"The Buck" – Roseville 4 Theatre

For one summer during college, I lived in an apartment with a friend that just happened to be directly across the street from one of the most famous destinations for area college students: The Buck. “The Buck” was actually called the Roseville 4 Theatre and it was a four screen 2nd run movie house that was located in the west end of a Rainbow Foods grocery store off Larpenteur and Fernwood in Roseville. The theatre was know for $1 Tuesday tickets, $2 tickets the rest of the week and cheap popcorn with free refills on the large bucket. It was also known for being pretty rundown. The floors of the four theaters featured countless layers of sticky, buttery residue. About 40% of the theater seats were broken in some way, so it was always a challenge to find two or more good seats next to each other. The staff, however, was always friendly and you just couldn’t beat the prices.

Notice how the marquee just lists  “CMP”, “Dresses” and “Treasure”.

One of the first movies I ever saw there was Memento, which I saw freshman year by myself because no one I knew was interested in the indie conceptual film by a no-name director (Christopher Nolan). I saw a few more movies there over the next 4+ years, but the summer I lived next door to the theater made going to the movies way easier than it should have been.

That summer, my room mate and I hatched a devious, college-kid plan to go see Old School and to sneak in our own special beverages. It made the movie that much more fun and we decided that the perfect final touch to our rebellion would be to leave the bottles behind in the theater for the staff to find. We were so bad!

I also vividly remember that one night that summer there was a fairly violet thunderstorm that came through the area. The wind was so strong that it whipped the letter off the marquee at the theater and flung them across the street into our parking lot. I found the letter “O” under my car the next day and returned it to the theater staff.

Later that summer, word spread that the theater would be replacing their broken seats with new ones! One day, we noticed that a few rows of broken or damaged seats ended up in the dumpster behind the theater. We hotly debated whether we should grab a row of seats for our apartment and ended up missing our chance when the dumpster was emptied. Regrets. This was similar to another instance from that summer when the Falcon Bowl up the road went out of business and I saw sections of bowling lane laying out with the trash. I briefly entertained thoughts of grabbing a couple sections to make into unique tables. But opportunity was again missed and I later heard that those sections were re-used by another bowling alley.

The rise of the suburban mega-plex eventually killed The Buck. In fact, all Roseville theaters were required to bow before the specter of the new AMC Roseville 14 theater that went up in 2006 as a relocation for the Har-Mar theater just south of there. It immediately killed the UA Pavilion just across the street. Both of those theaters were also regrettable losses. The UA was in a somewhat dead alterna-mall across from Rosedale. It was downstairs, but you had to go down more stairs to get to the box office. My main memory of this theater was seeing Punch Drunk Love on an early date with my now wife. Not a good date movie, FYI. The abandoned Har-Mar theater site was very retro in decor and actually had two box offices for two different areas. The big movies were at the main one and the rest were down the hall and to the right in the smaller screen annex. I saw quite a few movies there, but the only one I really remember was Wedding Crashers on my 24th birthday.

The Buck soldiered on for a few more years after Roseville 14 opened before finally succumbing to the pressures in 2008. It was truly a sad affair and hundreds of customers tried their hardest to stave off the inevitable. The Rainbow Foods store that actually owned the building laid out plans to demolish and rebuild without the theater. The theater owners looked for new locations for awhile, but decided not to pursue the business any further.

And the dream is over.

Now all we have are fond memories of a rundown, dirty theater and the fantastic times with friends that were had there. Anyone else have cool stories of The Buck?

Side Note: 

Did you know that Roseville had a drive-in theater for 30 years? From 1948 – 1979, the Rose Drive-In Theatre operated on the northeast corner of Snelling and Country Road C where The Olive Garden is now located! It even had an awesome neon rose on the back of the screen! So cool!

Beautiful art-deco design.


MPLS History – Photos

So that concludes the series of posts about Minneapolis in the early 20th century. Before we leave the topic, I wanted to post a series of pictures I collected depicting how the city has changed in the last 150 years.

Here are a few of the great photos I found while digging through the web for this series.

MPLS History – The Murder of Walter Liggett

As the mob ruled the city of Minneapolis and bought off or killed any who caused them trouble, a few men sought to expose the corruption. At the time, independent journalists would often print and sell their own tabloid-style papers around town. These papers were usually sensationalistic rumor rags that relied on shock and conspiracy that the big papers wouldn’t print. They also often opposed those in power and were therefore underground.

In 1934, a journalist named Walter Liggett moved to Minneapolis. Originally from the New York area, he had bounced around to various papers there before moving to Minnesota and distributing his papers in Red Wing and Rochester. Upon his arrival in the big city, he began publishing his paper called The Mid-West American. The paper, usually around 6 pages with few advertisements, was filled with criticism and accusations leveled at politicians, mobsters and bankers who, Liggett alleged, ran the city and state while lining their pockets at the expense of the little guy. Liggett frequently attacked then-governor Floyd B. Olson as being in league with big bankers and with the mob itself.

As Liggett gained a reputation as a thorn in the side of powerful men, he began to find himself the target of many attacks. He was arrested on an old charge of statutory rape that seemed to be trumped up. As his trial was set to begin, he encountered Kid Cann after being called to the penthouse of Annette Fawcett, a glamorous woman who liked to court the powerful men of the city. She had offered Liggett a good lawyer for his trial. While he was there, Kid Cann showed up. Over drinks they got to arguing and exchanging blows. Finally, they calmed and Kid Cann offered Liggett a ride home in his car. They stopped at a bar for a nightcap and when Liggett emerged from the car he was jumped by a gang of Cann’s Men. He was severely beaten and nearly lost an ear in the attack. His face was swollen for the entirety of his trial. He was finally acquitted of all charges. Still, he continued turning the screws on the allegation that Governor Olson was in the pocket of Kid Cann.

On December 10, 1935, one month following his acquittal for statutory rape, Liggett was returning to his apartment, at 1825 2nd Avenue South (just east of Stevens Square park), from the grocery store with his wife and 10-year-old daughter. He parked in the alley behind their building and he and his wife got out of the car. Liggett noticed oncoming headlights and a car sped through their alley. He and his wife jumped out of the way and a hail of submachine gun fire issued from the car and ended the life of Walter Liggett as his wife and daughter looked on in horror. His 11-year-old son ran down from their 2nd floor apartment, along with many neighbors, and saw his father lying in a pool of blood as his mother clutched his body in tears. Walter’s wife Edith gave a statement to the police that she saw Isadore Blumenfeld (aka Kid Cann) fire the shots that killed her husband.

Twelve days after Liggett was murdered, Blumenfeld was indicted for the killing on the testimony of Edith Liggett and a neighbor who claimed to have seen the crime from his back window. Blumenfeld had a story ready for the jury and testified that he was at a legitimate business meeting and then got his hair cut during the time Liggett was killed. Barbershop employees all verified his story, as expected.

The trial was big news and Edith gave compelling testimony. However, at one point she stated that the murder could not have been committed without a sign-off from Governor Olson. In taking up her husband’s extremely controversial allegations against the governor, she may have damaged her credibility (Olson was then battling pancreatic cancer and died 8 months after the trial ended). When the jury reached their verdict, Kid Cann was acquitted and walked free. Newspapers reported likely jury tampering in the case. Edith promptly left town and moved back to New York with her children.

During these dark years, journalists were often the only ones who took stands against the wide-spread corruption in Minneapolis. In 1927 a man named Howard Guilford published a paper that stated illegal gambling was rotting the city. He was shot by a gang of hoods, but ended up living and refusing to identify his assailants. Mysteriously, he then became very rich and moved into a ritzy hotel. But in 1934 he began publishing allegations again and was gunned down. In 1945, Arthur Kasherman published a paper railing against gambling, liquor racketeering and government corruption. He was shot to death in a drive by shooting as he and his girlfriend left a restaurant on 15th and Chicago. This grudge match between the indie press and the big crime bosses lasted decades and it is ironic that both Doc Ames and Kid Cann were involved in the newspaper business in their younger years.

It wasn’t until 1961, 26 years after Liggett’s murder and 7 years after the streetcar dismantling scheme, that Isadore Blumenfeld was finally convicted of a crime. The FBI had become interested in the dealings of Kid Cann and had set up heavy surveillance on his empire. A federal case was built against him after he transported a prostitute from Chicago to Minneapolis. He was convicted of “White Slavery” and later for bribery and perjury. He served four years in a federal penitentiary. Upon his release, he reunited with his brother Yiddy and another of his bosses named Meyer Lansky in Miami Beach where they continued their illegal activities through real estate scams and stock market fraud in Miami and Havana, Cuba. One historian estimated that this group owned close to a billion dollars worth of Caribbean real estate. Isadore Blumenfeld died of heart disease on June 21, 1981, in Minneapolis.

MPLS History – Doc Ames and Kid Cann

Almost since the city’s founding, Minneapolis was essentially run by corrupt politicians and the crime lords who pulled their strings. For the first half of the 20th century, Minneapolis was a den of con-men and mobsters. When the Twin Cities Rapid Transit company was seemingly fleeced by men with ties to organized crime, the corruption that had long-plagued the city began to be exposed and prosecuted. By the time the 1960’s hit, many of the local mobsters began to see charges stick to them and the cleanup effort began to see progress. The hold of organized crime on the city of Minneapolis was loosening for the first time in almost 70 years.

From the very beginning, Minneapolis was a rough town. The lumber industry was booming and attracted many drifters looking for work. The drifter population supported a local economy of saloons and brothels (it was reported that the city contained 150 brothels in the 1880’s) which, in turn, spawned violence. There were numerous shanty-towns where crime ran rampant among the poor and desperate men. The worst shanty-town was known as “Hell’s Half Acre”, which lay on the block between 8th and 9th streets and 2nd and 3rd avenues downtown (where the State Theater now resides). Police were discouraged from attempting any law enforcement in the area because it was too dangerous.

Life improved as the city grew and learned to sustain itself and soon a man rose to power who would change the climate of the city forever. His name was Dr. Albert Alonzo (A.A.) Ames. In 1852, Ames’ family moved from Illinois to Minneapolis when his father (a doctor) was stationed at Fort Snelling. Ames grew up in the city and worked in the newspaper industry (an irony that will be revealed later). He eventually became a doctor himself while still being interested in the newspaper industry. He managed a paper in California for a few years before returning to Minneapolis to take over his father’s medical practice upon his death.

In 1876, Doc Ames was elected mayor of Minneapolis.. He made runs at national political office over the years and was almost elected governor, but was never successful on the larger political stage. Minneapolis, however, loved the man and he was elected to four terms as mayor between 1876 and 1902.

Upon his return to the mayoral office in 1900 after a 10 year absence, Doc Ames appointed his brother Fred Chief of Police. The Ames brothers fired many police officers and replaced them with criminals. Some government posts were offered up to the highest bidder and the city fell firmly into the hands of organized crime. Illegal businesses thrived as the government extorted money from them and kept them running. Prostitutes were plentiful and gave a cut of their profits to the court system to stay in business. Word was spread around the country that Minneapolis was a haven for criminals. Through it all, Ames was the Godfather.

Finally, in 1902, a grand jury was convened to investigate what was going on in Minneapolis. They worked tirelessly to build their case against Dr. Ames and even nabbed witnesses who and fled the state to testify. Ames was eventually arrested and stood trial and was convicted of taking bribes. Of course, the charges wouldn’t stick, mistrials were declared and Dr. Ames never served any time (his brother, Fred, did). He died in 1911.

Around this same time, a young boy named Isadore Blumenfeld arrived in the US from Romania with is family. The family eventually made their way to Minneapolis where Isadore attended school until 5th grade. He then dropped out and began selling papers to help support the family. It wasn’t long before he took side jobs running errands for the men in charge of the hundreds of brothels still in operation. His involvement with organized crime had begun and his first of many arrests happened when he was 19 years old.

Blumenfeld rose to the top of the food-chain in Minneapolis by the time prohibition was passed in 1920. Like many gangsters across the country, Blumenfeld used prohibition to build a vast empire of crime based on the underground sale of liquor. His syndicate, called the Minneapolis Combination, was headed up by a number of Jewish men who grew up on the mean streets of the city. For years, Blumenfeld basically ran the entire city of Minneapolis from his private club The Flame Cafe on 15th and Nicollet.

Blumenfeld’s friends called him Fergie. He wore flashy suits and lived large. He would bring in big-name musical acts like Cab Calloway to play at The Flame. Blumenfeld took cues from Doc Ames by generously paying off police and politicians to keep his business running without pressures. Money was always thrown around when you were with Fergie Blumenfeld. But to many people, he was Kid Cann, a ruthless gangster in the mold of Al Capone. The nickname seems to have been derived from his penchant for hiding in the outhouse during fights as a lad.

Prohibition ended in 1933, but Kid Cann’s empire of crime kept rolling. He diversified his interests by branching into gambling and prostitution. He also made sure that any prosecution of his people ended with a bribed jury and an acquittal. Much of the police force was on his payroll and evidence would often disappear from police stations. His influence kept on growing and soon it reached all the way to the office of Governor Floyd B. Olson.

The links between Kid Cann and Floyd Olson were publicized by an independent journalist named Walter Liggett. His story will be fleshed out in the next installment.

MPLS History – The Street Car System – Part 2

By the time the 1950s rolled around, the streetcar system was showing a significant decline in riders. The city was growing quickly and many people were moving to the suburbs and buying cars to get themselves to work in the city. As Twin City Rapid Transit Company struggled to navigate the changing times, they went through some leadership changes. The company had always used a large portion of their earnings to reinvest by improving and maintaining the transit lines. In 1948, a Wall Street investor named Charles Green gained majority ownership in the company hoping to make some money, but the reinvestment and construction programs were holding profits down. Green, who described himself as a man “always looking to make a fast buck”, urged the other stockholders to oust the company president and put him in charge, which they ultimately did in 1949. Green immediately halted the reinvestment program and announced that the system would be completely converted to buses by 1958. Soon, however, Green was found to have ties to organized crime and he left the company after only two years. His replacement was a successful Minneapolis lawyer named Fred Ossanna.

Ossanna was brought on to keep the streetcar system going, and did for a time before actually continuing the movement away from streetcars and towards buses as well. Instead of maintaining the streetcar routes that were still heavily used and converting the outlier routes to buses, he made the decision to completely discontinue streetcar service and move to buses in two years. Streetcars were to replaced by General Motors-made buses. On June 19, 1954, the last streetcars ran in Minneapolis. The rails were eventually just paved over and sometimes can be seen exposed during road resurfacing projects to this day.

Some of the newer model streetcars were sold to other US cities such as Cleveland and Newark. A handful were also sold to Mexico City, where they were reported to still be in service as late as the 1980s.However, the vast majority of streetcars were actually burned and this is where the story starts to twist.

As years passed, it became clear that TCRT was being plundered for assets. It turned out that Ossanna, along with the VP of the company, were convicted of a number of cases of fraud. They had conspired to wring money out of the company during the transition from streetcars to buses. Ossanna had ordered that the streetcars be burned and the scrap metal and copper be salvaged and sold, at heavily discounted prices, to some of his business friends in exchange for kickbacks. There’s even a photo of Ossanna accepting a check from a man named James Towley with a burning car in the background! Ossanna and his accomplices gained about $1 million dollars from the scheme (in 1950’s dollars). Ossanna also may have accepted under-the-table money from General Motors for his dismantling of the streetcars and purchase of their buses. Ossanna was sentenced to four years in jail for mail fraud and was also the target of a civil suit by TCRT in an attempt to recoup some of the lost money.

Ossanna was also found to have close ties to Minneapolis organized crime, specifically infamous Minneapolis gangster Isadore Blumenfeld (a.k.a. Kid Cann). Years later, it was speculated that Isadore Blumenfeld and his gang had been manipulating the streetcar discontinuation project for years in order to put money in their own pockets.

In fact, by the 1950s, Minneapolis already had a long history of organized crime dating back to the turn of the century and a man named Albert Alonzo Ames. In the next entry, we’ll take a long look at the dark dealings of organized crime in Minneapolis and those that stood up against it.

MPLS History – The Street Car System – Part 1

As I mentioned, part of the success of Wonderland in South Minneapolis was due to its proximity to established street car routes. As most Twin Cities residents know, the metro area was once home to a complex and busy network of streetcar lines. Now that gas prices are driving a renewed interest in mass transit, those memories of a once great established system are being rekindled. I dug into some of the history of the streetcar system because I wanted to learn about how it was conceived and built, but also because I wanted to figure out where in my own neighborhood the street cars operated. I found that plenty of information exists, but there is also a dose of mystery and intrigue surrounding the street car system. It will take a couple of posts to fully examine the details, so here goes.

The first mystery surrounds the very inception of the rail system. No hard facts seem to be known regarding the initial planning and building projects that became the seeds from which the larger network grew. Some credit the very first mayor of Minneapolis, Dorilus Morrison, with building the first rail lines downtown. The story goes that Morrison, along with a group of like-minded businessmen involved in the milling industry, laid the first rails around 1867 and founded the Minneapolis Street Railway Company (MSRC). However, the system was small and saw little use at the time. Then, in 1875, the company recruited a real estate lawyer by the name of Thomas Lowry to join the group. Lowry was relatively new to the area, but was quickly becoming a powerful man in the market (many Minneapolis landmarks bear his name). By 1875, Lowry had managed to lead the way in establishing a rail line from downtown Minneapolis to the University of Minnesota. Two years later, he had gained a controlling interest in the company and was busy arranging loans to expand the system even further, specifically to areas that were not yet fully developed (but that Lowry himself had real estate interest in already).

As the MSRC was getting up and running, smaller transit ventures were also trying to gain footholds. Horse buggies were popping up, but with the rutted dirt roads, customers found the smooth rail rides to be much more comfortable and desirable. Cable cars were also being built, but the continuously moving cable system was difficult to install and struggled mightily in the Minnesota winters. Lowry pushed to electrify his MSRC lines and do away with moving cable. By the late 1880’s, electric street cars were running in Minneapolis.

Meanwhile, the St. Paul City Railway Company was building their own rail system and had electric street cars of their own. As both systems grew, a merger became mutually beneficial and in 1890 the systems merged by way of a line running down University Avenue between the two downtown areas. The companies themselves also merged and became Twin City Rapid Transit Company (TCRT).

With resources pooled, the new company quickly went to work building electrified lines all over the metro area and buying up smaller competitors. Soon they were even able to begin building their own rail cars instead of buying them. This allowed them to build cars that better withstood the harsh winters, something their old suppliers didn’t have experience with.  Thomas Lowry had a special VIP car built that featured larger windows for better sightseeing. This car carried President William McKinley through the area when he visited in 1900.

The TCRT grew into a huge company. Here are some stats from it’s peak in 1922:

– 530 miles of track were laid.

– The track material was the most expensive of its kind, costing $60,000 per mile.

– Meaning the estimated cost of laying all track was $31.8 million (in 1922 dollars).

– 1021 street cars were in use.

– They carried an estimated 140 million passengers.

– The line spanned about 50 miles from Stillwater on the east to Minnetonka on the west.

– The company built its own amusement park at the end of one line in Mahtomedi called Wildwood Amusement Park. It was staffed by company employees in the summers and was intended to increase traffic on the system.

– It was claimed that everyone in Minneapolis lived within 400 yards of the nearest station.

– For a time, TCRT was the largest employer in the metro area.

I’m struck by how well connected the neighborhoods of South Minneapolis were. Some regular side streets had streetcars going up and down them all day. Here are a few historical pictures from the Minnesota History Society that show the street cars and tracks that once existed within 400 yards of my house.

Of course, the once mighty rail system is long gone and it’s the decline and eventual dismantling of the system that holds the most intrigue. I’ll tackle this topic in the next installment of the series.

MPLS History – Wonderland

In doing my research into South Minneapolis in the early 20th century, I read a lot of information that was at least somewhat familiar to me. But there was one story that I had never heard before: the story of Wonderland.

In the early 1900’s, Minneapolis built its own version of New York’s Coney Island right on East Lake Street. The park opened in late May of 1905 and by all accounts the park attracted many thrill seekers. It was called Wonderland and it spanned four city blocks at the intersection of East Lake Street and 31st Avenue. It was connected to the streetcar routes so people from all over the Twin Cities could get there easily. It was open during the summers and featured a large wooden roller coaster, a huge water slide, acrobats, music, theatrical performances and (of course) food. It also featured a light show from a tall steeple. It was quite a sight to behold.

Perhaps the strangest attraction at Wonderland was The Infantorium. It was a small hospital building that treated premature babies. For a fee, park-goers could enter the facility and look at the futuristic glass and chrome incubators where these babies were being cared for. At the time, very few babies were even born in hospitals, so seeing the shiny incubators and tiny babies was worth the ticket price for many curious patrons. According to records, the building was not advertised as “entertainment” but as a “scientific exhibit of the modern method of saving the prematurely born babies.” Similar to how some modern fairs have “technology buildings” where people can check out some of the latest gadgets and innovations, the Infantorium focused on advances in the care of premature babies. Also, the ticket revenue helped pay for staff salaries and equipment since the families of the babies were not charged for their care. Some articles I found implied that this sort of financial structure was not uncommon in the day, but I could not find any other instances of it elsewhere.

Wonderland was only able to stay open for 6 summers. Apparently the summers of 1910 and 1911 were both cold and rainy and the low attendance during those summers sunk the whole venture. The park was dismantled and eventually houses and businesses filled in the large footprint, leaving almost no trace of this large amusement park.

The only remaining structure is actually the Infantorium, which is now an apartment building on the southeast corner of 31st Street and 31st Avenue. I wonder if the current residents know about the history of their building.

MPLS History – The Rialto Theater

A great place to research history is through the Minnesota Historical Society website. I spent a lot of time combing through the photo archives looking for pictures of recognizable areas near my house, but also for photos that were just plain interesting. That’s where I ran across these photos, circa 1920, of a theater after a fire had been extinguished. The caption called it the “New Rialto Theater” at 735 East Lake St. in Minneapolis. The event obviously occurred during the winter months because the theater’s exterior has been decorated with icicles as a result of the efforts to put out the blaze. It’s a strikingly beautiful sight. So I dug around looking for more information on this theater.  It turns out the theater had a fascinating arc of an existence.

The Rialto Theater opened sometime in the late 1910’s. The earliest photo I could find is from 1917 and could be a grand opening photo. It seems that the theater was later re-designed by the famed Twin Cities duo of Jacob J. (Jack) Liebenberg and Seeman Kaplan. This pair is responsible for a number of buildings in the area including the Uptown Theater (which is still operating), the Grenada Theater (now operating as the Suburban World Theater) and the Hollywood Theater on Johnson Street NE (which has been vacant for years, but is perpetually targeted for redevelopment). They also designed a large synagogue on Dupont Avenue that is now a Universalist church.

The Rialto Theater operated for years as a neighborhood movie house and apparently attracted some good business in that time. It had a single screen and about 750 seats for patrons. As I mentioned before, it also survived a nasty winter fire circa 1920, which yielded the beautiful pictures.

The story of the Rialto takes a dark turn sometime in the 1960’s. During this time, Lake Street began to turn into a more seedy place and drugs and prostitution began to put down roots. Also around this time, a man by the name of Ferris Alexander appeared. Alexander opened a newsstand downtown near Hennepin and 4th that sold adult books and magazines. This newsstand gained many customers and Alexander was able to build this modest (or immodest) base into a large, far-reaching porn empire in the Twin Cities. He opened a string of adult bookstores in the area and also purchased a few small theaters to convert to X-rated movies houses. The Rialto was one of those theaters.

So from the late 60’s to the 1980’s, the Rialto was a seedy adult theater. Alexander grew his empire to an astounding level during that time while always being the target of various city and community protests. Then, in the late 80’s, he finally found himself on the wrong end of federal charges of obscenity, racketeering and tax fraud. (Looking around at the landscape of media today, it seems amazing that the federal government leveled charges for “obscenity”.) Prosecuted by future Clinton prosecutor Ken Starr, Alexander was convicted and sent to prison for six years. His assets were seized, including $9 million dollars and 13 theaters and bookstores – including the Rialto.

Soon after the seizure, the Rialto was demolished and a parking lot was built in its place and remains today.

Ferris Alexander died in 2003 in a Wayzata nursing home at the age of 84 with advanced Alzheimer’s disease.

A Brand New Series

It may be a sign that I’m getting older, but I’ve recently become more and more interested in history (which was never my favorite subject in school). Soon after my first son was born, I found myself wanting to examine my family tree and requested copies of the extensive genealogical work done by my late grandfather so I could build a family tree using an online tool I found. This information was all gathered over the course of many years, without the help of the internet, and goes as far back as 1662! Yeah, my grandpa was quite a researcher.

As I read through the information, I was fascinated by some of the facts that have somehow made their way down through the years (or up into the branches of the tree). For instance, in the early 1800’s, my ancestors lived on a farm in the area of Gol, Norway, that was known as Ruspengarden. A Google search for that name yields zero results, so it appears to be a very unique name! Gol didn’t even become an official municipality until 1838, so it was likely a small and rustic farming community at the time my family lived there. The current population is still only about 4,000.

Then last spring, I found myself engrossed in a book called “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”. The book tells the story of the woman whose cervical tumor gave rise to one of the most important cell lines in the history of medical research. The story followed the major discoveries associated with her cells, but also spent many chapters exploring the previously undocumented life of the woman herself and her family. It was a fascinating and sad story of a poor family who lost a wife and mother and then spent years hearing contradicting stories about what the doctors had done with the cells they removed from her tumor with no consent from Henrietta or her family. It was definitely one of the best books I’ve read in awhile and rekindled my interest in learning more about history.

So I decided to do some research about South Minneapolis, where I live. I found a number of interesting facts and pictures that really piqued my interest. Of course, my reading snowballed from there and I read about all kinds of interesting people and places from the past. There is a lot of information out there, but I’m going to focus on a few stories that I think are most interesting. I’m putting this out as a series of posts called “MPLS History” that will take us through the month of September. I hope you enjoy it!