Monthly Archives: October 2018

HSR and Building Update – October 2018

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It has been a very busy summer and early fall at Hennepin History Museum. Our project to produce a Historic Structure Report (HSR) passed the 75% milestone as required by the grant requirements and is scheduled for completion by the end of November. (We’ll be sharing the highlights with you in 2019 as we celebrate the 100th birthday of our building!) We’re happy to report that no significant structural issues have been found, which has been a huge relief! Our building has proved to be solidly built and well designed.

Many non-emergency repairs in the building have been put on hold as we continue to work on this report. But we have had to address two emergency situations this year:

Many of you heard about the roof leak which caused us to close for two days in September. Although our roof is in good shape overall, we have had an ongoing issue with small holes around the main drain which have been causing some deterioration of the plaster in our main staircase. Our HSR team identified those holes earlier this summer, but normal rainfalls were not causing any significant issues until September.

You may recall the large amount of rain we received around the 19th and 20th of September. When the staff arrived on the morning of the 20th it became clear that those tiny holes became a very large problem, causing a pretty significant leak near our main stairway.

Mint Roofing was quick to respond and came out during the deluge to do spot fixes which immediately stopped the leak. But we did have to wait an extra day to allow the plaster to dry somewhat and to clean up the mess left behind before we reopened the building. Mint Roofing came back again the next week and did a more extensive patch job that will ensure these leaks will not come back. We want to thank Mint Roofing for the timely response to our crisis!

Additionally, there was the issue with our basement hallway ceiling which developed a large crack. We were advised by our HSR team to remove the plaster as soon as possible as it was a safety hazard to staff and volunteers who used the hallway to access our storage areas on a regular basis. After the plaster was all removed, we were told that that section of ceiling was thicker than normal and weighed at least a ton: plaster and metal lathe weigh a lot!

We thank all of you who contributed to our building fund and helped us complete these repairs!

The HSR team, which includes architects and designers from Collaborative Design Group, have been invaluable advisors and teachers when it comes to our building. And some good did come out of both of these emergencies. Both exposed the underlying structure of our building and helped us to better understand how it was constructed. The HSR that is produced from our partnership will provide very important information about our building, and allow us to plan our next repairs and improvements to ensure the building will serve our organization well into the next 100 years.

PrintThe Historic Structure Report 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!

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The Automobile Club of Minneapolis

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While today’s auto clubs offer roadside assistance, in their heyday these clubs offered much more. In the earliest years of the automobile, they were a place for the small group of well-to-do motorists to socialize and organize on their own behalf as car owners. In so doing, these clubs played an important role in shaping the way Americans get around today.

The Automobile Club of Minneapolis was the first of these clubs founded in Minnesota. The club was chartered in November 1902 amidst a growing movement of such organizations. Owners of the first automobiles recognized a need for an expanded network of the high-quality roads their new vehicles demanded. In response, they banded together to demand such projects. The American Automobile Association (AAA) was the first would prove to be the most influential of these early clubs. This club was formed by the merger of several smaller clubs in Chicago, just a few months prior to the Minneapolis club’s founding. At the time, only 23,000 automobiles were in operation as compared to 17 million horses.

While their numbers may have been small, these early automobile owners were often the wealthiest and most well-connected members of their communities. The auto clubs they formed thus became not only potent political entities, but important social hubs. The earliest members of the Minneapolis club included George C. Christian, whose father built the home that would become the Hennepin History Museum, as well as L.B. Newell, the heir to the company that became SuperValu, and James Ford Bell, the founder of General Mills. Together, these men would lobby for improved roads and highways, better signage and safety practices, and against policies that severely limited their speed and prevented them from driving alongside horses.

In 1911, the auto club built a summer house for its members. Located in Bloomington on the Minnesota River bluffs, the house served as a gathering place and event space where parties and dinners were hosted. The house itself was designed by prominent Minneapolis architect Frederick Kees, and included garage stalls for member’s cars, a restaurant with an in-house chef, and dormitory rooms so members could stay the night before making the trek back into the city.

The clubhouse would remain a popular destination for club members and people from the community alike. Though its first building would be destroyed in a 1918 fire, supposedly set by a German-sympathizing caretaker during the war, it was rebuilt in 1920 and remained a fixture of the area into the 1950’s. The house would remain a destination for dinners and dancing, as well as hosting weddings and high school proms.

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These plates were produced for the clubhouse by Syracuse China in early 1956, in what would be the final years of the clubhouse’s use. They bear the club’s logo, a winged steering wheel upon a red triangle, and were a part of a set that included similarly marked cups and saucers.

Ultimately, the house’s construction for seasonal use left it unable to make money for the club year-round, and it was sold to developers in 1958. Furnishings like these plates were saved, but the building itself would be demolished the next year. Today, the area where the clubhouse stood has been converted to homes.  

Author Bio

Noah Barnaby is a Research Intern at Hennepin History Museum. He has a bachelor’s degree in History and Philosophy from the University of Minnesota, and focuses on Social, Economic, and Labor History.

Resources

Hennepin History Magazine article celebrating the 60th anniversary of the auto club in Minneapolis.

“Remembering the Club Days of AAA”

Bloomington and St. Louis Park Historical Societies on the AAA Clubhouse.

 

The Invention of the Damper Flapper and the Birth of Honeywell

This thermostat and motor belonged to a device called a thermo-electric damper-regulator and alarm, otherwise known as a “damper flapper.” It was the predecessor of the modern thermostat and established the technology that laid the foundation for the automated control industry. Honeywell, a company with well-known ties to Hennepin County, also traces its roots back to the invention of this device that was invented by Albert M. Butz (1849-1905).

Butz immigrated to the United States from Switzerland in 1857 and was living in Minneapolis when he was awarded a patent for the damper flapper in 1886. That same year he formed the Butz Thermoelectric Regulator Company. After a series of name changes, mergers, and acquisitions, it eventually became the company we know today as Honeywell International Inc.

The damper flapper was a system that controlled coal fire furnaces. When the temperature inside a home became too cold, Butz’s invention would lift the damper on the furnace, allowing air to fan the flames, thus automatically increasing the temperature of the residence. The device was composed of three components, a thermostat, a battery, and a motor.

The brass oblong thermostat in our collection displays the words, “Electric Heat Regulator Co. Minneapolis, Minn.,” engraved in the upper portion. In 1900, this was the name of the company that would later become Honeywell.

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The motor encased in black metal came from a damper flapper produced in 1912. At this point in Honeywell’s history, the company’s name was The Minneapolis Heat Regulator Company, which is displayed at the front of the motor. In 1927 The Minneapolis Heat Regulator Company merged with Honeywell Heating Specialties Company of Wabash, Indiana. At that point the company name became Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Co. The corporate name would finally be changed to Honeywell Inc. in 1964.

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The inventor of the damper flapper would not stay in Minnesota long, nor with the company he started. After transferring the patent to his investors in Minneapolis, Butz moved to Chicago. He would later patent eleven more inventions, but this damper Flapper remains his most groundbreaking and significant contribution in the field of automated temperature control. Accordingly, he was inducted into the Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame in 1992. Butz’s invention was not only innovative but became the cornerstone of the most iconic thermostat company in the world.

Our Honeywell collection was inventoried and cataloged as part of our larger collections inventory project. 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.

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Witt’s Market House: The Future of Minnesota Grocery

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This photo shows the chaos that once was the second floor of Witt’s Market House. Witt’s Market had previously been a well established family owned meat market before expanding to a new retail space in 1919 at 705-09 Hennepin Ave S. The new store was advertised as a new modern food market, which included produce, meat, dairy, baked goods, new plumbing, electricity and the most exciting technological advancement of the day-cash registers and computing scales.

The Witt’s Market House was a massive building. The store was four stories high and 7,500 square feet. A large refrigerator was housed in the basement along with the store’s personal team of butchers. Meat would be cut to order, and sent up to the main floor in elevators. The main floor was a typical market where groceries were purchased. Pictured is the second floor, where shoppers could buy larger quantities of produce (by the dozen or by the case). The in-house sausage factory was also located on the second floor. The third floor was filled with offices and restroom facilities (including showers and baths for employee use). The fourth floor was dedicated to the bakery. In a time where Minneapolis residents had to visit a butcher for their meat and a baker for their bread, having all the facilities of a modern market in one building was quite the luxury.

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Witt’s Market House closed its doors in 1968 and was replaced with a novelty store called Now and Then. The novelty store struggled to find a use for the massive building where locals had once visited to do their shopping. The building still stands at the corner of 7th St and Hennepin Ave. S in Minneapolis. You can learn more about the Witt’s Market House at the Hennepin History Museum.

Sources:

Upham, Daniel. “Now and Then Caters to Young-at-Heart Taste,” The Minneapolis Star, October 8, 1969. https://startribune.newspapers.com/image/189170432/?terms=%22Witt’s%2BMarket%2BHouse%22

Witt’s Market House. “Witt’s New Market: C. F. Witt, 705-707-709 Hennepin Avenue To Open January 3.” Advertisement. The Minneapolis Morning Tribune, January 2, 1919. https://www.newspapers.com/image/180813112/?terms=%22Witt’s%2BMarket%2BHouse%22

Blog post written by Bridget Jensen, Archive Volunteer