When I was growing up, my mom would send my brothers and me to the little corner store to pick up a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread if she ran out between her weekly trips to the bigger supermarket downtown.
"The Little Store," as we called it (although that was not its real name), stocked the necessities along with penny candy and pop for the youngsters enlisted for the marketing errands. The store looked like a house, but the owners lived upstairs and operated the business on the first floor.
What store am I talking about?
Brookside area residents would probably say Docken's store, but those near Cahill might think of Cameron's. Tedman's might come to mind for those living near Valley View Road (although the owners lived behind the store, not above it.) Those who lived near the Minneapolis border might venture to Ray's Dairy store, while Morningsiders had Morningside Grocery near the northwest corner of 44th and France.
The answer: none of the above. I didn't grow up in Edina, but as you can see, the description fits nearly every little corner store that operated until 1970s or so, when two-car families became the norm and Mom could run her own errands or Dad could pick up the essentials at the gas station on his way home from work.
Docken's Community Store (as it is named in the Edina phone directories) was in a house at 4356 (later renumbered to 4360) Brookside Avenue, just north of the streetcar tracks that ran along 44th Street, making it an easy destination for commuters coming home after work. Arthur and Lila Docken operated the store from at least 1926 to 1949, when it was purchased by Jon and Eloise Garner. (Many customers pronounced the name "Gardener's" or "Gartner's," having only heard the name and not seen it spelled.)
Now the site of the Brookside Court condominiums (built in 1965), the house/store was located on the northwest corner of Brookside Avenue and 44th Street.
Jeanne Anderson from the St. Louis Park Historical Society researched the Dockens and the store, which was important to the Brookside neighborhood on both sides of the SLP-Edina border. She writes, "The Dockens reportedly owned all the land behind the store, down to the creek. People could pay a fee and picnic on the site and swim in the swimming hole upstream from the CP Rail trestle over the creek. The Dockens also kept horses on the property. The undated photo above shows two houses side by side on the property. The store itself is not pictured and would have been toward the left. Edina directories list six separate addresses on the block, although one or more of the buildings may have been a duplex."
The Garners closed up shop in 1957 or 1958, perhaps as a result of a loss of business following the end of the streetcar operation in 1954.
Unidentified woman, possibly Mickey Docken.
Those are just the highlights of the story. Prompted by questions from a researcher, Jeanne recently came over to the museum and we looked through directories and our files, as well as online newspapers to find more.
Turns out the Dockens have a long history in Edina. A society note in the Minneapolis Journal dated August 18, 1905, lists a Miss Docken as a guest at a party given by Miss M. Blanche Craik for bride-to-be Mabel Millam. Craik and Millam were names associated with the Edina Mill.
Arthur Docken had a feed store in Hopkins prior to opening his Brookside market. His children attended St. Louis Park Schools. During her junior year at the University of Minnesota, daughter Lila Agnes "Mickey" Docken was selected to be a stewardess for American Airlines. She died on January 10, 1945 in a plane crash five miles north of Lockheed Air Terminal in Burbank, California. She and the pilot, along with 21 passengers, all members of the armed forces, lost their lives.
For more information, see the St. Louis Park Historical Society web site. Jeanne also was kind enough to share her research for our files, so come on in if you want to know more. Our research is a "work in progress" and we can always learn more. Help us out. Do you know more about the Dockens or the Garners? Share your knowledge by commenting here or emailing me.
Because St. Louis Park and Edina share a border and much history, I asked my friend and colleague Jeanne Andersen, trustee with the St. Louis Park Historical Society, to contribute to our blog. Jeanne has created a website The Brookside Timeline, which will interest Brookside residents just over the border in Edina, and also maintains the St. Louis Park Historical Society website.
This is Highway 100 as it looks today in Google maps. You can drag the map in any direction to follow the route of the roadway into Edina.
The author Jeanne Anderson and her little sister Laurie taken in 1968 in their front yard, showing two of the doomed houses on the other side. Note there are no cars on the highway!
From age 4 to age 18, I lived with my family on Highway 100 in St. Louis Park, a block north of the border with Edina (which is just north of 44th Street). When my dad built our house in 1961, the road was two lanes each way; there was no wall, no fence, no median, and there were houses across the “street." We could cross at the stoplight at 41st Street at Brookside School, or take the crumbling stairs under 44th Street, but back then it was just as easy to simply run across. The speed limit was 45 and we often made left turns into our driveway. But it could be dangerous, and we often heard the squeal of tires followed by a big crash.
It sounds noisy and scary, but I loved the highway, and would sometimes sit in my front yard with my dog and wonder where all those people were going. Being interested in history, I also wondered where the road came from – was it an Indian path? Did early settlers build it?
I left St. Louis Park and eventually Minnesota for many years, but for some reason in the mid 1990s I became very interested in the topic again. The first place I went for information was to Frank Motzko, whose family of plumbers had lived a block north of us on the highway since the 1920s. I became immersed in the history of the Brookside neighborhood where I grew up, and my interest gradually grew to include the history of all of St. Louis Park. In 2002, Minnesota pulled me back, and now I live a mile away from my childhood home, where my father still lives.
Highway 100 as unpaved Aurora Avenue
I found that the history of Highway 100 in St. Louis Park actually came in two phases. The first phase was where my house was, between Excelsior Blvd. and Edina. The Brookside subdivision, on the west side, was platted in 1907 by Suburban Homes, which had bought the property from Calvin Goodrich. Suburban Homes advertised in the Minneapolis paper that it was a “creekside garden spot” as many parcels abutted Minnehaha Creek. The building of homes there was made feasible by the electric streetcar that ran down Motor Street (approximately 44th Street), allowing people to live in the suburbs and commute to work in the city. Some homes that were built that long ago still exist today. It was then that today's Highway 100 had the name of Aurora Avenue
In 1909, Browndale Park was platted on the east side of Aurora Avenue approved by the St. Louis Park Village Council with the proviso that Aurora be 30 feet wide instead of 20. The land had been the farm of Henry Brown, and it does not appear that houses were built on the east side of Aurora until after WWII. It looks like Aurora stopped at 44th Street; on the other side of the tracks was an Oddfellows Lodge, fruit orchards, and, in the early 1920s, the Country Club development.
Aurora is paved, renamed Vernon Avenue
Aurora was paved by the State for the first time in 1927. At right is a picture of Frank Motzko’s aunt standing in the graded road just before it was paved. The 1.77 mile cement road stretched from Excelsior Blvd. south to about present-day 50th Street, where it veered southwest along present-day Vernon Avenue to about where 53rd Street is today. It was three lanes wide: two lanes each way and a “suicide” turning lane in the middle, according to Frank Cardarelle, a surveyor and president of the Edina Historical Society.
I spoke to another man who was three years old and living on Aurora just south of Excelsior Blvd. when they were paving it and he remembered how his mother had to tether him to the house because he wanted to go out and play with the big trucks!
In 1933, St. Louis Park changed most of its street names, and Aurora became Vernon. It’s unclear what the Edina section was called, but at times it was Trunk Highway 5, Highway 169, and the Mankato Highway. Whether it was St. Louis Park or Edina that named it Vernon first, I don’t know, but it was part of an alphabetical sequence in the Park, if that’s a clue. 1933 was also the first year that St. Louis Park published a directory, and the map enclosed showed that section of Vernon also labeled as Highway 169. It would remain labeled so in directory maps until at least 1945, long after Highway 100 was built.
Depression project expands the "Beltway" with famed Lilac Way
The so-called second phase of Highway 100 was the “Beltway” that was built out of farmland in 1934-41 as a work program during the Great Depression. Dubbed “Lilac Way” because of the lilac trees and roadside parks that decorated it, the original section of the new highway stretched 12.5 miles from Robbinsdale to 78th Street in Edina, incorporating the older Aurora/Vernon/169 from Excelsior Blvd. to 50th Street.
The houses across from my parents’ were removed in 1968/69 and the highway, at least to 44th, was widened in 1972. Our Vernon Ave. became a service road, and my one attempt to climb the fence and run across the now freeway ripped my pants and scared me to death. Access to the highway from our house was now limited to Excelsior Blvd. or 50th Street. My dad could now pull out of his driveway without fearing for his life. A sound wall now blocks the view from the house and I miss the river of cars going who-knows-where. I love driving on it, especially when I get quizzical looks at my HIWY 100 license plates.
Edina stories: fact or fiction?
There are two stories I read or heard somewhere about the Edina stretch of Highway 100. One was that there were no roadside parks and it was not planted with lilacs or considered part of Lilac Way because of a spat between a village official and Carl Graeser, the idiosyncratic chief engineer of the Beltway. Another is that the unmarried Graeser mysteriously left all of his money to a woman from Edina when he died.
For more info
We have a ton of information about Highway 100 on our web site, at www.slphistory.org/history/highway100road.asp Additions or corrections are always appreciated; contact me by email if you have more information. Thanks to Frank Cardarelle for helping me read our 1926 highway department right-of-way map!
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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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