This "horse" captures the attention of every second-grader who visits the Edina History Museum during our behind-the-scenes storeroom tour.
Adults like her too. Isn't she a beaut?
All the tack, in case you missed the name emblazoned on the side, was donated by J.A. Danens and Son, who dug many of Edina's basements with horse and scraper. You can tell the Danens took pride in their work. The tack -- despite being used on sweaty hard-working horses -- is in pristine condition. After a long day of digging, the Danens cleaned everything. (Later on, when they used machinery, they washed their trucks every day.)
Here's a closer look at the name...
and the scraper.
It's hard to believe that a horse and scraper could dig a house basement, but that's how it was done. Here's the photographic evidence: Danens' horse team digs out basements near Alden and West 51st Street in Edina's new South Harriet Park, early 1940s.
This is a bit late for a horse and scraper operation, but patriarch Joe Danens, who started the business in 1913, resisted modernization. He had dug most of the basements in the Country Club area with horses and scraper and continued to work a team even after 1936, when his son Calvin “Sonny” Danens bought power shovels, dump truck and bulldozer.
With machinery, however, J.A. Danens and Son were poised for the post-World War II building boom. In 1947, Sonny estimated that the company was digging 400 to 500 basements in a year. By 1975, Danens had dug 75 percent of all Edina and Minneapolis basements south of Lake Street.
From 1950 to Sonny’s death in 1975, Danens and Son worked on Southdale, Edina City Hall (1954), Edina’s first high school and several Minneapolis downtown buildings. Danens’ projects included Northern States Power building, all of Dayton’s stores parking ramps, the Federal Reserve Bank, Minnesota Orchestra Hall and the Sheraton Ritz Hotel.
Danens helped transform Edina by helping expand Highway 100 in the 1970s. “(My wife and I) both can remember when there was no road, no Highway 100, just a trail used in the winter. They never did get a road across until 1920 and they called it the new road for years,” Sonny said.
Danens started with a building near 50th and France and expanded to a large garage in the Grandview area (5116 Brookside Avenue). Sonny sold all his equipment at a huge public auction in 1975 when he retired; soon after, he died during open heart surgery. His wife Marion Green Danens died last year, but she often came into the museum to visit the horse and reminisce.
The Danens name lives on with an Edina street named after the family.
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