Minneapolis and St. Paul consistently rank among the top cities for "most literate." We read. A lot. I suspect that part of the reason are weeks like this past one -- with below zero temps, wind chill advisories, snow, sleet and slick roads. What better thing to do than curl up in a blanket with a book?
While the rest of America has been reading 50 Shades of Grey or perhaps the Lincoln biography, I have tried to catch up on history reading for the museum, such as this memoir From Danmark to America: The American Dream recently donated by a former resident Paul A. Thompsen.
Paul chronicles his family roots in Denmark and the hardships his immigrant "parents endured so that we could have greater opportunities that weren't available to them in the old country," Paul wrote in a letter to the Historical Society.
On Dec. 29, 1937, when Paul was two years old, his parents bought a farm in the Cahill district of Edina. "Our farm sat just below the highest point on Valley View Road which provided a beautiful view of the valley and rich farm land. The southernmost property line was at the intersection of Antrim Road and Valley Road. The location of the house and farm buildings was about where Lois Lane and Valley View Road intersect today." (See Google map.)
Here's an aerial of the farm in 1947, courtesy NETR Online Historic Aerials. You can go to the web site and zoom in, as well as look at the development of the land throughout the years.
The Thompsen farm, located in the Irish Cahill community, became a gathering spot for Danish immigrants living in the metro area. Every June, the Thompsens hosted the annual Fugle Skydning festival, which commemorated bird hunting. One year, the shooting drew the attention of Edina police who "tried to confiscate the guns to halt the shooting but when they found out all the action was on our property with safety precautions observed, they had to apologize and leave," Paul wrote.
Paul included some great photos of the farm, his one-room Cahill School and classmates, and family gatherings.
I enjoyed Paul's descriptions of life on the farm, which didn't have electricity until 1941.
At the same time, the Thompsens installed an indoor bathroom for the first time with running water, a toilet and a bathtub. "No more outhouse, thank heavens!" Paul writes. "Prior to electricity, we had to the pump house to draw the water, about 125 feet away. Then we had to carry the water to the house for drinking, cleaning or bathing."
On Aug. 1, 1942, a lightning bolt struck one of the barns, filled with 5,000 bales of hay, and set the building ablaze. The Hopkins and Edina fire trucks had to drive to Nine Mile Creek about a half-mile away to keep refilling their tanks. They could do little but prevent the house from catching fire, and two barns burned to the ground.
Despite the setback, Thompsens rebuilt and paid off the farm in 1944, and Paul's father "considered becoming a gentleman farmer." Within a few months, however, he was feeling unwell and sought out a chiropractor. He died at age 56 after climbing the stairs to his first appointment.
Paul was just nine years old, with three older sisters. Although the family tried to continue farming with the help of hired hands, the farm was sold in 1946 and the family moved to 5255 France Avenue in Minneapolis.
I enjoyed the memoir as much as any bestselling novel. The self-published book isn't for sale, but can be read during regular museum hours at the Edina History Museum.
Paul now lives in San Diego and when he called recently, he (like every warm weather transplant I have ever met) asked about the weather, "It's 70 degrees here... what's it like in Minnesota?" This week, I'd have to say, "Good reading weather."
Looking the Edina tax assessor files to find interesting photos for you today, I found several images of farmhouses and barns in 1959. This is a part of Edina's history that always surprises museum visitors, who don't realize how long the community had open farmland. Although residential neighborhoods sprouted up around Southdale mall after it opened in 1956, much of Edina was still undeveloped more than a decade later.
Pederson Dairy, located in far western Edina at the Hopkins border, was still part of the rural landscape in 1959. The dairy operation was operated by two brothers, one on the Hopkins side of what is now Highway 169 and one on the Edina side. They were located just south of what is called 7th Street in Hopkins (or Interlachen Boulevard in Edina).
I like the U.S. Mail car in the driveway. Here is the barn....
... and the house.
Albert E. and Violet Pederson lived here with their 17-year-old daughter Jeannette in 1959. They also had a son Earl and daughter Lois, who attended Hopkins schools. The northwest corner of Edina is part of the Hopkins School District, and as a result, many people consider themselves Hopkins residents although their address and tax records put them in Edina.
The 1959 phone directory listed the address as 707 Washington Avenue, which confused me because that would have put the dairy right in the West Minneapolis Heights neighborhood, just north of Maloney Avenue and what is now Van Valkenburg Park. This is one of Edina's oldest neighborhoods, so it didn't make sense to me that a dairy (presumably with a large acreage) would be located there.
So...I did some internet searching to find the family. I located son Earl, a 1951 Hopkins High graduate who still lives in Hopkins, who gave me the location of the farm and some history.
He told me his dad had 70 head of cattle on 160 acres; his uncle lived in the original Pederson homestead across the street in Hopkins on 20 acres. The Pedersons processed and bottled their own milk as well as product from Twin Cities dairy farms, and distributed the milk through Norris Creamery. In 1946, the Pedersons sold much of their land but continued processing milk until 1966.
In my research, I also discovered that an obituary for one of the daughters, Lois Pederson, who was hired as an Edina School District bus driver in 1967, one of only two female drivers who qualified in Minnesota. She safely chauffeured children for the next 11 years. She moved to Arizona in 1978 and began an 18-year career as a Phoenix Transit city bus driver and later proudly served as a driver for the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, UT.
And here I was only going to publish photos on "Photo Friday." My quick and easy Friday blog post turned into a lengthy research quest today because of the confusing address change, but I'm glad I learned more about this Edina business.
To envision how much Edina has changed over the past few decades, drive along 78th street near Highway 100 and look north. Instead of office buildings and businesses, in the 1950s you would see a scene like the one pictured above.
The Bernie Nelson family operated a dairy farm on land bounded on the east and west by Highway 100 and Cahill Road and the north and south by 70th and 78th Streets. I haven't driven by recently to compare views but Steve Nelson, whose grandparents owned the farm, said the stand of trees (in the background of this picture) can still be seen on the west side of Highway 100 on 70th Street.
The land was known as Hill Home Farm. Steve has another photo that clearly shows why. A beautiful home sits at the top of a hill overlooking pasture and the barn. The family plans to donate a decorative iron gate that was at the entrance of the property as well as more photos.
To some, the 1950s isn't "historic" because they lived through those times. I happen to disagree. As this photo shows, dairy cows and barns are no longer part of the landscape in Edina. We collect items from each chapter of Edina's history, even as the page has just been turned.
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