20th Century, Architecture, History, Uncategorized

Skyway System Begins

Construction of the Skyway in Minneapolis, Minnesota – 1962. u/mrhistoricalmaniac. https://www.reddit.com/r/minnesota/comments/ihsla5/construction_of_the_skyway_in_minneapolis/

1962
The first Minneapolis skyway is built, linking the Cargill and Roanoke buildings across 7th Street. Eventually, a system of 50 skyways turns much of the downtown area into an enclosed city within a city.*

When futuristic, climate-controlled Southdale Mall opened in 1956, the downtown real estate developers saw “the writing on the wall”, or rather the writing in the sky. Single connections between buildings above ground already had the example of the 17th floor connection between the Merchants Bank and the First National Bank circa 1931 in Saint Paul, MN. ** Architect David Griswold brought that idea down to the 2nd floor, bringing the idea of an interconnected city to a more repeatable and feasible level.

The following synopsis of Griswold’s achievement has recorded by mid-century real estate experts at TCModern.
“It was a simply designed, convenient way to get to the Golden Rule shopping store on (then) Eighth Street (now Seventh Place) and Minnesota street from their parking lot across the street. It was a very basic, crude structure, measuring roughly 8 feet wide with a concrete floor over a metal deck. It also didn’t have heating or air conditioning. It was however a very convenient way to get to and from the store without having to navigate through (at the time) one of the busiest intersections of both trolley lines and pedestrians in the city.” * Following suite to modernize downtown Minneapolis, real estate heavyweight Leslie Parker tapped Minnesota architect Ed Baker to design the first branch of its soon-to-be skyway system ca. 1959. This branch opened in 1962 connecting the Cargill and Roanoke buildings.** (Northstar Center and Northwestern National Bank) Mr. Baker’s design improved upon Griswold’s in its aesthetics and climate-controlled environment. *
Fueled by this success, Parker championed adding more branches in downtown Minneapolis. Within it’s first decade, Parker had built a bridge between Ed Baker and Phillip Glass in the design of the show stopping IDS Center. Moreover, it’s new Crystal Court become the hub connecting beaches of the skyway on all four sides in a dazzling, all-season semi-public space. ****

Though critics have decried the development as the demise of street life, time has shown that this may be a partial truth. Granted, the skyway system grew to encompass 80 city blocks and about 8 miles of connections. Acknowledged, this second-story system competes with street level development, making an indoor or outdoor walk a choice. As early as 1972, city officials and developers noted that this choice also doubled the options for walk-up traffic to small businesses, and raised the price of second floor rents. In the bi-polar environment of the Twin Cities, perhaps, two stories are better than one? *****

Developer of the Cosmos, let me come and join You in Your eternal “right now”. Can I sit by Your fire, and take a load off? Can we chat about this creative moment in the life of Minneapolis? On second thought, I will remain quiet and hear Your thoughts as You are the only Architect and Builder of life in this universe.

The foundation of this time is remembrance, so I remember these specific names to You. Thank You for the imagination of developer Leslie Parker. I won’t judge the motives of his heart, that’s Your job, but I am grateful for a human being that wanted downtown to remain relevant.

By the same token, let’s remember the names of Ed Baker and David Griswold. There is so much about architecture that is an Imitation of Our Father! One must be aware of history, art, aesthetics, engineering, mathematics, and materials to create relevant structures. We thank You for the insights, discipline, and positioning of these men to create these skyways at just the right time.

Additionally, we thank You for the jobs created in all the trades necessary to actualize these visions: steelworkers, riggers, crane operators, to name but a few. We are grateful for the nearly doubling of walkable areas downtown, and the small businesses supported by this foot traffic. It’s a good thing to add the notion of “third spaces” to a growing city. Thank you for these insights!

We have judged the skyways and their creators: in their beauty or lack of it, in utility for downtown renters, as advantageous to major and minor downtown businesses, and in a means of isolating the business class from the urban street level. Will You forgive us in our criticisms in this era of 1962 and through to the present?

Will You forgive our judgment of another’s sense of aesthetics? Will You forgive our judgments of the skyways in relation to downtown residences? Why is it our business if someone else wants to have their home interconnected with and 80 block grid? We have exuded envy that our major or minor workplaces have too little or too much access due to the skyway system, and broken Your command not to covet. Will You forgive us?

Lastly, some of us have judged that this system is inherently classist because it is not entirely public. Conversely, protagonists of the Skyway believe their rights allow them to choose between maintaining privacy, semi-public, or completely public access to the property they own. Will You stand between these parties and help them understand each other, even if they never agree?

In the present, our significant forces in urban planning and city government have suggested removing the skyway system because it only functions for those with access to the system, dear One. This notion makes us think about the wisdom of Solomon in solving his contemporary urban issues in 970-931BCE.

“At that time two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him.
One woman said, “Please, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house, and I gave birth while she was in the house. On the third day after I gave birth, this woman also had a baby. We were alone, with no one in the house but the two of us. During the night this woman’s son died because she rolled over on him. So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I was asleep. She laid him in her bosom and put her dead son at my bosom. The next morning, when I got up to nurse my son, I discovered he was dead. But when I examined him, I realized that he was not the son I had borne.”
“No,” said the other woman, “the living one is my son and the dead one is your son.”
But the first woman insisted, “No, the dead one is yours and the living one is mine.” So they argued before the king.
Then the king replied, “This woman says, ‘My son is alive and yours is dead,’ but that woman says, ‘No, your son is dead and mine is alive.’ ”
The king continued, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought him a sword, 25and the king declared, “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”
Then the woman whose son was alive spoke to the king because she yearned with compassion for her son. “Please, my lord,” she said, “give her the living baby. Do not kill him!”
But the other woman said, “He will be neither mine nor yours. Cut him in two!”
Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. By no means should you kill him; she is his mother.”
When all Israel heard of the judgment the king had given, they stood in awe of him, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice.”

Will You impart mercy, clarity of understanding, and wisdom of the proponents and opponents of the Skyways? Will You take these bitter roots: up, out, and onto the Cross of Christ? May our love for our city cause us to yield to each other rather than extinguish the life that remains! Amen.

P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
** https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/first-national-bank-building-skyway
*** http://tcmodern.com/who-was-first-minneapolis-v-s-st-paul-skyway-system/
**** https://frankedgertonmartin.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/the-great-skyway-indoors-in-minneapolis/
***** Nathanson, Iric. Internet. “Minneapolis Skyways”. MNopedia. December 31,2013. https://www.mnopedia.org/structure/minneapolis-skyways
****** Read this wonderful story in full. Kaufman, Sam H . The Skyway Cities. Minneapolis: CSPI, 1985.

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20th Century, African American, History, Minnesota, omnipresent history, Uncategorized

Rondo Neighborhood Removed

The Place to Be. blackthen.com

1959
Freeway construction passes through established neighborhoods in the Twin Cites. The Rondo neighborhood, long a center of black community life in St. Paul, is razed to make way for Interstate 94. Four hundred houses are condemned and torn down.*

“If New York has its Lenox avenue, Chicago its State street, Philadelphia its Wylie avenue, Kansas City its Eighteenth Street, and Memphis its Beale street, just as surely has St. Paul a riot of warmth, and color, and feeling, and sound in Rondo street.” 
–Earl Wilkins, The St. Paul Echo, September 18, 1926**

Connecting the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul had long been in the minds of local civil engineers. The excerpt below from the MNopedia article by Ehsan Alam sums up their thoughts rather precisely.
“In the 1930s, commuters and city planners began to call for a highway linking the business districts of downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis. After World War II, city engineers chose St. Anthony Avenue as the route. This street was located between University Ave and Marshall Avenue, and went all the way to Minneapolis.”***

Yet, that is not the whole story. We find that there is a viable alternative to either Rondo or St. Anthony Avenues that wouldn’t split an existing neighborhood in half. Minnehaha Avenue, now known as Pierce Butler Route, is road that runs adjacent to the rail lines between Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Often, the land adjacent to rail lines is already publicly owned, and would suggest that this route may encroach less on neighborhoods and privately owned property. ****

Given these circumstances, one wonders “Why did these cities and Federal Department of Transportation leaders choose to place I-94 through many neighborhoods (including Rondo) instead of adjacent to them?” In any type of city planning or civil engineering events, there are myriads of motives and opinions that compete to be heard. Below, we explore a few hypotheses.

George Herbert Herrold, an engineer and city planner far and away has the most documentation of the City Planning Board of St. Paul, Minnesota. His manuscript covers a 33 year time frame from the start of the Board in 1920 until 1953; just the years that would tell us of their motives, studies, and actions. This research suggests that the city had an interest in eliminating slums. To elaborate, their working definition of a slum constituted a neighborhood with a high percentage of rental properties whose owners did not live in the neighborhood. *

However, what the Board defined as “slums” also was home to the largest African-American neighborhood in St. Paul. Granted, there were some run-down rentals, but there were also a large contingency of fine homes belonging to Rondo’s middle-class residents. Rondo had a population of roughly 30,000 of which about one-third were black, and the remainder composed by Italians, Jews, Native Americans, and a sprinkling of other ethnicities. It is precisely because of Rondo’s diverse assemblage that suspicions of “red-lining” or racist motives arise in criticism of St. Paul’s role in routing I-94 through this neighborhood.******

In contrast, we find evidence that does not support this conclusion. Department of Transportation employees did extensive studies on both alternatives, as they did elsewhere through the Interstate Highway System. Commonly, this looks like engineers doing on-site observations and gathering data: counting cars on every East-West thoroughfare, establishing “desire lines” (i.e. which roads are most preferred), collecting data on rush hour usage, travel times from origin to destination, etc. Of these DOT engineers professor C. Wells of Macalester College states, “the process that they went through would seem to suggest that race had nothing to do with it…”. **** The data collected suggests that the direct route along St. Anthony Avenue was the preferred route, and support for the “northern route” along Pierce Butler and the railway diminished.

As the neighborhood of Rondo saw the writing on the wall, they peacefully protested and gained concessions. According to the research of Mark Simonsen, their focus became the four points listed below.
1. Stay in homes as long as possible.
2. Receive Fair Market Value for homes.
3. Depress the freeway below street level.
4. Requested that they be able to buy new homes anywhere they could afford them. (Open Housing Law)****
Residents won the first three of these requests, but failed to enact the Open Housing Law. In fact, even the city of Saint Paul declined to honor the Open Housing Law within its boundaries. It’s City Attorney denied O.H.L. on the basis that it conflicted with Minnesota’s constitution; sellers could legally choose to whom they sold their property. ****
Shall we pray? Eternal Father, we are reminded of your words of promise today as we sit and watch this snapshot of history that physically divided the Rondo neighborhood with an Interstate.
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for the sake of My name will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” Matthew 19:29-30 BSB *
We love that we can always come to You for a hearing, and that Your Hearing and Presence bring justice! Be forever praised!

As a starting point, we acknowledge that You provided two paths for Interstate I-94. We acknowledge that the outcome of following the less disruptive “northern route” may never be known. Yet, there was a solid opportunity to choose a route that had less impact on human lives and relationships. Did we miss You in this? Maybe so. In any case, we acknowledge that we chose the road that wrecked neighborhoods. Will You forgive the seeds of division sown in this moment by the proponents and opponents of running the highway by the railway? Where we judged our neighbor, we have offended You; will You heal the past, free the present, and bless the future in this decision of 1959?

Next, we see the depth of consideration and the data collected to resolve this issue. We remember that the DOT and civil engineers went out into the neighborhoods between Minneapolis and Saint Paul, and actually observed where our people drove, how many, and how long it took them to arrive at their destination. Like Your message to the prophet Isaiah, You continually invite us to “come now and reason together”. You are not threatened by our observations, science, data, or investigations!

We thank You that the numbers don’t lie, or in this case, the numbers don’t lie about where we drive; we voted with our wheels. Yet, we fully acknowledge that though “numbers don’t lie”, we are often skewed by our own biases as we interpret them! Will You lift the suspicion of these studies up, out, and onto the Cross? Will You be with us as we reconsider this moment with You?

To continue, we see this data filtered through the distorted looking glass of banking. As a short backstory, we find that the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) had created a system of segregation, real ethnic and racial division, and negated facts that challenged their narrative. It is here, if I can be so bold Lord, that I see some of the ugliest acts of racism and ethnocentrism committed in St. Paul of this era. It is a fact that the FHA created maps based on ethnicity and race. It appears that though the FHA commenced with noble pursuits, in reality it fostered and reinforced the racialization of space.

Lord have mercy! Christ have mercy! We allowed these dreams of placing a home within reach of all to take a wrecking ball to those deemed not worthy by bureaucrats! We give You the damage caused by our State and Federal government’s judgments contained in the word “slums”. We acknowledge to You all the pain and falsehoods spoken over the residents of Rondo like, “a black family will not be given a home loan west of Lexington Avenue.” We acknowledge the defilement of this land through judgment and counter-judgment: from the Mississippi River to Marion Street, from University Avenue to Marshall Avenue; this land is Your land! Will You take these lies, curses, unbeliefs, and misbeliefs up, out, and onto the Cross?

Conversely, will You speak truth to cursed ears and broken hearts? Will You impart life where it has been crushed and stunted? Will You uproot those who have negated human choice because it interferes with their vision of what “helping” looks like? Will You release Your Holy Spirit, and replace the memory of wrecking balls with “Welcome” mats in this Rondo corridor forever?

“Do not afflict your countrymen, but let every one fear his G-d: because I am the Lord your G-d.” Levitcus 25:17 Douay-Rheims Bible

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20th Century, Great Lakes, History, Lake Superior, Minnesota, Shipping, water, worship

Duluth Becomes World Port

This photo provided by Ron Walsh shows the Coalfax, a self-unloading ship that used to purvey the former canal system on the St. Lawrence River prior to the opening of the Seaway.

1959
Water from the seven seas christen the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, linking the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean and making Duluth a world port.*

Before the date of this stellar achievement on June 26, 1959, the Twin Harbors of Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin could only receive the payloads of “lakers” and not “salties”. A “laker” is a cargo ship loosely defined as 260 feet long or less, with straight sides, and a snub bow to maximize cargo space. Ocean-crossing “salties” are freight vessels up to 740 feet long with a beam (width) of up to 78 feet with v-shaped hulls, sharper bows, and cranes on deck to offload its cargo. According to the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, the St. Lawrence Seaway enabled the Port of Duluth-Superior to become North America’s most inland seaport. **


To fill in the backstory of the St. Lawrence Seaway, this feat of civil engineering began in 1954 with the agreement of co-operation by the nations of the United States and Canada. To accomplish this behemoth task, 22,000 workers were employed for six years. They excavated 210 million cubic yards of earth and rock, pouring about 6 million cubic yards of concrete to complete its 7 locks. These locks enable ships entering at the Atlantic Ocean to rise approximately the height of a 60 story building as they sail to Duluth, Minnesota 2,342 miles inland. ***

It’s namesake, St. Lawrence, was “responsible for the material goods of the Church and the distribution of alms to the poor”. **** What an apt association, as this seaway primarily connects the economies of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and North America! So, what is the impact of this miracle of civil engineering presently?

“The Great Lakes–St. Lawrence region boasts a massive geographic footprint, and is a major driver of the North American economy. With economic output estimated at US$6 trillion in 2017, the region accounts for 30% of combined Canadian and U.S. economic activity and employment. The region’s output ranks ahead of Japan, Germany, the U.K. and France, and it would rank as the third largest economy in the world if it were a country, behind only the U.S. and China—notably, the region overtook Japan a few years ago. Quite simply, the economic importance of the region can’t be overstated.”


Circling back to Minnesota, we reckon the gravity of connecting Duluth Harbor with the Atlantic. According to Duluth Seaway Port Authority spokesman Jayson Hron, a single vessel can carry the equivalent of 2,340 trucks and handle 36 million tons of cargo in a season. This traffic is “far and away” the largest total amount of goods loaded and unloaded at any port on the Great Lakes.
**

Now, we modulate away from briefly reporting some facts about the Saint Lawrence and Twin Harbors into inviting and adoring our Heavenly Hydrologist. We are in awe of this world You have made! Every component of the cosmology, the geology and hydrology of this planet is fashioned with such precision and minute attention to detail to enable the balance that sustains all life! Calling You the “Watchmaker of the Universe” is a crude insult to Your abilites. If the only revelation humanity had of Your Existence was the creation of water; it would be sufficient proof of Your lovingkindness! What an apt symbol water is of Your thoughts towards all people and every member of creation: we can wade in it, take a swim, fish and gather so many foods and minerals, use it to enable growth, use it as a lubricant, cutting, cleaning, or cooking agent, for boating or recreation, and as a highly efficient means of transportation! You are the Only! No one but You has a mind like this!

Yet, within all these benevolent thoughts, You invite us all to come and know Your incredible mind! You want share? With us? Let me pause and remember Your words before I continue.

“But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” I Corinthians 2:14-16
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what G-d’s will is – His good, pleasing, and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

A dear brother, author David Murry, encapsulated this invitation of the Messiah in his book “The Mind of Christ”.
“We can only walk in the blessing of His mind and His ways to the degree that we know what they are.”
And so we respond today, “Come and reveal Your thoughts in this creative event of June 26, 1959. Come and open the doors of history to us, so that we know and remember our new identities. Heal our past. Free our present. Bless our futures together!”

As we watch this history with You, the first area of conflict that comes to mind is environmental. Do we have the right to alter the earth’s surface and waterways to our liking? Proponents of a pristine and un-altered earth may object vigorously to the massive primary alterations of the Saint Lawrence Seaway in terms of excavation alone. The banks of these waterways, as well as the harbors of the Great Lakes, are permanently changed to enable their traffic-control and ports. Did these human-initiated changes spoil their respective ecosystems and the life they sustained?

We continue analyzing this area of conflict from the standpoint of those who believe that the we are Your stewards of the earth which are allowed to manage our environment. If we believe that You placed resources on the earth to be shared by all, how does one share regional resources if they cannot be moved to places of want or need? In reverse, how does Minnesota satisfy the deficits in its own pool of natural resources if it remains landlocked?

Granted, Perfect Steward, these are only notions scratching the surface of environmental impacts, but will You hear our prayer? We drown in judgments of each other as to the use of Your property without consider You or the council of heaven!? Will You first heal our lack of humility and acknowledgement of Your interests in all human land and water use? Will You take the bitter-root judgments of environmentalists towards the pragmatists in the formation of the Saint Lawrence Seaway System and Duluth Harbor, and vice versa, up, out, and onto the Cross of Christ?

Next, we address the judgments of these waters and ports based on our economic or political biases. Northern Minnesota of 1959 has already endured perhaps 80 years of struggle between the capitalist and the socialist. Spotty relationships between the owners of iron mines and timber claims and their workers created an uneasy, perhaps co-dependent, partnership in which no one could fully win. If the unions “won”, it would be a Pyrrhic victory; yes wages and benefits would rise, but then the owners would cut jobs. On the side of the employers, they could squeeze concessions from unions, but they could not produce without their rugged work ethic or skills.

Given this cultural aura to Duluth Harbor and the Saint Lawrence System, will You guide us to Your thoughts on this issue? This is what we know about the labor side of this coin; 22 thousand workmen were employed for six years in its creation, and this initial effort presently effects 52 million jobs. *** When zoomed out to a bird’s-eye view, this seems an astounding and unbelievable success for labor; a 2,363.63% increase in jobs, and an average yearly increase of jobs of 38.7% over the span of 62 years!?!

Again, let’s return to the question of the businessmen in this era, and what are some simple facts we know.
“According to the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, the cost of the navigation project was $470.3 million (Cdn), of which Canada paid $336.5 million and the U.S. $133.8 million.”
Though I don’t have the actual numbers committed by Minnesota’s investors in the Seaway and Twin Harbors, we can read between the lines as to what these accomplishments meant to them as a group. This investment of CDN $470.3 yielded a fair return: its is the gateway of 30% of the economic activity of the USA and Canada, and represents a valuation of $6 trillion in terms of the US gross domestic product!?!

All this to say we owe You an apology Lord! Both halves of this political and economic battle have known amazing gains, but still seem to suffer wounds of distrust from the past. We are not to be co-dependents in Your economy: these parties are both dependents of the abundance of Your table. Heal us in our regional distrust of the owner, the capitalist and the outside investor! Heal us in our regional ignorance of the utility of our resources to the world, and a truly free market as opposed to state capitalism! The Enemy wants us to scrap over a larger piece of a small pie, but You, in this case, make the pie 2,363 times larger!

We praise you for Your generosity of Your natural resources!
We remember that You grant us permission to wisely steward and manage Your lands and waters!
We are ashamed in Your Presence at: our historical fights, our broken self-images as beggars and sibling rivals, and our failure to honor Our Father’s love towards our human enemies!
We are grateful for the engineers, geologists, hydrologists, and workmen of every kind who unlocked the interior of North America!
Will You be the system of locks that enable us to traverse the obstacles of broken human relationships, and raise us to a new level of chesed?
Let our harbors and seaways flow with You in tikkun olam!

*P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
** Gliaoto, Katie. “Is Duluth the most inland seaport in North America?”. StarTribune online. Internet. June 28, 2019. https://www.startribune.com/is-duluth-the-most-inland-seaport-in-north-america/510139371/?refresh=true
*** Please read this wonderful detailed article at the website of Great Lakes Saint Lawrence Seaway System. https://greatlakes-seaway.com/en/the-seaway/
**** Fr. Paolo O. Pirlo, SHMI (1997). “St. Lawrence”. My First Book of Saints. Sons of Holy Mary Immaculate – Quality Catholic Publications. pp. 176–178
*****BMO Capital Markets, Spring 2018.
****** Zajac, Ronald. “St Lawrence Seaway at 60: The project that changed the region”. Montreal Gazette. Internet. April 26, 2019. https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/seaway-at-60/st-lawrence-seaway-at-60-the-project-that-changed-the-region/

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19th Century, Business, Geology, History, Industry, Intercession, Minnesota, omnipresent history, State Government

Falling Falls

Unknown

1866 to 1880
“Construction begins on a wooden apron to protect St. Anthony Falls. Mills depend on the falls for industrial power, and their owners hope the apron will stop its erosion and collapse. Floodwaters destroy this first attempt the following year. Collapses follow. It’s 1880 before a useful apron is completed.” *

The Eastman Tunnel once ran below the St. Anthony Falls, connecting Nicollet island with Hennepin Island. It’s collapse almost destroyed the utility of the falls for the milling industry. Congress gave the Army Corps of Engineers $50,000 to fix the falls by basically filling in the tunnel with concrete, and making a wooden apron. This attempt failed also, and it wouldn’t be until 1874 when a lasting apron would be built.**

Jesus, our life is a series of attempts, successes, and failures. Help us view failures as You do; teachable moments. Thanks that this failure to build an apron eventually led to a successful preservation of the utility of St. Anthony Falls and the milling industry, but at the cost of destroying its’ natural beauty.

Will You bless us again through the Falls and the Mississippi? Will You gift us to persevere today when our work is totally destroyed by forces beyond our control? Will You help us work in harmony with beauty and nature?
http://www.mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
** https://www.esci.umn.edu/courses/1001/1001_kirkby/SAFL/WEBSITEPAGES/5.html

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