I have been following a great blog for the Hennepin County Libraries Special Collections, which has more than 25,000 books and other items in ten unique collections. I asked Ian Stade, the primary blogger, to share information on some of the items that pertain to Edina. His first post is on Morningside, the northeast corner of Edina that operated as an independent village from 1920 to 1966. The post couldn't be timelier - we are co-hosting a walking tour of Morningside and Waveland Park with the Linden Hills History Study Group on Wednesday, May 25.
In the early 20th Century, Edina was mainly a sleepy farming community with one exception, Morningside.
In 1905 the Lake Harriet Line of the Twin City Rapid Transit Company was extended into the Northeast corner of Edina. Heirs of the landowners in this area of Edina, Jonathan and Eliza Grimes decided to plat the family homestead for development and 55 acres became the foundation for the Morningside district. The April 11, 1905 Minneapolis Journal reported, “[The] new district, Morningside, is composed of sixty-nine lots, 100 by 200 feet each, to cost from $250 to $1000. The district lies between 42nd and 44th streets and will be crossed by three new avenues, Alden, Scott and France. Electric cars will stop at three stations adjacent to the [Grimes] property. Tenants who live outside the city limits will have low taxes and at the same time only 5-cent carfare to town.”
Morningside evolved into a modern-day streetcar suburb while the rest of Edina remained rural. The residents of Morningside expected improved streets, curbs and gutters, sidewalks and city water. These were not high priorities for the rest of Edina. The Edina council initially resisted these improvements but by 1908 agreed to provide road building materials Morningside handled the job of doing the building. In 1909 two men from Morningside asked the Edina council to buy six streetlights and they promised to install them.
A Morningside Improvement Association was formed and worked to get Morningside residents on the Edina Council. By 1912, Nils N. Leerskov was elected as the first Morningside resident on the Edina Council. The requests for Morningside improvements increased in Edina Council meetings. In 1920 the friction between Morningside and the rest of Edina came to a head after the Council refused to reconsider special assessment fees for work near 44th Street and Grimes Avenue. On September 17, 1920 a Morningside resident wrote in the Lake Harriet News, “It is time that Morningside emerged from its chrysalis stage and became a recognized entity instead of being a revenue appendix of 8,500 acres of pasture, woodland and cornfield.” The writer went on point out that Morningside contained almost one third of the population of the Edina Township and these stats:
Households, 147, number of renters, 0. Voters, 532. Telephones, 106.
The writer concluded his letter to the editor with an invitation to a community picnic on September 18, 1920 to discuss Morningside’s future. The meeting brought together 150 residents and incorporation was explained by Morningside Civic League president A.G. Long. There were other speeches against secession but in the end 25 property owners signed a petition requesting the Hennepin County Board call an election regarding incorporation of Morningside. On October 26, 1920, Morningside residents met to create a slate of officers for an upcoming election. On November 5, 1920 the Morningside village board met with the Edina council to discuss the disbursement of Morningside assets. Also at this meeting, R.L. Jensen resigned from the Edina council so he could be the new Morningside community president. By May 1921 the political separation of the two communities was complete.
In the mid-1920s the two communities clashed about the placement of an elementary school in the school district they both shared. They ended up building elementary schools in both communities and sharing the Edina-Morningside junior and senior high schools.
By the 1960s the citizens of Morningside started to prepare for another vote – rejoining Edina. Morningside Mayor Jack Beegle and his wife Charlotte began a campaign to be annexed to Edina. Beegle argued the village’s ability to meet growing infrastructure obligations and expections would not be sufficient in the future. On the other hand, Morningside Councilmember C. Wayne Courtney made a passionate plea against annexation: he thought they would lose their identity, representation and that taxes would go up.
On May 6, 1966, eighty-five percent of Morningside 1,100 voters went to the polls and by a 2 to 1 majority, voted for annexation. There were hard feelings after the vote by some residents but 13 years later even Courtney admitted he was wrong on all three counts with his worries about identity, representation and taxes.
One thing still makes Morningside unique from the rest of Edina, it still gets its water from Minneapolis.
Morningside now has a neighborhood association and the city of Edina has recognized its historic importance. Morningside is also home to the historic Grimes house and historic bungalows.
Special Collections has an atlas of the Morningside neighborhood and some small club collections from Morningside Literary Club, Morningside Social Club and Morningside Women's Club. We also have the Morningside directory (1962-1966), pictured above, at Minneapolis Central Library in our city directories collection on the 4th floor.
The Edina Historical Society has done some great blog posts about racial relations in Morningside and a 1920 Morningside woman participating in an election for the first time.
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