From time to time, a visitor asks, "Did Bridge Street ever have a bridge?"
Good question. As you can see by the above map, Bridge Street does not cross Minnehaha Creek. If there is no bridge, why the name? Did the street once have one?
When I was first asked the question, I had just started at the Edina Historical Society. Because our paper files don't have an easy finding aid to answer this question (unfortunately we can't type "Bridge Street" into a search engine and come up with 42,000 web pages with the answer), I asked a few long-time residents for information.
They quickly pointed to this photo of the Browndale farm.
Henry Brown operated the Browndale farm, famous for its shorthorn cattle, in what is now the Country Club District of Edina.
Although Brown made his home in Minneapolis, he did entertain in Edina. His house was on one side of the creek, and his barns on the other, with the bridge in between. That bridge was thought to be the predecessor of Bridge Street.
It made sense at the time. I now think that story is the stuff of suburban legend.
Let me explain with a photo. Take a look at this photo below taken after Brown's land was developed into the Country Club District.
Now take a closer look. I have to admit, I hadn't taken a careful look at this photo until a regular researcher, a fan of aerial photography, pointed out the footings of a bridge in the creek. See the two lines in the creek just off the driveway on the creek side of Edgebrook Place?
To help you out, I labeled a few landmarks. (You're welcome.) Although this photo dates from the 1930s, it looks essentially the same as it does today with a few changes: Wooddale School is now Wooddale Park, Sunnyslope has yet to be built, and more houses fill the Country Club District.
Henry Brown's home was located at the Edgebrook Place loop, according to author Jane King Hallberg, who interviewed contemporaries of Brown for her 1988 book Minnehaha Creek: Living Waters: "Henry Brown's home near the creek and the mill was an especially nice place. It had a big front porch to the east and a porch on the south side, also. It faced Browndale Avenue, which was 'dedicated,' or laid out, by Henry Brown and the farmhouse and farm yard were in the semi-circle formed at present by Browndale and Edgebrook Place..."
The bridge footings in the picture must then be from the old Browndale farm; they're not close to lining up with today's Bridge Street. So the mystery remains: was there another bridge that gave Bridge Street its name?
I think it's likely the Bridge Street was intended to cross Minnehaha into the Sunnyslope Addition, which was developed later. For some reason, the bridge was never built. My guess is that neighborhood residents didn't want to encourage traffic through their neighborhood. After all, they opposed extending Bridge Street into the White Oaks neighborhood. "Opposed" might be too gentle of a term: a Country Club resident reportedly stood with a shotgun at the east end of Bridge Lane in White Oaks to bar trucks from coming through, according to a story in the city's Spring 2001 quarterly newsletter About Town. Author Joe Sullivan wrote: "Eventually, an agreement allowing limited, temporary access for vehicles was reached, but only for construction on Bridge Lane. Even today, there is only a narrow walkway -- much too narrow for automobiles -- connecting Bridge Street and Bridge Lane."
(Check out the east end of Bridge Street and you can see how it narrows after Arden Avenue.)
That's my best guess, anyway. Ignore my hypothesis though, for now, until I have more evidence to prove my claim -- I don't want to start another suburban legend.
What do you think? And, more importantly, do you have any facts to support your claim? Contact me or comment here.
Note: For more information on Brown, see the St. Louis Park Historical Society web page on the Browndale neighborhood. While much of the information came from us, SLP wrote up the nice, concise summary.
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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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