What happened: Electric streetcar service between Minneapolis and St. Paul began.
When: Dec. 9, 1890.
A horse apiece: There had been streetcars before this one, of course. The first ones were horse-drawn, slow, stinky and messy.
The city of Minneapolis also had experimented with using cable-drawn streetcars to replace the horses. Cable cars were seen as less invasive because they didn’t require unsightly overhead lines. But to install cable-drawn streetcars, it was necessary to dig up the street for the cables, then find a way to power them.
In 1889, the City Council ordered the Minneapolis Street Railway to build an electric line.
Electric avenue: According to “Twin Cities by Trolley,” a history of the streetcar era by John Diers and Aaron Isaacs, the first electric streetcar was so popular that the city vowed to forgo horses and cables and go electric. A little more than a year later, the first interurban electric line, down University Avenue, opened.
As the book described the line’s usage after World War II: “On University Avenue at peak hours, there were more than 60 cars in service on the St. Paul-Minneapolis line. Stand anywhere along University Avenue and there was a steady parade of streetcars just a block or two apart, and most of them were standing room only. No one ever bothered to look at a schedule because waiting for the streetcar was like waiting for an elevator.”
In 1892, the horses were retired in Minneapolis and St. Paul and replaced with electric streetcars.
In 1954, the streetcar system went the way of the horses.
What remains: The cities have been studying the feasibility of building a streetcar system. There have been five proposed routes. University Avenue isn’t among them, because a light rail train runs down the middle of the street. There’s no place to put the streetcars anymore.