Sun Sailor St. Louis Park Community Guide - Page 12

LIFE IN THE HEART St. Louis Park OF THE CITIES City transformed into bustling suburb St. Louis Park has shifted from a railroad and industrial town to a bustling suburb drawing people to its offices, shopping centers, neighborhood businesses, parks and homes. Although the railroads and some remnants of industry remain, the city’s look continues to change from its early days back in the 1800s. The St. Louis Park Historical Society’s website, slphistory.org, contains an index with a plethora of information about the people, businesses, celebrations, places of worship, school, neighborhoods and many other aspects that have formed the lifeblood of the community. Since 1970, the historical society has gathered, organized and shared pieces of St. Louis Park’s unique past. Incorporated as a village in 1886, Park was styled as an industrial town when lumberman T.B. Walker bought and replatted 2,000 acres of farmland in 1890. Foreshadowing modern zoning, Walker created industrial, commercial and residential areas. He brought in factories, built commercial buildings and even built houses for his workers. The factories of that era are long gone, but the Walker Building, built in 1892, is still on Walker Street, and there are more than 50 “Walker Houses” in use today. Walker’s experiment failed with the Financial Panic of 1893, and the village stayed small up until after World War II. With the return of servicemen, demand for consumer goods and general prosperity after the war, St. Louis Park became a boomtown. Previously barren land became filled with new homes, schools, parks and churches. 12 St. Louis Park was receptive to Jewish families who desired to leave Minneapolis, and the community supported many synagogues and the Sabes Jewish Community Center. The Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest has helped document the area’s history of Jewish families. St. Louis Park has revitalized many areas of the city, including Excelsior Boulevard and the West End. But as things change, the historical society is collecting pieces of the past and preserving them for future generations. The society has published a book, “Something in the Water,” which includes memoirs of people who grew up in the Park in the ‘30s. The St. Louis Park Historical Society operates at 3546 Dakota Ave., Suite C. Office hours are 1-4 p.m. Saturdays or by appointment. The historical society also operates the city’s Historic Milwaukee Road Depot, in which the society stores artifacts from St. Louis Park’s past. The depot is in Jorvig Park, 6210 W. 37th St. The society publishes a quarterly newsletter, called the Re-Echo, which contains bits of history interspersed with past and future events and accounts of current artifact donations. The historical society is a nonprofit staffed solely by volunteers and is always looking for more people to help preserve the city’s past. To contact the society or donate materials, email history@slphis.org. For more information, visit jhsum.org or call 952-381-3360. – Jeanne Andersen of the St. Louis Park Historical Society contributed to this article.