Happy Valentine’s Day!

To celebrate, here’s a selection of Valentine’s Day cards from our collection:

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Les Amis d’Escoffier Dinner at the Hotel Radisson

Hungry? This souvenir plate commemorates the 1957 menu for the annual Friends of Escoffier dinner. The banquet was one of the highlights of the Twin Cities’ gastronomic calendars, and provided an opportunity for the host hotel – in this case, the Hotel Radisson – to show off their skills to a cross-section of Minnesota tastemakers.

The local Friends of Escoffier, or Les Amis, were part of a larger movement to honor famous French chef Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935). Men, and later women, gathered to enjoy elaborate French-inspired feasts. At the 1957 dinner, a solo table was set for the deceased chef, complete with full place setting and a portrait.

Escoffier

August Escoffier (from The Gourmet’s Guide to London, 1914)

Serving a roomful of gastronomes was no small undertaking. Work on the menu and procuring necessary ingredients began months in advance. During the evening itself, there was a two-person team serving every six guests. This event was carefully observed and heavily publicized, and the Hotel Radisson left nothing to chance.

The Radisson’s efforts appear to have paid off. The following day, George Rice of the Minneapolis Star reviewed the dinner (under the heading “After This, the Little Woman’s Meals Will Seem Awfully Dull”). His column was full of enthusiasm about the six-hour affair, including nine courses and six wines. The night was “a gastronomic tour de force,” the “eye was delighted,” the “nostrils are charmed,” the palate was “nearly overwhelmed,” the service was “flawless,” and the kitchen staff received a standing ovation at the end of the night.

Attendees came from a range of backgrounds – union organizers, hotel managers, cooks, doctors, and, of course, journalists – and paid only $35 for the night.

“I enjoyed the challenge of putting it on, preparing the 200-pound live turtle into soup, flying in crawfish tails from Denmark, salmon from British Columbia, pate de foie gras and truffles from France, and caviar from behind the Iron Curtain. It took 1000 man hours to prepare the dinner for 127 men.”

-Chef Jorgen Viltoft, quoted in the Minneapolis Morning Tribune, January 15, 1957

According the Hotel Radisson’s own advertising column:

“The only sad note in the Escoffier banquet preparations took place last week when the large choice turtle, which had won the hearts of the Radisson staff and become a pet, had to be sacrificed for the preparation of soup of the banquet.”

“At the Radisson,” January 1957

The final annual Escoffier dinner in Minneapolis was held in 1958, although there was an attempt to revive the tradition in 1970.

This was cataloged as part of the museum’s ongoing comprehensive historic inventory project. Your financial contributions make this and our other activities possible. Click here to make a donation today to support local history preservation efforts at Hennepin History Museum. Thank you!

Nate Goldstone & and the Brookside Drug Store

Nate Goldstone’s Brookside Drug Store, located at Excelsior Boulevard and Brookside Avenue in Saint Louis Park, was a local staple for more than 40 years. Brookside Drug Store first opened in 1939; Nate Goldstone took over the store in 1946 and operated it until finally making the decision to sell in 1988.

These prescription medicine bottles were donated to the museum in 1990 by the Noble Medical Clinic. While Brookside is no longer here, we are lucky to have these bottles as part of our collection. They are a reminder of a store and a man that left their mark on our community.

In addition to the pharmaceutical services, Brookside Drug was a popular soda fountain stop; adults grabbed breakfast and lunch during the daytime, while local students stopped off for after-school sodas and snacks. With time, Brookside Drug — and its owner Nate Goldstone — became firmly established as part of life in St. Louis Park. Former Brookside Drug customers may also remember longtime employees such as Ethel Freeland and Birdie Carlson, who, like Goldstone, spent most of their careers at Brookside.

Do you remember Brookside Drug and its legendary owner? Or if you weren’t a St. Louis Park resident, did you, or do you have, your own Brookside Drug and Nate Goldstone in your neighborhood?

Sources

6001 Excelsior Boulevard, St. Louis Park Historical Society

“Pharmacist Mixes Love into Rx for Life.” Jake Tapper, Minneapolis Star, June 4, 1981.

Citizens State Bank of St. Louis Park advertisement, Minneapolis Star, May 21, 1988, p. 7

Neither Rain nor Snow nor Poison Ivy: Life as a Rural Mail Carrier in Hennepin County

Did you know that rural Hennepin County was served by one of the nation’s few female mail carriers for nearly four decades? Elizabeth Titus of Robbinsdale carried this box with her for the duration of her 38-year career in Hennepin County. On rural routes, customers depended on their carriers to do much more than only deliver the mail; specialized boxes like this one were designed to serve as a miniature, portable post office, with slots for stamps and supplies, and room to hold cash collected from customers.

Elizabeth started her career as a mail carrier during World War I,  a time when the post office was forced by labor force shortages to consider women for more positions. She started out as a substitute, often delivering wartime news – both reassuring and sometimes heartbreaking – from loved ones far away from home. Eventually she got her own permanent routes, covering an approximate 1,000 miles each month.

Working as a rural mail carrier was a job filled with both joys and challenges. A farm resident herself, Elizabeth was familiar with the rigors of rural life. In addition to delivering the mail, she at times helped put out fires or capture errant cattle!

The note on this stamp box, written by Elizabeth herself, says it was put into service in 1918. At that time, Elizabeth delivered the mail using a team of horses. Eventually she switched to a truck, although for many years horses remained the most effective way to navigate the mud and snowdrifts sometimes found on Hennepin County’s more rural roads.

The stamps in this box are marked Route 11. During the 1940s and early 1950s Elizabeth was delivering mail to approximately 460 families – and increasingly, businesses — along rural Route 11. The stamps shown here are for the Reinhard Brothers, 4301 Highway 7 in St. Louis Park.

The worst part of her job? According to Elizabeth, it was poison ivy.

“You can shovel away snow,” she told the Minneapolis Morning Tribune in 1946, “you can work from 6 a.m. until 2 a.m. the next day during Christmas, you can get through in spite of mud, loads of chicks, turtles, and catalogues but very seldom can you escape that ole debbil poison ivy.”

She retired in 1953, splitting her time between her home in Robbinsdale and her new husband’s home in Michigan.

A Fantasy in Iron

This section of ornamental ironwork was harvested from the wreckage of the demolished Metropolitan Building, 3rd Street and 2nd Avenue South, in downtown Minneapolis. It was created by August Malmsten and Andrew Nelson who, in 1878, began a blacksmith business on the banks of the Mississippi River overlooking St. Anthony Falls. The business expanded rapidly, providing machinery repair services to the surrounding flour and sawmills, and supplying steel for the booming building trade in and around Minneapolis.

By 1884 the Malmsten and Nelson Company had become the Crown Iron Works Company. The company became the leading fabricator of structural steel, ornamental iron, and bronze and aluminum metal work. In 1888, at the height of what became known as Minneapolis’ “Golden Age” of architecture, Crown Ornamental Iron Works was commissioned to create an extravaganza of ironwork to dress the atrium of the Northwestern Guaranty Loan Building. Twelve stories of bronze-trimmed, cast, and wrought iron, in the art nouveau style, at a cost of $167,000, was created in the Minneapolis plant, located at 113-117 2nd Avenue S.E. The remnant seen here was donated to Hennepin History Museum by Wayne Murphy, former Director of the Robbinsdale Historical Society.

Metropolitan Building interior

In 1890 the doors opened to one of the most significant, not to mention stunning, pieces of architecture in Minneapolis history. Designed by E. Townsend Mix, for Louis Menage, the Northwestern Guaranty Loan Building was born of light filled glass, breathtaking Art Nouveau filigree iron work, green New Hampshire granite, Red lake- Superior sandstone, and Italian marble, and was crowned with an open- air roof garden and observation tower. 8,000 illustrious guests attended the grand opening.

Metropolitan Building c 1890s.jpg

The first tenants included forerunners to Pillsbury, Wells Fargo, and the Soo Line railroad companies, as well as one of Minneapolis’ first African American Restaurant owners, Jasper Gibbs. It was the most prestigious business address in Minneapolis. In 1905 The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company bought the building, it has since been known as the Metropolitan Building.

The onset of urban renewal in the late 1950s set in motion discussions of the razing of the Metropolitan Building. The movement to save the Metropolitan was impressive. It was led by Robert Bliss, University of Minnesota professor of Architecture. In September  1961, Sidney Simon, Director of the University Gallery, Martin Friedman, Director of the Walker Art Center, and Carl J. Weinhardt, Director of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, issued the following joint statement at their museums, accompanied by an exhibition of documentary photographs of the Metropolitan Building:

“Photographs such as these may soon be all that will remain of this important architectural monument. This magnificent pioneer skyscraper originally known as the Northwestern Guaranty Loan Building was designed by E. Townsend Mix and constructed between 1888 and 1890. This building made audacious structural use of steel, concrete and glass. Its fanciful design motifs are characteristic of the turn of the century. The principles involved in the cantilevered balconies with their translucent floors and light filled court are completely consistent with those found in the best recent architecture”

Ninety days later, demolition of the Metropolitan Building began.

 

A Large Coffee, Please

This monumental coffee pot shaped coffee grinder is crafted of cast iron and aluminum. It was manufactured by the American Duplex Company of Louisville Kentucky. The grinder offers several features or settings for achieving the desired grind, and ultimately, the perfect cup of coffee.

This grinder was used at Hawkinson’s Red and White grocery store, located at 4306 Upton Avenue in the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis.

The Hawkinson family had owned, and operated, grocery stores at 2716 W. 45th St. and at 4429 York Avenue, in Minneapolis, as early as 1910. In 1925 they moved to the 4306 Upton Avenue location. By 1950, Roy and Stella Hawkinson had become a part of the Red and White food store chain, which was established in Chicago in 1925, and quickly spread across the country. The chain was formed to allow small independent grocery stores to carry the Red and White brand, and compete with the large chains, which were already beginning to overtake the neighborhood corner store. The Red Dot logo was instantly recognizable on signs and awnings of small stores everywhere. By 1957 there were seven Red and Whites in Minneapolis.

The chain is still in business, and although most of the stores have been replaced by large supermarket chains, you can still see the famous red dot logo on small stores across the United States. Hawkinson’s closed their doors in 1980.

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Please Pass the Mustard

This unmarked pressed glass cruet set was used at the Russell Hotel and Coffee Shop, located at 14-18 South Fourth Street in downtown Minneapolis. The set consists of a glass caddy with stainless steel handle and four glass condiment containers.

For its time, this is a comparatively simple cruet set, practical, and appropriate for use in a busy hotel restaurant/coffee shop. By 1913, when this one was used, cruet sets, along with tableware, and table settings in general, had reached extremes in design and embellishment totally eclipsing any suggestion of practicality. “More is More” was the ideal. Many sets consisted of ten, even twenty condiment containers created in elaborately cut crystal and sterling silver, as well as a dizzying array of miniature serving implements for transporting the condiment from the bottle to the plate.

These elaborate affairs were most often relegated to a sideboard or buffet. Every truly well-dressed table or sideboard, though, was incomplete without a generous selection of condiments, preferably served from a fine cruet set.

This caddy was donated to Hennepin History Museum by Harriet Lycken of Minneapolis.

About the author

Jack Kabrud is curator at Hennepin History Museum.