Some people know the name "Gus Young" only because of the street named after him in Edina. Lately, I have received a couple of emails from people asking who the man is behind the name. Here's one research request: Wondering if there is much information in the archives about the life and career of Gus Young, for whom Gus Young Lane in Edina is named. I'm aware that Gus Young's Biltmore Lanes (bowling alley) stood at that site for many years, and I would be interested in any additional information you might have.
Let's start by looking where Gus Young Lane is today, courtesy of Google maps.
And here's the area when Gus Young owned the Biltmore Lanes in the 1950s.
(I wrote about this area for our regular monthly feature, "Last Glance," in Edina Magazine. See article here in the June 2012 issue.)
And here is an ad from the 1959 Edina phone directory.
I wrote a little about Gus Young for a past exhibit on early suburban Edina:
The name on the sign might have been “Biltmore Lanes” but the Grandview area bowling alley was more commonly known as Gus Young’s. Gus made his claim to fame first by coaching at several high schools, as well as Carleton College and the University of Minnesota. He finished his coaching career at Gustavus Adolphus by dethroning the Hamline Pipers and winning MIAC basketball championships in 1954-1956.
“Biltmore Lanes was one of the most modern centers in the Twin Cities at the time,” according to Minnesota Bowling web site, with 32 lanes, automatic pinsetters, and lighted telescores. In the late 60’s and early 70’s, Biltmore Lanes included a Pro Shop operated by Twin Cities bowling legend, Leo Mann.
“Gus was a decent bowler, but his contribution to the sport went beyond his skills. Gus believed in the value youth sports, whether it be bowling, basketball, baseball, and since it was the 60’s in Edina, I suppose I should mention hockey… Gus Young died on Halloween, October 31, 1977. The next year he was inducted into the Gustavus Adolphus Hall of Fame. The school’s basketball court is named after him, as well as an avenue in Edina. His legacy lives on…” Randy Ooney, writing for www.mnbowling.com.
Unfortunately, that was about all we had in our files. We don't even have a photo of Gus. So with a little intrepid investigation, I found one of his daughters, Margie Sampsell, who told me her parents also ran Southdale Lanes in Edina. She gladly agreed to find photos and other information about her parents and their businesses. I'll update you with any additions. If you can share any photos or memories about bowling in Edina, please comment here or email me.
2. Operation (Photo) Identification
I posted a few photos from the donated collection of former teacher Del Frederickson, and I'm happy to say most people are now identified.
Thanks to Jim Taylor for providing the names for this photo:
Dennis Hughes was president of the 1969/1970 Edina High School Student Council, and Steve Precht was vice-president. Also in this shot are Betsy Murphy, who was secretary, and Pete Spokes, who was treasurer (both class of 1971). I believe the fellow who is diligently writing is Drick Boyd, who was also a member of this Student Council.
3. Southdale comments
A couple of people wrote about a recent post on Southdale, From the Collection: Life Magazine on Southdale:
Nancy Hiatt commented: This certainly brought back memories. I lived in Richfield in the 60's, so Southdale was just west of us. One thing I remember was that the shopping center closed on Saturday nights at 6 pm. I loved watching the fishes and the birds!
Chris Rofidal wrote: That was great! I always thought Southdale was first, but now I know different. Thanks for the information!
Thanks to all who comment on blog posts. As you can see, readers can prompt me to dig a little deeper for information, assist us in archiving photos and provide a little validation for our work. It's always nice to know that the blog posts are read.
Happy Monday, everyone!
Bruce Wickstrom found the above postcard while looking through his photos, and he donated it last week to the Edina Historical Society.
I didn't find anything more about the motel after a cursory look through our files. The Biltmore Motel features much more prominently in our visitors' memories, and thanks to former owner Harold Adolphsen, we have brochures and information in our collection about that Vernon Avenue business.
Wickstrom remembers that it was located in front of what was to become the Radisson South (now a Sheraton). According to the info on the back of the postcard, the Normandale Motel was located at 7816 Normandale Road, at the northwest corner of Highway 100 and Interstate 494.
The Normandale Motel must have faced some stiff competition when the new and fancy Radisson opened in 1967. Entrepreneur Curt Carlson, who grew up in Morningside, saw opportunity in south Edina when the interstate system was developed. Already owner of the downtown Radisson, Carlson developed a 600-room “resort style” hotel at the busy Bloomington crossroads.
While I know little about the Normandale Motel, the Radisson became famous for its unique problem caused by straddling Bloomington and Edina borders. Bloomington allowed alcohol, but Edina did not grant on-sale licenses to any business outside of the two country clubs. As a result, liquor could be served in the bar on the Bloomington side, but it couldn't be brought anywhere else on the property.
The communities arranged a land swap to solve the problem. Edina gave up its land owned by the Radisson for Bloomington property to expand Braemar park. It was considered a win-win for everyone.
The "5 min. to Baseball" on the back of the card (see below) tells me that Normandale Motel was around in 1956 when the Minnesota Twins' Metropolitan Stadium opened in Bloomington. Can anyone tell me more about the Normandale Motel? Please email me or comment here.
Thank you to Bruce Wickstrom for donating this piece of Edina history.
Here are some grand views of the Grandview District (shown on the Google map below). You probably have seen news stories or perhaps even participated in the discussion of the future of the Grandview District. (If you want more info, see background materials and a draft plan at the Edina Citizens Engagement web site.)
Today, as a bonus Photo Friday, I thought I'd show you some interesting aerial photos on how the area has changed since 1947. I urge you to go to Historical Aerials web site to get sharper images and explore the area in detail. The site has a really cool feature where you can slide a bar to see the area change from one year to the next. (Kind of like the "before" and "after" advertisements that show the effect of wrinkle cream.)
I love it. Seriously, go there today. You don't have to look at just Grandview...type in the address of your house and see how your block has changed over the years. It's a little addicting for a history fan like me, especially since I think aerial photos sometimes look like ultrasound images. In other words, I can't always identify parts of Edina in its infancy when it looks so different than it does today. This web site really helps compare and contrast the exact same street year to year.
(You would think I was a late night pitchman on some home shopping channel, but I have no affiliation with the web site. Just a new fan....)
Anyway on to the grand views of Grandview. This 1947 view shows no freeways. (Go to the web site and zoom in to see how few buildings were in the area.)
Grandview 1966 (below). You can see a diamond interchange, and the large building to the right (or east) of the interchange is the 1954 Village Hall, which sits approximately where the current City Hall parking lot is today.
Grandview 1970 (below). You can see Highway 100 has been widened and the off ramps are now loops. Tupa Park, where historic Cahill School and Minnehaha Grange Hall No. 398, was created from the green space in the lower right loop.
And finally, Grandview in 2006, much as it looks today. This is after the Grandview Square area was developed, with the new public library and Senior Center building.
What will the area look like in the next decade? Check out the draft plan below to see what is being proposed (see page 24 for a map) for the next chapter in Grandview's history.
Note: I bring you this extra edition of Photo Friday, only because I didn't post earlier in the week due to the holiday and illness. Thank you to researcher Dan Lapham for telling me about www.historicaerials.com.
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!
View TPT documentary on Lilac Way
If you didn't have the good fortune to be in Minnesota in May, you missed a lovely lilac season. Even the few lilac bushes along Highway 100 provided beautiful blossoms and scent.
This year's display provided a small glimpse of what the roadway looked like in the 1930s when community groups planted more than 7,000 lilacs along Highway 100, nicknamed "Lilac Way" by the Minneapolis Tribune.
Highway 100 construction began in 1934, in the midst of the Great Depression. The WPA project put hundreds of men to work. They dug the road mainly by hand, instead of machinery, to keep workers employed as long as possible. The government program also employed stone masons, who created roadside parks with beehive-shaped barbecues, stone picnic tables, waterfalls and other features.
Roadway expansion took over the park-like road right of ways. However, during the past few years, some community groups began working to restore Lilac Way. Check out the Restore Lilac Way Campaign and the St. Louis Park Historical Society web sites for some great photos, video, articles and other links.
You can view an interesting documentary about this chapter in the roadway's history at Twin Cities public television (TPT) web site.
Sunday drives and roadside picnicking might be a thing of the past, but this summer take a short drive (before or after rush hour traffic) to see one of the original beehives, which was moved to Lilac Park at Highway 100 and Highway 5 to save it from demolition.
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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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