Tim Layeux, like many other people, regularly haunts garage sales and estate sales for treasures. While most others look to add something to their own collections, Tim keeps an eye out for items for local historical societies.
Tim has brought us books by local authors, old yearbooks, Hornet and Cougar emblazoned clothing, advertising from long-gone local businesses and more. He also is a regular donor to surrounding historical societies.
A lifelong Edina resident, Tim can spot items that have local ties, even if the connection wouldn't be immediately obvious to others.
One of his recent finds: this tweed jacket. While it's in pretty decent shape, we would have no need for it in our collection except for one teeny thing: the label inside and the story that goes with it.
The label shows that the jacket was sold at Belleson's in Edina. Men's clothing doesn't change that much, at least to my female uneducated eye, but everything from the font to the wording on the label made me believe that the jacket was more than a few decades old.
I called Belleson's, which is still going strong at 50th and France, just a few doors down from its original location where Wes Belleson opened the store in 1948. He sold the business to his employees in 1975. Staff confirmed my suspicion that the store had long since quit using Wes' first name on its labels.
My internet search and Belleson's also verified that Griffon Clothes was no longer in business. I did see 1940s and 1950s vintage Griffon label jackets for sale on Ebay -- think "Mad Men" styled suits -- but nothing more recent.
The label's "Edina Minneapolis" (rather than Minnesota) reference is also telling. Before Southdale opened in 1956, many Edina businesses listed their location as Minneapolis, in part because of areas of Edina have Minneapolis zip codes and in part because Edina was not yet well-known. Until 1949, Edina didn't even have a high school to give it a unique identity in the metro area.
In my search for information, I found out that Wes Belleson took part in the D-Day invasion at Normandy.. I knew from our files that Wes opened his store after returning from the war, but I didn't know the details.of his military record that includes more than 30 missions as a tail gunner in in B-24 bomber.
Wes is now 90 years old and living in Florida. He just gave a great interview about his war service, so I hope to chat with him soon about his Edina roots.
I'm not done with my research, but I do know that a suit is just a suit. But a suit with a story -- now that's a garage sale find worth saving.
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It's baaaaaack... After a few weeks' lapse, I went into the files to scan more commercial photos we have from the tax assessor's office. In honor of the final days of Christmas shopping, I bring you Edina Card & Gift Shop at 50th and France.
Or more specifically, the store was located at 5004 France Avenue South, according to the ad in the 1960 phone directory.
I have to say the ad for L'Unique, a women's clothing store next door, was more... unique.
The shops are gone, the businesses as well as their buildings. This area of France Avenue is now the new building that houses Sur La Table (if the old addresses are the same as the new ones.)
Can anyone tell me more about these two businesses? The "rental library" (listed on the card shop sign) particularly intrigues me. What did the store rent? Certainly not cards or gifts. As always, feel free to comment here or email me.
Happy shopping, everyone!
Yes, you've seen a few photos of the Edina Theater. Every book about Edina history contains at least one photo of the iconic landmark shining from 50th and France. But you probably haven't seen this one.
At least, I hadn't come across the photo in my eight years as director. I "discovered" the tiny two-inch by three-inch photo, hidden away in its proper archival storage sleeve, when I was pulling another photo from the envelope. I say "discovered" because the snapshot was never lost; it just hasn't been published (as far as I can tell) since it was donated in 1996.
Arguably, there are better photos of the theater. When only one photo is used to illustrate a story, writers invariably pick one that shows the theater among the other businesses along 50th Street for context.
I will date myself and say this photo is the B-side of our theater's photographic record: good but not as commercially successful as the A-side.
I love the details in this little snapshot, like the original fancy marquee, and the movie title "Meet John Doe," which tells us this photo was probably taken in 1941. You can also see "AIR CONDITIONED" on the Brown Derby Cafe window (lower right) and "COOL" on the ticket window (lower left)....
You know, .just in case you missed the huge sign hanging front and center that proclaims, "IT'S COOL INSIDE."
Do the signs tell you that air conditioning might have been a big deal at the time? It was. The theater was one of the only, if not the first, places in town to offer a cool escape from the summer heat and the problems of the Depression and then World War II.
If I had any self-control whatsoever, I would wait to publish this post until the dog days of summer. But this fabulous picture has waited long enough to see the light of day, don't you think?
Many thanks to Bob Moore, who donated the photo from his grandfather Ben B. Moore's collection. Ben lived in the Country Club and was an active neighborhood and community booster and served on the Village Council. (If the name sounds familiar there's good reason. He donated home movie footage of St. Stephen's Church construction, mentioned here. He was also involved in the Minnehaha cascade project, described here.) His grandson Bob also is involved in Edina, serving on both the Heritage Preservation Board and the Edina Historical Society Board.
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It's hard to imagine a car lot at 50th and France these days. But Hartzell Motors occupied a good portion of the 4900 block of France Avenue for many years..
Hartzell operated businesses on both sides of the block, according to a map in the 1988 book From the Barber's Chair by Vern Swanson as told to Tom Clark. The map shows Hartzell's garage on the west side and Hartzell Motor Co. on the east side (Minneapolis).
Here are the 1959 photos from the city's tax records. The 1959 phone directory lists the Edina address as 4936 France Avenue.
The above ad from the 1959 Edina directory notes that Hartzell's has served the community for 38 years, or (if I have the math right) since 1921.
In his book, Swanson recalled that George Hartzell sold his business in 1965. "Down near Owatonna, Hartzell had a farm where he raised French cattle for beef. So he returned to the farm, but he got gored to death by one of his bulls. But I knew him real well - he was a really nice fella."
I never saw Hartzell's in operation, but many museum visitors have mentioned the 50th and France landmark business. Without further research and asking my long-time volunteers, I can't figure out the layout of these buildings. It looks like two buildings - one in the top photo and two sides of a second building in the bottom photo.
Help me out. Tell me what you remember about Hartzell's. Please comment here or send me an email.
It's almost 8 p.m. but it's still Friday and time enough for our weekly "Friday Photo." This week, the city's tax assessor files show part of the 4900 block of France Avenue. (Zipoy's grocery is at 4948 France Avenue, Edina Hardware is 4944 France.) The buildings are still the same, I think, judging from the roof line, but all the businesses have changed since this photo was taken in 1959.
What strikes me most is the size of the businesses. Instead of a warehouse food store, Zipoy's is just a little storefront. Instead of the megastore Home Depot or Lowe's, area residents had Edina Hardware. These are just small Mom and Pop businesses, where Mom and Pop lived in your neighborhood.
Can anyone tell me more about these businesses or the people who ran them? I'd love to hear from you.
Before we go any further, I just want to note the accidental alliteration, brought to you by Photo Friday and Fanny Farmer, with credit to 50th and France.
Anyway... on to this week's photo taken from our collection of City of Edina's tax assessor files.
Youngsters won't recognize the name Fanny Farmer candies, which later became Fanny Mae, which became bankrupt. But in 1959, there were three Fanny Farmer stores in Edina -- two in Southdale mall and one at the southwest corner of 50th and France (5000 France Avenue South).
The corner has been redeveloped: Sur La Table retail store occupies the corner now.
When I first started working for the Edina Historical Society, a man called to sell a carousel (if I remember correctly) that was displayed in the window. Since we don't have a budget to purchase artifacts, and he wasn't willing to donate the item, we missed out. What do you remember about Fanny Farmer candy store? I know many a hostess received a box of Fanny Farmer candies at Christmas time... what else can you tell me?
Lunds grocery store, at 50th and Halifax, has deep roots in Edina, dating back 70 years in the 50th and France business area.
The store, opening in 1941 at 3940 W. 50th Street (across the street from its current location), was then owned by the long-established Hove's chain and managed by an enterprising young man named Russell Lund.
Lund, who had worked for the Hoves since 1922, introduced “self service,” where customers selected their own groceries instead of relying on clerks to fetch them. It was a bold move (Lund worried about how customers would react to using a cart), but the manpower shortage brought on by World War II forced him to be creative.
Lund eventually bought out Hove's; see the Lunds & Byerly's web site for a brief company history.
In honor of the new season of "Dancing with the Stars," I bring you the long-time local spot to learn how to foxtrot and waltz: Arthur Murray Dance Studios. When this photo was taken in 1959, it was located at 3927 West 50th The studio must have just opened its doors in Edina - the first time it shows up in the city phone directories is in 1959.
More than 50 years later, Arthur Murray (now at 5041 France Avenue South) is still teaching Edina residents how to dance, whether they're preparing for their wedding dance or are inspired by their favorite celebrities on DWTS.
I love that this photo also happened to document a man sweeping the streets, and an Edina Police squad car, a not-built-for-speed station wagon.
This distinctive Art Deco building graced 50th Street from 1939 to 1977. It first housed a clinic owned by Dr. Reuben Erickson, who sold it in the early forties to Dr. Harry Jensen, Dr. I.H. Moore and several others. Later, it was called the Edina Eye Clinic.
In 1977, the building was torn down to make way for a retail complex that today houses the Edina Municipal Liquor Store, among other businesses. The neighboring National Tea grocery store was also torn down, and replaced by Lund's.
My source for this information comes from the excellent book From the Barber's Chair: 50th and France Avenue, 1936-1988," by long-time barber Vern Swanson as told to Tom Clark. The front part of the book contains Vern's memoir of his life as a barber, and the back contains walking tours of the 50th and France neighborhood, with historic photos. In the 23 years since the book was published, even more has changed in Edina's downtown. We're currently sold out of the book, but it is available through the Hennepin County Library system.
This building was originally called Nolan's Cafe, which opened just across from the Edina Theater in the late 1930s with a similar building style and signage. It later became known as the Edina Cafeteria, and was remodeled. Some of the original architectural details of the Art Deco style -- curved lines at the entrance and curved glass block windows in the tower -- were obscured. I'd need to do more research to determine when the restaurant closed. The site, 3926 W. 50th Street, is now filled with women's clothing boutiques.
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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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