Then & Now: Near North Minneapolis

Doing research for my recent Olson Memorial Highway article, I dug through the Minnesota Historical Society archives and the University of Minnesota’s Borchert Aerial Map Archive to try and figure out exactly when this road was constructed.

The answer is 1937, the same year that Olson himself died. It was also the year that the Sumner public housing homes were built here, and that the Minneapolis Farmers’ Market was moved into the neighborhood.

The thing is, this neighborhood looked so different when it was still seamlessly connected to both downtown and the river, before Interstates 394 and 94 were built.

Here are the aerial pics, along with the current Google maps image:

olson-memorial-mashup-2015 olson-memorial-mashup-1945 olson-memorial-mashup-1937,

Also, these MNHS images are worthy of a glance. Kind of a rarity for historical documentation, a photographer went inside the apartments of a mixed-use building that was demolished in 1957 to make way for new parking-lot-style housing at 1317 Olson Memorial and Humboldt Avenue.

Here are the pictures of the apartment interiors and a family who lived there, along with some exterior shots of a condemned store form the 30s:

olson memorial apartment 57 6 olson memorial apartment 57 5 olson memorial apartment 57 4 olson memorial apartment 57 3 olson memorial apartment 57 2

family apartment going to be demod 1957 condemned store olson memorial 1957 condemned store olson memorial 1957 2

[Correction: These last two photos are from the 30s, when buildings along the North side of Olson were demo’d for widening. The 50s demolishments were on the South side of the street, twenty years later.]

Frankly, this looks kinda like my apartment, especially the doors and the trim. I’m sure they spruced these places up for the photo shoot. I get the sense that the photographer was trying to change the narrative, and say “these aren’t slums, people live here.” I’d be curious to know the whole story of this photographer and this family.

Thousands of units of housing like this were demolished in the 50s and 60s in Minneapolis and Saint Paul to make way for the new freeways. It’s rare to see so intimately what they looked like.

Bill Lindeke

About Bill Lindeke

Pronouns: he/him

Bill Lindeke has writing blogging about sidewalks and cities since 2005, ever since he read Jane Jacobs. He is a lecturer in Urban Studies at the University of Minnesota Geography Department, the Cityscape columnist at Minnpost, and has written multiple books on local urban history. He was born in Minneapolis, but has spent most of his time in St Paul. Check out Twitter @BillLindeke or on Facebook.

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