How north metro places got their names

  • Article by: ANNA PRATT , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 14, 2013 - 1:39 PM

Pierre Bottineau is the name behind many places around Minnesota, including this library in northeast Minneapolis. His house, top of page, was built in 1854 and has been moved several times, including to its current location in the Elm Creek Park Reserve.

Photo: Joel Koyama, Star Tribune

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Some of them are places that people in the north metro visit, pass or travel along every day. Some are more obscure. But well-known or not, they all have elements of history in them, through the people whose names they bear. Here’s a look at some of the names behind the places, and the people behind the names.


Columbia Heights

John P. Murzyn Hall


As a child, John Murzyn Jr., a longtime public works employee in Columbia Heights, loved to accompany his father on evenings and weekends to check on the city’s parks.

His dad, John P. Murzyn Sr., a park superintendent in the city for more than 30 years, paid attention even to the smallest details, always making sure the concession stand wouldn’t run out of candy or pop. “It made me want to do this kind of work. My dad was a big inspiration,” the younger Murzyn said.

When his dad retired in 1979, the building once known as the field house, which is used for all kinds of community events, was re-christened as the John P. Murzyn Hall.

“I don’t have words to say how much it means to me. Not too many people can say that a building is named after their dad,” the younger Murzyn said.

Columbia Heights Mayor Gary Peterson said John Murzyn Sr., who died in 1999, “took care of the building like it was his own house.” In an indirect way, there was a connection: Murzyn Sr.’s father, Albert, helped build the original 1939 building, which has since been added on to, Peterson said.

Considering how well used the hall is, it seemed like a fitting tribute, the mayor said.

“He was an excellent park superintendent,” he said, adding, “Everyone loved him.”



Greenberry Chambers Park trail segment


The mile-and-a-half long segment, which opened to walkers and bicyclists in August of 2009, is dedicated to Blaine’s first permanent resident, a freed slave by the name of Greenberry Chambers.

The trail stretches down Lexington Avenue from Edgewood Road to Interstate 35W, near the present-day Centennial High School. This comes close to where Chambers’ farm once stood, said Stephen Lee, a Circle Pines resident who wrote a book that touches on the subject, titled, “Circle Pines & Lexington, Minnesota: History of the 1800s to 2000.”

Lee began digging into Chambers’ life in his spare time after a reference in a history book piqued his curiosity. He said he gets “weepy” just thinking about all that the man went through.

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