Victory Memorial Drive’s Memorial Trees

On June 11, 1921, more than 30,000 people gathered together on Victory Memorial Drive to remember the 568 Hennepin County men and women who died during World War I. The drive, designed by Charles Loring and Theodore Wirth, stretches 3.8 miles in north Minneapolis. The drive was lined with the memorial trees highlighted in this program, along with a flagpole and hundreds of wooden markers.

In June 1921, World War I was still a very recent memory; the 30,000 people attending the dedication ceremonies were there because they had experienced firsthand the devastation caused by the War, whether on the battlefield or on the home front. Each of the 568 markers represented a real person, a Hennepin County resident who lost his or her life in the war. Many of their family and friends were among the audience on June 11, 1921.

In addition to speeches made by local dignitaries, national figures also sent in messages. “The opening of Victory Memorial driveway by the city of Minneapolis,” wrote President Harding, “with the realization of the beautiful idea of dedicating trees to the brave boys from that city who gave their lives in the great war is an occasion for congratulations to the people of Minneapolis upon having such an impressive, lasting, and useful tribute to the memory of those heroes.”

Victory Memorial Drive remains today, although it has evolved over the years. The original elm trees have mostly been replaced with hackberry trees, and the wooden markers replaced with bronze. Additional walls, plaques, and statues have been added over time. In June 2011, Minnesotans once again gathered on Victory Memorial Drive following the completion of an extensive campaign that repaired, rehabilitated, and updated the living memorial.

This program is part of the Museum’s World War I collection. We will also be sharing more of these materials throughout 2018 as we gear up to commemorate November’s 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.



Hennepin County Fair Flashback

County fairs have been part of the Minnesota experience for generations, and Hennepin County is no exception. This ribbon comes from the 1930 Hennepin County Fair, and is one of many ribbons in Hennepin History Museum’s County Fair Collection.


“Outside the city of Minneapolis, Hennepin County is one of the richest agricultural areas in all the northwest,” reported the Minneapolis Tribune in August 1930 in an article extolling the virtues of Hennepin County as an agricultural powerhouse. The Hennepin County Fair, they wrote, was the perfect place to see this agricultural legacy in action: “A visit to Hopkins this week will beget new faith in Hennepin County, inspire a broader understanding of rural problems, and assure worthwhile entertainment.”

Hennepin County’s fair moved to Hopkins in 1907, bouncing around in specific location from downtown to, eventually, an indoors location at a Hennepin County Highway Department garage, also located in Hopkins – giving it the distinction of being the only Minnesota county fair to be located indoors. In 1986, the fair moved back outside, this time in Corcoran.

Click here to learn more about the Hennepin County Fair today.

Do you have a favorite county fair memory – whether in Hennepin County or somewhere else? Please share below; we’d love to hear your stories.

Update on Historic Structure Report progress – June 2018

We are pleased to announce that Hennepin History Museum is now working with Collaborative Design Group (CDG) on our Historic Structure Report (HSR). Eight architectural firms responded to our Request for Proposals and toured the building. All eight submitted bids for the project!

We liked CDG’s focus on historic preservation and renovation which is reflected in previous projects that are similar to ours. Their team has many years of experience identifying and evaluating HVAC, mechanical, electrical and structural issues in historic buildings and making recommendations based on current and anticipated uses.

HSR kick-off 1 LR

Our kick off meeting was held on April 19th and since then we have been working closely with CDG to interpret our building’s history and evaluate its current condition. The team has been all over the building, looking in every nook and cranny, from the boiler room to the tip of our tallest chimney. It has been so interesting to work with the various specialists and learn more about our building and grounds.

Kristen Oliver reflected in doorway

Image courtesy CDG


The final report, which will be completed in November, will assist future planning by creating a detailed picture of the building as it is today. It will also include a prioritized list of repairs and suggested changes, such as ADA improvements, in order to make our home even more welcoming to all.

A very special thank you goes out to the volunteer members of our HSR Advisory team: John Crippen, Debbie Goettel, Reed Holiman, Kim Jeppesen, Casey Krolczyk, Cara Letofsky and Becka Rahn, and to staff representatives Kristin Kaspar, Cedar Phillips, James Bacigalupo, and Heidi Heller. Each one went the extra mile by familiarizing themselves with the National Park Service’s Brief 43 (the official guidelines for an HSR), our grant request and our RFP prior to evaluating the bids to make the final recommendation. Many from this team will continue to be available as needed as we move through the HSR project.

We plan to offer periodic updates on our HSR, both in our magazine, Hennepin History, and on our blog. Stay tuned!


This project has been financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society. Thank you, fellow Minnesotans, for supporting arts and culture through the Legacy Amendment!

Inventions & Innovation Collection at Hennepin History Museum

Great news! Hennepin History Museum has received a Legacy grant to catalog our Invention & Innovation collection. As many of our readers know, we are currently working on a large-scale full inventory of our collections. This project is a segmentation of this larger collections inventory project currently underway at the museum.

In 2019, we will be opening an exhibition on the history of inventions and innovation in Hennepin County. The artifacts cataloged in this project will help us prepare for that exhibition. Possible items include everything from a collection of Honeywell regulators to irons, Nordic Ware bundt pans, food packaging, games, cosmetics, and medical devices.

This grant has allowed us to temporarily expand our Assistant Collections Manager position from part-time to full-time. Alyssa is quickly becoming our resident expert on local inventions! She’ll be documenting each artifact (shown here), photographing them, and entering them into a database that will eventually be made available online. She’ll also be conducting additional research and writing blog posts about some of the most significant or fascinating items.

Upon completion of the project, we will have detailed collections records on 350 items, and 35 blog posts to share!

This project has been financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society. This publication was made possible in part by the people of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Any views, findings, opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society, or the Minnesota Historic Resources Advisory Committee.



Lake Minnetonka Summer School

The Museum’s archives are filled with a treasure trove of interesting items from Hennepin County’s past, including this student card for the Lake Minnetonka Summer School. Students at the school enjoyed the opportunity to indulge in four weeks of academic lectures on a wide range of topics, all while enjoying summer on the scenic shores of Lake Minnetonka.

The Excelsior-based Lake Minnetonka Summer School ran for four weeks in mid-summer. Professors from Minnesota and beyond served as instructors. In 1890, the school drew students – primarily teachers themselves – from seven different states, and its staff proclaimed it the largest of its kind in the  nation! Its aims were “to furnish opportunities to teachers and others for advancement in language, literature, science, art, and the methods of teaching.”

This student card was issued in 1890 to Mrs. Mary Burwell and family. Mary Durham Burwell was married to Charles Burwell, former manager of the Minnetonka Mills Company. In 1890, Mary had two young children, Louise (age 8) and Loring (age 6); Louise and Loring would have been too young to enjoy the Lake Minnetonka Summer School, but Mary’s older step-children, Ann Marie (age 22) and George (age 17) may have joined her in Excelsior. The Burwell home still stands today and is open to the public for tours and special events. More information about the Burwells can be found in the Hennepin History Museum archives or at the Minnetonka Historical Society.

“The school was a great success this season. The attendance was extremely large, every room being full. The branches of study were of the highest and the teachers were of the best.” – Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, August 3, 1890

The season was capped off with a school-sponsored musical and literary event featuring a 100-voice chorus and a literary program designed by Professor Maria Sanford, noted University of Minnesota professor.

Despite its initial popularity – more than 150 people attended in 1890! – the school only lasted five seasons. Summer schools for teachers had expanded rapidly in Minnesota and across the upper Midwest, and students no longer had to travel to obtain access to educational enrichment opportunities.



Happy Birthday, Hennepin History Museum! We’re Celebrating 80 Years of Local History.

Image, above: Hennepin History Museum c. 1958

Today is the day: Hennepin History Museum is celebrating our 80th anniversary! On April 11, 1938, a group of residents interested in the preservation of local history gathered in the Hennepin County Commissioners’ chambers to discuss the creation of a new organization. “One of the main objects of the proposed society should,” they agreed, “be to obtain pioneer specimens now as the pioneers of Hennepin County were rapidly passing away.” The Hennepin County Board was happy to help; the County had been given a $60,000 Works Progress Administration (WPA) grant for the specific purpose of collecting historical material, and the Commissioners supported using the funds to staff the new historic society and museum. (Hennepin County still supports the museum; the County provides approximately 45% of our annual operating budget, with individuals, corporations, and foundations providing the bulk of the remainder.)

HHM first year

In 1938, the new Hennepin County Historical Society opened in one large “display room” on the second floor of Oak Hill School in St. Louis Park. Within months, we had taken over the entire second floor! Historic treasures from the county’s past flowed into to the newly formed museum, and in 1939 organizers reported that the collection “cannot be adequately shown to the public on account of lack of space and proper display conditions.” In 1944, we moved to a new home, this time located at 1516 Harmon Place in Loring Park.

Old membership card from Harmon Place

By the mid-1950s, space was yet again an issue, and the board began to seek out a larger, more permanent home. In 1958, we moved into our current home. 2303 Third Avenue South, the former residence of philanthropist Carolyn McKnight Christian, was selected for its size, its fire-resistant materials, and adequate parking.

In addition to collecting historic items relating to Hennepin County’s past, the museum’s early leaders focused on sharing history with the public. “From the beginning the Society has endeavored to make the Museum an educational force,” says one of earliest brochures. Shortly after opening we published Bohemian Flats, written by WPA writers and sponsored by the museum. We’re proud to report that this book is still in print today!

Hennepin History 1964

Our first magazine, then a quarterly bulletin, was published in April 1941, and today is one of the longest continuing historic publications in the state. Hennepin History has published articles on hundreds of local history topics. A commitment to telling the full story of Hennepin County has long been part of our mission. In 1991, for example, we became one of (and possibly the) first local history organizations in the nation to publish an article about local LGBTQ history.

That same year, following extensive community research, Hennepin County Historical Society changed its name to Hennepin History Museum. While our name may have changed, our commitment to preserving and sharing the history of Hennepin County remained the same.

For 2018, we’ve selected “why do people collect?” for our anniversary theme. We’ll be delving deep into this them through a year’s worth of programs and exhibitions, including a behind-the-scenes “visible storage” laboratory-turned-gallery. Here, visitors can watch as our volunteers and staff conduct an exhaustive inventory of our collection, and observe as tens of thousands of historic artifacts are recorded, photographed, and entered into a searchable database.


Today, we have the opportunity to look back while at the same dreaming about our future. We invite you to join us for an exciting 2018 as we celebrate 80 wonderful history-filled years!

Your financial support makes all of this possible. Please consider becoming a member or making a financial contribution. Your support would make this birthday year even better! And a very special thank you to current members, donors, and visitors – we couldn’t do this without you.

Minneapolis-Moline Goes to Washington

While Hennepin History Museum doesn’t have the space to collect tractors, that doesn’t stop us from collecting tractor history. And even the briefest survey of tractor history will unearth the name Minneapolis-Moline.

The 1918 tractor shown here was originally used on a farm in Nebraska. A Model “D” Universal tractor, it featured electric ignition, speed control, and electric lights. In 1953, Minneapolis-Moline’s marketing department purchased the tractor and brought it home to Minnesota and sent it on tour to the state and county fairs. In 1957, the company exhibited it at their headquarters in Hopkins.

In 1962, the tractor moved yet again — this time to Washington, DC. The Smithsonian Institution recognized the significance of Minneapolis-Moline and their role in American innovation and agriculture and installed it in one of their history and technology galleries.

The following year, Minnesota business leaders gathered at the Smithsonian during the 1963 Convention of the Chamber of Commerce. Shown here are representatives from the Minneapolis Area Chamber of Commerce, the Pillsbury Company, the United States Navy, the Smithsonian, and, of course, Minneapolis-Moline.

Learn more about the history of Minneapolis Moline and other Hennepin County companies in our library and archives.