.)
Bob and Ken had an act where Bob set himself on fire....
Yes, this is the part I gasped.
And this is the part where Bob shrugged like it was no big deal. Apparently, he had done it a number of times without incident. And one time, shall we say, "with incident."
Before the act began, he doused himself with lighter fluid -- which apparently burns cleanly at a lower temperature (Side note: do not try this at home.) What's more, Bob assured me, flames burn upwards. Because he stood on his hands, the flames never touched his face and he dove into the water before they could burn through his clothes.
During the fateful performance, he stood on his hands as always at the end of the diving board. Ken lit Bob on fire but an unfortunate bounce of the diving board sent Bob off the end -- feet first.
The flames went over his head, Bob said, but they were immediately extinguished when he hit the water seconds later. He scorched his eyebrows and some of his hair, but the audience "oohed" and "ahhed" none the wiser that what they had seen did not go as choreographed.
I somehow don't think insurance policies and city regulations would allow this kind of performance today. If they did -- knowing Bob like I do -- I think he would still be diving as the human fireball at the Edina pool.
Do you remember the Edina pool Aqua Shows? (Please, please tell me you have home movie footage.) What were your favorite memories of going to the pool?
Whatever you do this scorcher of a week, have a safe and happy July 4th holiday. Historic Minnehaha Grange Hall and Cahill School will be open following the 10 a.m. parade. See where history was made in Edina, including the 1888 meeting where area farmers voted to secede from Richfield Township and form the independent village of Edina.
Added bonus: both buildings have air-conditioning.
I asked, you answered. I received a couple of responses regarding last week's post "What's going on? Captions needed," showing photos that were part of a collection donated by former Edina High School teachers Del and Lavonne Frederickson.
Jeff Thompson identified the Time cover pictured in the background: the Aug. 13, 1973 issue featuring Minnesota Governor Wendell Anderson.
While we Minnesotans were pretty proud of making national press, I was surprised that it was named one of the magazine's 10 Worst Covers. What?! Did those jealous Wisconsin-ites or Iowans skew the voting?
Judge for yourself: the article is available online at the Time website.
More importantly, Jeff could identify some of the Edina students in the photos.
The students are Polly Peterson standing on the left and her brother Mark Peterson standing in the middle. Robin Peterson who is not related is sitting in the middle. My guess is this is the Student Council in 1975.
(By the way, Polly Peterson later was crowned Miss Minnesota USA. For more about Edina's beauty pageant winners, see this post.)
With Jeff's help narrowing down the date, we can check the correct yearbook for the other names.
Another reader, Sue (Naas) Manske helped with another photo in the Frederickson collection:
Not sure if this picture was taken in 1970, but at least two of the students are from the class of 1970. Standing are Steve Precht and Dennis Hughes. I think the other 2 are from the class of '70 also....I can refer you to several people from the class of '70 that organized the last reunion and they can probably give you more names.
Sue and I exchanged emails, and we hope to have names with those faces soon.
I also have a few more people identified in a Morningside kindergarten photo (from this post.) Kirk Nelson recently identified himself (bottom row, number 6) and some of his classmates. I added the names to the list. If anyone can help identify the rest of these cute kindergartners or anyone else in our photos posted on the blog, please email me or comment on the individual post.
Thanks to all who help me with my archiving duties. Happy Monday, everyone!
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Jennifer Adam is the Executive Director of the Edina Historical Society. She welcomes your contributions. Comment on a post or send an email (see below). Traditional mail, of course, can also be sent to:
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