Before the National Sports Center came to town, before sprawling housing developments rose on the landscape, before the sod farms had taken root, early settlers such as Greenberry Chambers, a former Kentucky slave, worked to make a life on the sandy plains of Blaine.
Few know about the north metro city’s past, and that’s partly because no detailed history of it exists in a cohesive format, said Orville Lindquist, president of the Blaine Historical Society.
So a small group of residents with the historical society have been sifting through heaps of documents and photos to piece together Blaine’s back story. After seven years of work, they’re ready to publish their findings in a book later this year and are looking for funding help from the city — anywhere from $16,000 to about $24,000, depending on the number of copies printed.
City officials already have set aside $10,000 for the project’s completion and are now weighing whether to pitch in more funds.
Blaine may not have storied brick buildings with fancy architecture, but there’s plenty of history to dig into, Lindquist said.
“We want to be sure there’s a record and that people know where they came from,” said Lindquist, 47, who has spearheaded the project alongside Karen Klinkenberg, the historical society’s vice president.
The book won’t be so much a definitive text as a starting point to build on, from Blaine’s pioneer days as a township to its modern story of rapid growth, which has propelled the suburb to become Anoka County’s biggest city with a population of 63,000.
For years, Lindquist and Klinkenberg have gathered at coffee shops and Klinkenberg’s home, poring over papers and images for hours at a time, sorting through items to include in the book.
They’ve settled on a manuscript of stories and photos spread over about 175 pages with the working title, “Forward: The Hidden History of Blaine.”
Blaine’s character isn’t limited to chain stores and modern subdivisions. Take, for instance, the intriguing story behind the name of Radisson Road. “Does it have anything to do with the hotel empire? You bet your boots it does!” Lindquist said.
The project also seeks to correct common historical misconceptions about Blaine, said Klinkenberg, 68, who used to work at the University of Minnesota Archives. That includes a misspelling involving an Irish settler that lives on in the name of “Laddie Lake.”
The book project came up for discussion at a City Council work session Thursday and is expected to go back before council members in the coming months for a final funding decision.
Mayor Tom Ryan expressed support. He said, “It’s a record that we don’t have.”