Flanagan Memo: Dreaming of lutefisk and bygone buildings

  • Article by: Barbara Flanagan
  • December 4, 2011 - 1:50 PM

The Flanagan Memo -- Re: It is Christmas time, Hanukkah time and, good grief, time for lutefisk. Happy holidays!

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This is the season for lutefisk lovers. If you are one, look alert. Many churches and other groups are staging lutefisk dinners this month. But if you miss a December date, check January.

The good old Order of the Eastern Star, my grandmother's favorite group, will have a lutefisk dinner from 3 to 6 p.m. on Jan 21. It will be at the Lake Harriet Masonic Lodge, 4519 France Av. S. in Minneapolis. To reserve a spot, call the cooks at 952-926-3084.

And what, you may ask, is lutefisk? Don't ask. Just eat.

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For all of you who admire the books by Larry Millett, be aware that there is a new one this holiday season. "Once There Were Castles: Lost Mansions and Estates of the Twin Cities" is about the homes, actually, mansions, built in Minneapolis and St. Paul in our earlier years.

Not many of the grand houses remain, but the American Swedish Institute is a good example. It stands proudly and is open to the public on the corner of 26th Street and Park Avenue S.

I haven't read Millett's new book yet, but I know it will be another hit. He just has a way.

The former architecture critic for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Millett does his research carefully and usually works with an excellent photographer. All of his books about our towns are worth reading. Some may startle you or break your heart, but you keep reading.

In his "Twin Cities Then and Now," written in 1996, Millett examines the way our towns used to look in contrast with our modern look. It is fascinating. Like me, he hates to lose some earlier buildings. And like me and dozens of others, he thinks the razing of the Metropolitan Building at 4th Street and 2nd Avenue S. was scandalous. Millett called the building "Minneapolis' most famous lost monument" and it is.

About the Loring Park District, he notes that few neighborhoods "can match its urbanity." That's where I lived when I arrived in Minneapolis. Actually, I lived at 80 Spruce Place in a one-room apartment. There was a grocery next door and a big house with a big porch across the street.

Next to it, around the corner on Grant Street, was the Central Park Terrace, a wonderful row of 18 or so townhouses that everybody called The Castle. It dominated Grant Street and Spruce Place from 1885 to its destruction in 1969.

I wrote about it sometime in the 1960s and visited a couple of the apartments. It was a grand structure and could have been rehabbed, I suspect. However, it was razed and replaced. The new apartments, part of the Loring Greenway project, "are not of the quality of the old rowhouses," says Millett. "But they fit in well enough," he says, "and demonstrate how it is possible to change a piece of the city without destroying its fundamental character."

What of Spruce Place? Well, a part of the street is still there. It runs right up to Oak Grove. If it is warm enough, why not walk by and dream a little.

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Another new book tells the story of Maestro Stanislaw Skrowaczewski. "Seeking the Infinite -- The Musical Life of Stanislaw Skrowaczewski," by Frederick Harris Jr., takes center stage Sunday, when the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota will present a concert featuring three of Skrowaczewski's compositions. He will be there and so will Frederick Harris to answer questions about the book. Some great musicians will be participating, including Minnesota Orchestra stalwarts Thomas Turner on viola, Anthony Ross on cello and Burt Hara on clarinet. The event is set for 4 p.m. at the Minnesota History Center, 345 Kellogg Blvd., St Paul.

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