If you grew up on Merribee Drive, work on General Mills Boulevard, or happen to have the name Scott (as in Scott Avenue N.), there’s a piece of Golden Valley waiting for you — in a church basement.
The Golden Valley Historical Society is selling old street signs from the city’s post-World War II years of booming development. Everything — from Adair to Zenith, 7th to 34th Avenues — is available. The kelly green signs, made of steel with embossed lettering, go for $25 each.
The signs are being sold to raise funds for the Historical Society, with $11,000 generated so far.
In the late 1980s, the city started removing its steel street signs to replace them with emergency-responder-friendly reflective aluminum. As workers chipped away at the streets of Golden Valley, they stored the old signs in a warehouse.
(The project, by the way, is still underway. In the far northwest corner of the city, the old matte signs still stand.)
But over decades, the city wound up with an abundance of useless signs. Four years ago, a city official had the idea of what to do with them.
The street supervisor called Don Anderson, longtime secretary of the Historical Society (“They call me Mr. Golden Valley History,” Anderson said), and offered the signs to his group. Anderson accepted.
Eight hundred signs came in that first shipment, followed by another 400 as the city collected them from street corners. The signs arrived on pallets by a front-loader truck, and volunteers hand-carried them down into the basement of the 100-year-old white church, which the society uses as its headquarters. There, they separated signs, which had been bolted back to back, and organized them.
Today, alphabetized stacks of signs fill three walls of a basement room, divided into streets on the east and west sides of the city.
The society kept a few signs with misspelled names, but the rest went on sale.
“I don’t think we really talked about preserving them at all,” Anderson said.
Shoppers can browse a list of what’s available and make an appointment to purchase them at the church, or have them shipped around the country. (Contact Anderson at 763-588-8578, email@example.com.)
News of the ongoing sale has only spread through word of mouth, especially thanks to social media, Anderson said.
Most of the interested buyers used to live on one of the streets or have the same name. Someone recently bought the sign for Angelo Drive, because her dog’s name is Angelo. People also are buying the street signs to decorate their gardens or post on their cabins Up North. Some college kids even decorate dorms with them. (Anderson bought the sign for Vista Drive, the street he lived on when he and his wife got married.)
Of course, some signs sell better than others.
“The street numbers are not very popular,” he said.
Though sales have been steady over the years, Anderson wonders whether they will slow, now that people seem to be trending toward downsizing and decluttering.
In fact, that’s how the Historical Society gets some of the treasures of its collection, like an antique wood carpenter’s plane.
“People will drop stuff off on the front steps with no ID,” he said.