Finding boxes full of history in Burnsville

  • Article by: KATIE HUMPHREY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 21, 2012 - 4:36 PM

The new Burnsville Historical Society found some noteworthy tidbits in boxes of old documents.

For years, Evelyn Kjos squirreled away documents, photographs and newspaper clippings. As one of the first Burnsville city employees, she had a hunch that the papers that crossed her desk might be noteworthy someday.

But until recently, they just sat in boxes in a City Hall closet, mostly forgotten -- until members of the fledgling Burnsville Historical Society decided to dig in.

"This is fantastic," Kjos, now 84 and retired, said last week as a half-dozen volunteers gathered to sift through the collection. "I'm getting a little excited."

The small but enthusiastic group is just beginning to focus its efforts. Monthly meetings have included discussions of local history topics, from the Buck Hill ski area's beginnings to suburban development and design.

"There are a lot of interesting stories about how things happened and where they are," said Len Nachman, one of the group's organizers. "It's documented in bits and pieces."

The group is still looking for space where they could meet and store items they collect. And the members are keen on eventually sharing their discoveries online.

But there are a few concrete goals on the horizon -- an exhibit a year from now in the gallery at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center and a possible collaboration with the city to include historical markers along future trails in the Minnesota River bottoms.

The City Hall document-sorting sessions are just the beginning.

"Here's your first box," Kjos said with a smile, pushing it across the table to Nachman and Roberta Norris-Norvoll, another volunteer.

Two hours and nine boxes later they had unearthed photos of County Road 42 back when it was gravel and Burnsville Center in the mid-1970s when it was the lone development in a field.

Norris-Norvoll marveled over a handwritten purchase agreement related to an old schoolhouse that was sold for $350 to make way for the first City Hall.

"These are great, but it's going to take us forever to get through them because I want to look at everything," Norris-Norvoll said.

Aerial photos show Lac Lavon -- named, they said, for the wife of the landowner -- when it was still a quarry.

And a pile of reports and court papers documented the then-township's efforts to fight off annexation by Bloomington in the early 1960s, a battle that ultimately led to Burnsville's incorporation.

"We need to have a museum where we can start putting this stuff on shelves," Kjos said.

Until then, it will be waiting in boxes in the closet at Burnsville City Hall.

Katie Humphrey • 952-746-3286

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