Societies work to keep north metro history intact

  • Article by: ANNA PRATT , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 18, 2012 - 1:03 PM

All over the north metro, as development makes it "easy to lose track of what's come before," historical societies are working to preserve suburban history.

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The Brooklyn Historical Society restored this drawing of the Battle of Acton, made by a soldier in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.

Photo: Brooklyn Historical Society

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It was an interest in history that brought Orville Lindquist to the Blaine Historical Society when it formed six years ago.

Although suburban history may seem a bit humdrum, said Lindquist, the president of the volunteer group, "The more you get into it, and learn about the facts, you find out it's really cool."

Groups like his play an important role. "I don't think we want to forget our past, particularly in an era where housing development is growing and people are moving around a lot," he said. "It's easy to lose track of what's come before."

Todd Mahon, the executive director for the Anoka County Historical Society, said it's safe to say that suburban development is spurring some historical societies.

Right now, more suburbs are approaching the 50-year age mark. "A lot of these places start up [a historical society] when they see something go away," he said.

The same thing happened with first-ring suburbs 50 years ago, when some of the last farms gave way to housing developments. "Suburban development is the story of the 20th century," Mahon said.

The efforts go to show that besides looking back, historical societies are also "trying to find out what's happening right now that will impact the future," he said.

In recent years, the state's Legacy Amendment, which provides funding for outdoors, arts and cultural heritage and other projects, has been a boon to historical societies, he said.

Turn to page E4 for a list of local historical societies and what they're up to.

ANOKA HERITAGE PRESERVATION COMMISSION

Anoka's Heritage Preservation Commission, which formed in 1998, is about safeguarding the city's heritage.

This entails "preserving sites and structures which reflect elements of the City's cultural, social, economic, political, engineering or architectural history," according to city information.

One commission highlight is an annual home and garden tour done in conjunction with the county historical society, said Bart Ward, chairman of the commission.

Separately, the panel has provided signs for the city's neighborhoods as they were once known, with names like Slab Town, Christian Hill, Whiskey Flats and Swede Town.

Meetings at Anoka City Hall, 2015 1st Av., Anoka. www.startribune.com/a1719

BLAINE HISTORICAL SOCIETY

The Blaine Historical Society, which formed six years ago, strives to "gather, preserve and disseminate the history of Blaine," its website states.

The group, which involves a handful of core members, helps name area trails, create posters of important city figures and collect artifacts, said Orville Lindquist, the group's president and an original member.

But its efforts are "about information more than the stuff," he said.

The group hopes to put together a book chronicling the city's history in time for its 50th anniversary in 2014. It won't be a linear narrative, but "more about vignettes, people and places that are significant to Blaine history."

Blaine City Hall, 10801 Town Square Drive NE., Blaine

www.blainehistory.org

BROOKLYN HISTORICAL SOCIETY

The Brooklyn Historical Society organized in 1970 to represent the histories of both Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park.

It hosts history roundtable events on the first Saturday of each month, geared for local historical societies. Its archive is housed in Brooklyn Park's Community Activity Center.

Darryl Sannes, a longtime member, recently led a project to preserve a pencil drawing by a soldier in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.

It's a rare find that details the Battle of Acton, of which few other accounts exist.

The drawing had surfaced in the society's collection amid Civil War-related research. Right away, "we knew something had to be done with it," Sannes said, adding that through the restoration, the map has been transformed. "Now the drawing jumps out at you."

Sannes, who is well versed on the battle and the map's restoration, gives talks on both topics.

Community Activity Center, 5600 85th Ave. N., Brooklyn Park. www.thebrooklyns.com. E-mail brooklynhistorical@yahoo.com or call 763-536-0842 to make appointments.

COON RAPIDS HISTORICAL COMMISSION

The nine-member commission, which was established in 1975, is an advisory board to the City Council, dealing with preservation topics and "recognizing and recording historical events," the city code reads.

It sets up historical markers for city sites, catalogues old photos, interviews prominent city figures, plans history-related events and maintains a historical display case at Coon Rapids City Hall, said Sharon Legg, a city official.

Right now, the group is exploring the use of QR codes, or barcodes that smartphone users can scan, to access historical tidbits and videos about local landmarks.

Meetings at Coon Rapids City Hall, 11155 Robinson Dr. NW., Coon Rapids. www.startribune.com/a1721

CHAMPLIN HISTORIAL SOCIETY

When Michael Brey joined the Champlin Historical Society nearly a decade ago, some members belonged to the town's homesteader families. These days, the group is mainly made up of history buffs, he said.

Although the group began in the 1970s, it was dormant for a long time before being resurrected in 1997.

Brey, the group's historian, said members tend to work in a project-oriented way.

Previously, the group has tackled a book on the city's history and an update of the volume, and it led building repairs at the historic Dunning School.

In the future, it hopes to flesh out other aspects of the city's history in a new book.

Meetings at Champlin City Hall, 11955 Champlin Dr. Champlin. E-mail info@champlinhs.org for more information. www.champlinhs.org

COLUMBIA HEIGHTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY

The Columbia Heights Historical Society is inactive, but it has a collection of historic artifacts at the Columbia Heights Library.

The collection, kept in archival boxes, includes everything from ashtrays to high school homecoming prizes, said Renee Dougherty, the library's acting director. "It's our dream to one day have space to display it," she said.

Columbia Heights Library, 820 40th Av. NE., Columbia Heights. 763-706-3690, www.startribune.com/a1720

FOREST LAKE AREA HISTORICAL SOCIETY

The newly formed Forest Lake Area Historical Society is planning for a permanent home, said Glen Berg, the group's executive director and curator, who lives in Columbus.

Since its inception last year, the group, which covers Forest Lake, Wyoming, Hugo, Columbus, Linwood and Lino Lakes, has held two temporary exhibits, featuring everything from dolls to newspaper clippings.

Right now, "we have no place to store artifacts," Berg said, adding, "Items will be lost if we're not able to collect and preserve them."

It was that concern that led to the group's founding, he said.

www.forestlakehistory.org or e-mail info@forestlakehistory.org

FRIDLEY HISTORICAL SOCIETY

An exhibit centering on "Christmas in the 1970s," which will run from Nov. 10 to Dec. 21, will be the Fridley History Center's first new exhibit in 15 years, according to Mary Ann Hoffman, a member of the Fridley Historical Society.

The society is housed in the History Center, a 1931 two-room schoolhouse that community members saved from demolition in the late 1980s.

Hoffman, a retired history teacher, is leading a project about life in the suburb following World War II, when the city experienced a boom.

It's important because what was happening in Fridley back then "epitomized the suburbanization going on throughout the country," at the time, she said.

The group has collected oral histories from over 20 people who lived or worked in Fridley between 1945 and 1970, which will inform several upcoming exhibits, she said.

Fridley History Center, 611 Mississippi St. NE., Fridley. Hours: Second and fourth Saturday of the month,

11 a.m.-3 p.m., plus event times.

763-571-0120, www.fridleyhistory.org,

or e-mail info@fridleyhistory.org.

ISANTI COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Later this month, the 47-year-old Isanti County Historical Society will begin rebuilding its Heritage Center.

The center, along with most of its collections, burned down on July 8, 2011, in an arson fire, which remains unsolved, according to Kathleen McCully, the society's executive director.

The society, which has been operating out of temporary quarters ever since, is still cleaning the items it salvaged from the fire.

It hopes to replace all kinds of ephemera it once had, including yearbooks, reference books, family histories and photos. "If people have things to donate, they can do that now," she said.

1700 E. Rum River Dr. S., Suite K, Cambridge (temporary). Hours are Mon., Tues. and Wed., 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. 763-689-4229, www.ichs.ws or e-mail ichs@izoom.net

ROSEVILLE HISTORICAL SOCIETY

The Roseville Historical Society falls under the city's parks and recreation department but volunteers run it, said LaVerne Dickhudt, a Roseville resident who joined the group shortly after it formed in 1977.

Last November the group had to move out of the old fire station, which was torn down.

An old truck terminal serves as its temporary digs, until a new city fire station is built, she said.

People can browse its archives, which include everything from genealogical information to snapshots of buildings slated for demolition, she said.

Society members lead presentations, host speakers and holiday activities, maintain an exhibit at city hall and chronicle the city's past.

2785 North Fairview Av., Roseville. Hours are Mon.

9 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Thurs. 1-3 p.m. 651-792-7440,

mnrhs.tripod.com or e-mail rhsmn1977@yahoo.com

Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer.

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