I love the current "Edina on the Map" exhibit because it has helped spotlight neighborhoods that have been "too new" for the historical record to take much notice. Highlands, with its first addition offered for sale in 1948, was still being developed in 1950s and 1960s. Compared with Morningside, once a separate village and platted more than 100 years ago, Highlands seems to have a relatively short and uneventful history.
Drive through Highlands today, and you'll see historic changes taking place. Many of the original ramblers have been torn down and replaced by new construction. That's why I'm grateful to former and current residents who have donated artifacts that document the period in Edina history that will soon be lost to redevelopment.
After seeing the original real estate brochure for Highlands in our exhibit, Paul Trautman and his sister Jean offered to send photos of their family home at 5245 Lochloy built in 1952 by their parents Lucius and Jean Trautman. The home is a perfect example of what the brochure touted as the "trend home" for modern living.
The house was designed by James H. Speckmann, a Minnesota proponent of California Modernism, a design style with an "open ground-level floor plan, big floor-to-ceiling windows, and wide roof overhangs. All of that is meant to bring the outdoors in."
The Trautman home, with a new owner, still stands with the exterior design intact. The surrounding area is more developed, however, than when the Trautmans first moved here in 1952. Paul remembers the house in the background of the photo below as being "a short walk of a steep hill ... it is probably a three-mile drive to that house. The Watson lived there and they eventually took ownership of Freckles when Dad refused to bail him out from the dog catcher after several incarcerations. That was OK though because he still came and played with us and the Watsons had to feed him."
With its naturally hilly terrain, the Highlands neighborhood was well suited to ramblers with walkout basements. That's Paul and Freckles near the breezeway in the photo below.
Highlands offered high-end homes for the era. Many of the homeowners were like Lucius Trautman, executives commuting to Minneapolis jobs. Trautman was one of the owners of Minneapolis Artificial Limb Company, which has a long history in the state.
Do you have Edina home photos to share? In addition to the Trautman house, we featured Alden Drive photos from the Parsons family here. We'd love to feature your home as well. Email me or call the museum at 612-928-4577 to find out how.
If you want to research the history of your house or neighborhood, you can look through a number of public records like old maps, aerial photos, city directories and more. However, some of the most interesting records are in private collections, tucked away in scrapbooks and family photo albums.
I'm always happy when people share those private family photos with the public. Morningside residents, especially those living on the one-block long Alden Drive, should get a kick out of these photos from the Parsons family photo album. The Parsons were among the first residents in the neighborhood and helped document its history as it happened.
Janet Parsons Mackey recently sent these photos to us, with the following descriptions.
Here are three photos from my grandmother's (Clara Parsons) album.
The first one is labeled "Alden Drive," 1910.
The second one is their first house on Alden Drive. I think it was built on the upper flat part.... I don't think they had houses on the lower part until later.
The third one, labeled "when the vines had grown" in my grandmother's handwriting, is a house I can't identify. If one of you can do so, please let me know!
To answer those questions, I dug a little in our files. We happen to have quite a bit of information about Mackey's grandparents, Clara and E. Dudley Parsons, Sr., because the Parsons family were influential in Morningside's early development. The family dates back to Mackey's great-grandfather Rev. Henry Parsons and his wife Sarah, who helped establish Morningside's first church, now called the Edina-Morningside Community Church. Henry and Sarah owned five lots near their house at 4232 France Avenue.
Soon they were joined by son E. Dudley Parsons, Sr., and his wife Clara, when he got a a teaching job in North Minneapolis in 1907 (according to the Winter 2006 issue of About Town). The couple soon purchased seven lots, amounting to some 3.5 acres, near E. Dudley Sr's parents and built a house at 4220 Alden. From the street view image from Google maps (below), I believe the house with the vines is that house.
What do you think?
The bones of the house are the same, but the location is barely recognizable just over 100 years later. What was once a little farmstead is now part of the suburban landscape.
Instead of being surrounded by fellow homeowners, the Parsons "pastured cows and raised chickens and gardened vegetables to provide a significant part of their subsistence," according to the About Town story. “We used to cut all of the wood necessary to cook with and for winter heat,” Dudley Jr. remembered. “[And] we sold milk to the neighbors. I delivered the milk in shiny tin pails with tight-fitting covers.”
Mackey's grandmother Clara helped bring about the transformation from farm to suburb. Like many homeowners in Morningside's early platting, the Parsons bought their lots with an eye for future development. Many Morningside housewives sold off lots and built homes one by one to add income to the family coffers. While the husband worked in the city, the wife often served as designer and general contractor on the housing projects. Clara wrote in her letters how much she enjoyed the work:
The great joy about the building on the lot is that I do like to build and am right now having such fun getting bids from contractors. ... I talked with another contractor, this is going to be good. They each say they know just how it should be done and the other fellow doesn’t, but believe me like Johnny who can show the smallest figures is the man who gets it. This last one seems to know his business, he said “I’ll make specifications and tell you exactly what I will do and if any one is smarter than I am let him have it.” Another one is coming at 5:30 I wonder what he is like. Jensen was over this morning and Alm last evening. (undated letter to son E. Dudley Parsons, Jr.)
Unlike many post World War II neighborhoods that developed all at once, often with identical floor plans, Morningside developed piecemeal as lots were sold off by the original homeowner. I think part of the charm of the neighborhood is that houses from different styles and eras stand side by side.
While I'm fairly confident that the third photo is of 4220 Alden, I can't figure out the other two photos without additional research. Because of the neighborhood transformation with more houses, remodels, teardowns and lots of trees, it's difficult to match up the houses from the first photo. One of my volunteers is going to walk the neighborhood to see if he can find the addresses.
Soon the suburban landscape will change again, as many of the small bungalows and farmhouses built in the early 1900s are being torn down and replaced by larger homes. In fact, 4220 Alden recently sold to a developer and may be slated for demolition. The current homeowner graciously allowed Janet Mackey to walk through her grandparents' home when she visited earlier in June. She also had an opportunity to see their second home at 4210 Alden Drive built 1928. The house still stands for now.
Even though they had a hand in the transformation, the Parsons still mourned the loss of the having cows in the backyard and space all around them. E. Dudley Parsons, Sr., wrote to his son Dudley about his mixed feelings:
Just a little while ago, I went into the yard of our former residence on the hill and looked about at the trees I planted and stood on the old well platform and recalled our pumping so many thousands of strokes to fill our tank in the attic – and came away sad at the thought of leaving it to strangers, even though it seemed to pay us to do it at the time. ... Maybe I’m wrong about it as your mother thinks I am – but I can’t help the feeling of sadness.
From her and her husband's letters, we know that Clara Parsons built and designed what she called "cottages" at 4224, 4220, 4218, 4216, 4214, 4212, 4210 (their final home), 4202 Alden Drive as well as 4207 W. 42nd Street. She may have built more.
Do you have information and photos about your Edina home? Please share them with us! Email me or call me at 612-928-4577 to chat or comment here.
We have some great treasures in our map collection. (But alas, no treasure maps.)
Still, even without a big X marking the spot to buried gold, these maps are priceless. You will have a chance to see some examples of these document gems in our upcoming "Edina on the Map" exhibit that will open in mid-March. Today, I'll give you a sneak peek at some for the Highlands neighborhood.
The white map at the bottom is the registered plat, and the other two show advertising brochures from the The Spring Company realtors, which developed the property.
Highlands includes Ayrshire Boulevard, Lochloy Drive, and Duncraig Road.
If you can't quite match up the Google map above with the real estate brochure map below, take heart. North is on the left of the realtors' map instead of the top. You can see that the Spring Company realtors also emphasized the neighborhood's proximity to three golf courses (Edina Country Club, Meadowbrook and Interlachen.) Although the brochure is undated, it points out the "new high school," (now the Edina Community Center) which opened in 1949.
I love to see how neighborhoods were marketed, with sample home exteriors and floor plans. Does anyone recognize their home in this design?
"The Trend Home - The first consideration in designing the 'Trend Home' was 'What do people in this part of the country like and need?'. A plan consistent with our climate and ways of living. As the house was to be built in 'Edina Highlands,' with its large lots, beautiful views and rolling country-side, we knew the prospective owner would live a relaxed country life."
Many of the maps in the exhibit come to us from the private collection of Frank Cardarelle, a fourth generation Edina resident and a second generation surveyor. His father platted the first Highlands addition, and Frank joined him after he graduated from that "new high school" in 1951 to plat the remaining additions.
How great is it that we have a photo of Frank presenting a map program last year to kids who live in the Highlans neighborhood? From those enthusiastic hands in the air, it looks like these Highlands Elementary second graders love maps as much as I do. (Thanks, Marcia Friedman with Edina Public Schools for sharing this photo with us.)
Edina History Museum's next exhibit is..... drumroll please... "Edina on the Map."
If you love maps as much as I do, I know I have your attention. But for those of you yawning, recalling those map exercises in elementary school where you had to find longitude and latitude and estimate travel times, you'll still love this exhibit.
How could you not with old real estate brochures and maps like this?
La Buena Vista (Spanish for "beautiful view") is described as "120 Acres of Beautiful, rolling, wooded open countryside, that has been platted into 125 choice homesites. Some picturesque lots on spring-fed Nine Mile Creek."
The real estate brochure emphasizes the subdivision's choice location that provides "country living with city conveniences." The large map (right) shows that while Edina is in the spacious countryside, it's also close to jobs and attractions in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
For those who can't quite place where La Buena Vista subdivision is, here's a Google map of the area and its surroundings.
Subdivision names sometimes are remembered as long as it takes the ink to dry on a plat map. In fact, many residents don't know the official names of their subdivisions; instead, they reference an area landmark or street name when giving directions.
La Buena Vista is now part of "The Heights," so dubbed in the recent City of Edina neighborhood naming project. (You can see the neighborhood boundary map and learn more about neighborhood associations on the City's website.)
We're still in the development stages of the exhibit, with an expected March 2014 opening date. I now have the fun task of exploring our map collection as well as those of Frank Cardarelle, a second generation Edina surveyor. Between him and his father, they have surveyed most of Edina. The La Buena Vista brochure is just one treasure in his collection that he will share with us for the exhibit.
Look for more great maps in the weeks to come.
The Edina Historical Society co-sponsored a walking tour of western Morningside and Browndale Park on Tuesday (July 10). I love walking tours. Let me count the ways. Here are just a few reasons:
1. The people. Oh, I know. Historic walking tours focus on houses, but I love talking to the people who show up:
People who grew up in the neighborhood. People who live here now. People like Burt Grimes, whose ancestor Jonathan Grimes owned nearly all of Morningside in the late 1800s. People like Kate Q. who grew up in one of the first homes built after Grimes' property was platted.
2. The publicity. Forty people walking down the street captures the entire neighborhood's attention -- much more so than a 40-person event inside a building. I felt like our tour guides were the "Pied Pipers" of history, as their talk brought people out on their lawns to hear about the history of their home and neighborhood. On past walking tours (with cooler temps), our tour group grew as more and more people joined in.
3. Special access. This beautiful house is partially obscured by hedges and tall catalpa trees (built by Grimes as a horticultural experiment to introduce non-native shade trees.) With permission from the current owner (an Edina Historical Society member), our tour walked onto the private yard to get a closer look at the private residence of Browndale Park developer George Dartt.
4. The great outdoors. Let's face it, history work often means sifting through research files and cataloging and cleaning dusty old artifacts. Walking through a beautiful neighborhood on a sunny summer evening makes a nice change of pace. I've read about George Dart's home here in the historic Minneapolis Tribune, but seeing the showcase home in person adds another dimension of knowledge.
5. The partnerships. We worked with the Edina Heritage Preservation Board on the tour. Architect Peter Sussman (light blue shirt below) from the HPB Board led the tour....
... along with HPB consultant Bob Vogel (baseball cap below).
St. Louis Park Historical Society provided research materials and support as well. The Morningside Neighborhood Association and the Edina-Morningside Women's Club helped publicize the event. Everyone brought a different area of expertise, and I loved hearing their perspectives.
5. Spontaneity. This lovely home was not a scheduled stop on the tour, but the owner happened to be outside and graciously answered our questions. During the last tour, one homeowner provided an abstract to their property. Another offered lemonade.
I suppose I could have categorized each one of these reasons under the first one: "the people." While walking tours do focus on houses, people really make the difference between a good tour and a great one. Thank you to those who led the tour, provided information, allowed us access, participated, and spread the word.
We're working on future walking tours. If you would like to be put on our event email list, please email me with "walking tours" in the subject line.
This is the second post in a series on the history of neighborhood names in Edina. (See the first on Morningside here.) The City of Edina has formed a Neighborhood Identification Steering Committee to determine neighborhood names and borders. For more on that group, see the city's Name Your Neighborhood Blog.
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I've booked a hotel room on Lakefront Avenue and never glimpsed water. I've seen a Pleasant View Road without one. And, I've noticed, many flower-named streets don't have blooms lining the boulevards. Let's face it, many streets and neighborhoods don't live up to their names.
White Oaks neighborhood in Edina does. White Oaks actually has white oaks. The woods, marsh and hilly terrain in the area north and west of 49th and France give the neighborhood a character much different than its neighbors: Country Club District to the west and Morningside to the north.
I don't need to give you the borders of the neighborhood; you can easily guess them by looking at the Google aerial view (below). Surrounded by a grid of streets, White Oaks is distinct with its winding roads and woods.
When Samuel Thorpe purchased land to develop the Country Club District in 1922, he reportedly was not interested the wooded, hilly land to the east because it was much harder to develop than the level open fields of Browndale Farm on the banks of Minnehaha Creek.
This map depicts how Nancy Wallace Wild recalled the area when she was growing up on 50th Street before her neighborhood was developed.The "big hill for sliding" and the swampy area made great play areas for children, but not great residential lots.
By 1936, construction equipment had advanced enough that J. Frank Ecklund, a Sears Roebuck executive who dabbled in real estate, purchased the land for development. He made a key decision: instead of leveling the hills and clear-cutting the trees, he created a plan designed to "preserv(e) the area's rugged topography, mature trees and natural feel," according to History of the White Oaks Neighborhood.
In 1940, Ecklund and his wife Catherine (Kay) took further steps to ensure that the open meadow and lowlands remain natural. First, the Ecklunds encouraged the creation of a non-profit volunteer-based White Oaks Improvement Association (WOIA). They then deeded 3.5 acres circled by Meadow Road and 48th Street to WOIA for a park and also deeded 1.5 acre marsh near the Sunnyside Road entrance to the Village of Edina with the stipulation that it remain undeveloped.
In 1986, when an empty lot adjacent to the marsh was slated for development, the neighborhood rallied with a "Save the Marsh" campaign. They raised $20,000 to purchase the property from the developer, and the City of Edina contributed another $20,000 to preserve the land.
At the neighborhood association's 50th anniversary in 1990, Kay Ecklund was honored for her "preservation and foresight in the development of one of the earliest and most beautiful plattings utilizing natural rugged topography and trees." The White Oaks Improvement Association continues to plant trees.
Photos of the neighborhood from our collection show the rolling terrain and trees. Look behind the children in the photograph below and you'll see the mature trees in the new neighborhood. This photo was taken in 1941 (about five years after White Oaks was platted) of residents Mary MacPhail, Richard E. Larson, Margaret Schimer and Phillip Larson. As you can see, the trees provided plenty of leaves for play.
The Schimer family's first house in White Oaks was at 4704 Townes Road. Pictured here in 1939, the land has towering trees in the front yard.
You may not recognize this neighborhood in its infancy in the early 1950s, shown with new tree plantings instead of its shaded boulevards of today.
This is the neighborhood of Richmond Hills. (See map below.) Yvonne Terrace and the edge of Melody Lake is in the foreground.
Here's a closer view of 56th Street, marked by someone else long ago.
Here's a closer view of Yvonne Terrace.
You may not be familiar with the Richmond Hills neighborhood even today because you probably don't drive through the area unless you know someone who lives in one of the 47 houses there. Richmond Hills is unusual in that it can be entered only using Sherwood Road via the portion of Eden Avenue that runs between the Edina Public Library and Vernon Avenue.
As a result, the neighborhood has been deeply interested in the future development of the Grandview District, centered around the intersections of Eden Avenue, Vernon Avenue, and Highway 100. I have followed the Edina Citizen's Engagement blog discussions on this topic (see more here) and have been interested to find out more about the neighborhood's history.
I would love to hear more about the neighborhood's history. If you have photos or information to share, please contact me or comment here.
Look what I found in a 1948 Edina phone directory, published by Minnesota Suburban Newspapers:
As is often the case, I was actually looking for something else when I came across this fun ad. I always love real estate descriptions: "Individual homesites of unexcelled scenic beauty. Everyone different. Winding roads with sweeping views. Natural sites for ramblers... Designed for them, in fact!"
This (approximately) is the Highlands neighborhood today. Highway 169 (Shakopee Road) listed in the ad is now called Vernon Avenue. The Belt Line is now better known as Highway 100.
I was surprised to see that lots were advertised in Highlands in 1948. If I had to guess, I would have picked sometime in the late 1950s simply because of the winding roads and "sweeping views." Developing hilly land was much more difficult (and expensive), especially in the early days of mechanized equipment.
We have a lot of information in our files about our older neighborhoods (Morningside, Country Club District, Cahill and White Oaks) and less about our "newer" subdivisions like Highlands, which is now more than 64 years old. Even those areas developed after Southdale mall was built are more than 50 years old. I am hoping the city's focus on neighborhoods (see Star Tribune article here) will encourage residents to collect and donate their own neighborhood history. Even the "young" neighborhoods have traditions and interesting histories. (Dick Crockett of the Edina Foundation wrote about some of those neighborhood activities here.)
If you have anything to share about your neighborhood, please contact me. I think it would be fun to put together an exhibit on Edina neighborhoods.
Normally, today I would bring you our popular feature "Photo Friday." Today, I'll tell you the story of the photo I wish I had.
One of my regular volunteers Larry Nickander grew up in the Morningside neighborhood, joined the military during the Korean War, moved around the country for his job, and then returned to Edina while his two children were in elementary school.
Many more people had the same idea in the 1960s. Following the construction of Southdale mall (1956) and major freeways in the 1960s, Edina's population boomed, as this 1964 story in the Edina-Morningside Courier (June 4, 1964) shows. The headline: "Playmates Number 97. Little Girl Has Friends, And Friends, And Friends".
Larry recalls that a reporter, who must have heard that this new neighborhood was full of children, stopped by with a camera and told one of the youngsters to find as many of his friends as he could. When a crowd showed up, he instructed them to run down a hill and snapped their photo. Larry's son was one of those children.
I wish we had the original photo, but newspaper ownership has changed over the years and the old photos aren't in the Edina Sun-Current's archives.
Isn't it a great photo? It really illustrates the population boom in Edina at the time. (My photo of a photocopied newspaper isn't particularly fabulous, but it's the best we can do unless this magically prompts someone to come forward with the real thing. Hey, you never know... )
The story reads:
"When eight-year-old Janet Stoddard climbs a tree in the nearest vacant lot this summer vacation, she may discover more playmates than woodticks.
The latest census on woodticks is unavailable, but the neighborhood kids number 97.
Janet, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ray Stoddard of 5605 Countryside Rd., lives in a block-and-a-half section off Tracy Ave. where 30 houses line the cul-de-sac road.
Janet regularly calls on the B.F. Woodcock family at 5609 Countryside Rd., where youngsters Nancy, 7, Jeff, 9, John, 11, and Lynn, 13, live.
The five of them visit the tree house and climb trees next to the Woodcock's.
The lot has such significance as a playground to the children that when its sale was once a neighborhood rumor, the Woodcock children ran to their mother to see "how much money does daddy make." They wanted to buy the lot.
To add to the neighborhood confusion, two Dunn families reside in it. So do the Stoddards's and the Stoddart's."
Larry and I talked about this story a few times over the years - prompting me to search our archives, call the newspaper for the photo, search the Minnesota Historical Society archives... to no avail. Microfiche copies of the newspaper are available, but since Larry couldn't narrow down the date, I wasn't looking forward to searching several years' worth of newspapers.
Then, just before our "Growing Up in Edina" exhibit opened, Larry brought in the clipping. I asked him how he found it. His answer: "I asked my wife." Thank you to Larry (and Larry's wife who knew exactly where the clipping was located) for bringing the story in.
For another photo that illustrates Edina's huge number of kids, see this post. (One day, I'll have to look up the exact census figures...I'm guessing a bazillion isn't quite accurate.)
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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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