This is Southdale... before Southdale. Photographer Chester Fredon took this shot just as construction was beginning at the site, at 66th Street and France Avenues. The photo caption reads "March 16, 1955 Looking west at east side of tenant & Dayton's, Dayton's Southdale Project."
I enlarged just one small corner of the photo to see what was in the background for a visitor researching her family farm, then located just north of Southdale site on 66th Street. The Bove' family's truck farm doesn't quite appear in the photo, unfortunately. We figure it's behind the big pile of dirt on the left side of the photo. However, we had to wonder about the two-story building on the right.
I know. This is not why she came in. This did not pertain to any project I am currently working on. But we were curious. The building looked like a hotel to us, when we knew there were no hotels in that area.
We consulted a large aerial photo of the area taken in 1951, which showed a long building with a circle of small buildings in the rear (just north of 66th). We didn't get any answers from the reverse directory in the phone books for that period. (Not that surprising. In those days, some farmers still didn't have phones, and some businesses listed themselves only in the Minneapolis phone directories.)
Fortunately, Frank Cardarelle, a life-long Edina resident and a land surveyor, happened to drop in and he had the answer: Ben-Twin poultry farm. Frank went to Edina schools with the Benson twins in the 1940s and even worked there as a kid. Yes, that hotel-looking building housed the chickens and there were additional chicken coops out back.
Frank had an additional piece of trivia: the Benson twins' father owned the Covered Wagon, a famous Western-themed restaurant in downtown Minneapolis.
As it happened, the researcher had brought along a news clipping of her ancestor John Bove', who was featured because he killed a "chicken-stealing" wolf. The undated clipping from an unknown newspaper (at left) reported that after several chicken thefts in the area, Bove' followed the trail from the hen house until he sighted the animal and shot it.
"The wolf is the first to be shot this season at the city limits where wolves are rarely found at this time of year," the article stated. "Bove' today collected a $15 bounty from the County Auditor Al P. Erickson. Chicken raisers have given him an informal vote of thanks."
Although it seems shocking today, the state paid a bounty on wolves until 1956. Wolf population fell so dramatically that by 1974, killing a wolf could result in a fine of up to $20,000 or up to a year in prison or both.
As we talked with others at the museum that morning, we found out that a large commercial flower field was located north and east of the poultry business and the Peterson dairy farm operated on France Avenue just west of the mall.
You can see why scoffers questioned building a shopping mall "in the middle of nowhere," but in just a few months, the wide open farmland was filled with suburban homes, retail businesses and the Southdale medical center. If you have information or photos about any of Southdale's former neighbors, please contact me.
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