More rain, and that’s fine. It is killing the snow. Oh, the snow likes to think they’re on the same team, spreading misery everywhere - it’s cool, dude, I’m hard, just slide off me and flood the streets ’n’ stuff, it’s all good - but the rain is the harbinger of the snow’s demise. What was an adamantine drift is now brittle and crisp. During the night it freezes, of course, adding another level of danger that makes every attempt at locomotion a matter of pushing all your bones on the table and spinning the wheel. There’s so much water on the sidewalk Birch spent most of the walk bounding through boulevard drifts.
It’s fine. This is not the beginning of the end, or even the end of the beginning of the end, but it may be the end of the end of the beginning of the beginning, as Churchill said when he was really hammered but realized there was something there he could use later.
This morning, in the rain, I went to Augsburg college to interview someone. That story later. Lived around here many years ago. It’s always been . . . what did we say back then to excuse its decreptitude? Funky. Lots of improvements but it still looks as dingy and careworn as it ever did, as if it hit a perfect state of shabbiness and moved neither up nor down. The crappy housing that held the hippies in the 60s and 70s are still there, looking just as crappy. Some of the old bars are gone, but a few other dark nooks for serious drinkers have survived, and just looking at them you are overwhelmed with eau de vomit, spilled beer, rank urinal, smoke and failure. The building that housed the Valli West, the spinoff of the original Valli, is there, but the Valli itself is long gone. I think the failure of that one brought down its parent. It’s a Chinese restaurant now.
And so on. It’s a historic neighborhood, rich in local lore, a scrappy community cut adrift from downtown by the freeway. I’ve always hated it. Lived there for a year in Cedar Square West, tried to adapt. Couldn’t. My heart was in Dinkytown.
Anyway, I remembered this place:
That was Smiley’s Point Clinic, where the hippies went when they had the drip. Also for other things. A People’s Clinic. The West Bank had a lot of People’s Things.
This, by the way, is the area a shifty idiot called a “no-go zone” in his hilarious visit to Minneapolis, which he portrayed as a dangerous place overrun with Mooslemen. I survived.
My trip to Augsburg had to do with some fine folks who found a 1960s promotional video for Minneapolis and put it up online, whereupon virality ensued. I am enthusiastic about such things, if you hadn't noticed.
When is this? It's one second. Play it as often as you like.
If you'd like to see the entire video, it's keen.
It was discovered in a mislabeled film canister, and the fine folks at Augsburg have brought it back to life. They called it Minneapolis Circa 1965.
I scrubbed through looking for things that seemed to give a specific date, and since my knowledge of sports is diminishingly scant, the numbers on the Twins jerseys meant nothing. (They’re important.) But this . . .
If you carry in your head the way things were, you know the location exactly. The GOPHER on the right tells you we’re looking east - and then it swings over to the marquee with the squares, which would have been the old Mann theater. The marquee all the way to the right can’t be the Skyway, since it hadn’t been built yet, and the marquee position is wrong. Had to be the Blue Mouse - or the Lyric, as it was known then.
So we have the theater name. What’s on the marquee?
If I’m right - and I’m reasonably sure I’m right - it’s 1968. I have a newspaper movie ad to back me up.
What do you see?
A city of 13,700 souls - and as is often the case, it looks as if it once held many more. It was born of coal. History:
"In 1866 Worthy S. Streator, a prominent railroad promoter from Cleveland, Ohio, financed the region's first mining operation. Streator approached his nephew Col. Ralph Plumb at a railway station in December 1865 about overseeing a mining operation in central Illinois for him and several investors.
Colonel Plumb agreed and arrived in the town then called Hardscrabble in February 1866. Success of the project required a rail line near the mines. Plumb and Streator "invited" Streator's friend, then Ohio Congressman James A. Garfield to sign on as an investor. In return, Garfield was expected to work with Robert C. Schenck, then the president of the American Central railroad, in getting the railroad to "bend their lines" to Streator."
Let's take a stroll. Renovations are good; tenants are also good.
Nice looking main street. Let’s check out the details.
It’s like some sort of parasite fastened itself to the face of the building:
The dreaded Green Shingle Buckaroo style.
Dang it, now where do I go for Rats?
Original tile and displays. Nothing special about them, except that most of the examples of the style are gone - so now they’re quite special.
That’s the most ridiculous “classical” facade I’ve seen in years.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that it’s survived, and applaud their attempt to ennoble the street, but it’s clumsy. The lower floor doesn't match at all, but the color scheme suggests a 50s redo - or, if I had to lay money, something from the 30s. Based on the brick.
You know what that was.
“We use this in OCD therapy. If they can stare at the facade without getting nervous, we know the treatment’s going well.”
I CAN'T TAKE IT
This must have been gorgeous. Those windows!
But now the H&R Block signage seems to be standing on tiptoe, and the windows have to peer over the top. It wasn’t redesigned as a tax preparer office, of course; those windows tell you it was retail, and redone in the 50s or early 60s.
Gee, wonder where the staircase was:
Google returned later with happy news:
“When it senses a predator, the creature is able to change its coloring to appear as though it is a rock, instead of something edible.”
It's like the building was mummified.
“Don’t know if people will associate our store and the word FURNITURE with the idea of ‘home.’ What could we do about that? Some kind of symbol maybe?”
If I had to guess, I’d say the three-window building on the right was the original structure, and the longer building with more variegated brick was the extension made in boom times.
Next door, some local pride.
It reminds you of an early White Tower / White Castle buildins.
Hmm: some research indicates that the Woolley Drug was sold in 1918 to someone who wasn’t named Woolley. I’ll spare you the details, except to say that was 20 minutes of unrewarding googling and poring through old pharmacy industry magazines.
“Walter, c’mon. Really?”
If only they’d held on a little longer, the trees would have brought downtown back.
There are times when I know in my gut this was always an office building and never a hotel, and this is one of them. I almost hate to google around and see if I was wrong.
I don't think I am wrong.
Pile-up on Main:
What’s going on with the original building, though? The amount of jankyness on that second floor is practically unprecedented in this feature.
A classic main street mainstay:
More 60s than 50s, I think.
Looks like the original windows, and that suggests the entire structure was built in the late 20s, early 30s.
“Okay, if you two boys can’t get along, I’m splittin’ the building and leaving you both a part. You’ll have to get along to keep it maintained.
“The board of directors does not like the building. Can you change the design so it looks as if the building is gentling alighting on its site?”
This is the bluntest, most intimidating Masonic Temple I’ve ever seen:
You really get the sense there's a bald Egyptian guy in there conducting sacrifices by candlelight.
This I just love. That’s all.
Was it bricked up and boarded over time, or all at once? That’s one of the quintessential main street views, and it makes the past seem like something we can never see again.