A passion for history

Arthur Adams. Image from the collection of the Hennepin History Museum
Arthur Adams. Image from the collection of the Hennepin History Museum

Arthur T. Adams was born in 1872, and he lived at 3648 Lyndale Ave. for nearly 50 years.

Adams bought it as a single-family house in 1903 and converted it to a duplex in 1916. That’s when he added the sensible stucco veneer. He had paid $1,650 for the place and invested twice that in his improvements.

Adams had a law degree from the University of Minnesota, yet he apparently never practiced law. He took a job teaching history at South High. He was married, had a son and seems to have lived a practical, well-planned life. But his real passion is revealed in his photographs.

Adams was a historian. As a teacher, his summers were free to travel Minnesota, to study its past and to document what he learned.

His legacy includes work on three eras of Minnesota history. He wrote meticulous studies of 17th century French explorer Pierre Radisson’s diaries. He photographed buildings and locations associated with the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. And his photographs preserved views along the Mississippi River, including the early 20th century work done on St. Anthony Falls.

He loved to teach. He used his photos to illustrate his many lectures for the Minnesota Historical Society, State Fair and any group who invited him. That included — in a personally surprising plot twist — the presentation “Points of Interest Around Minneapolis” in the living room of Lloyd Dix Cooper, who happened to be my great-great-uncle.

In 1926, the Minnesota Historical Society tasked him with creating an inventory of all the historical markers in the state. The goal was to preserve Minnesota’s “events of drama and tragedy.” This work seems not to have been completed. Perhaps the Great Depression made that impossible.

Around 1950 Arthur Adams, widowed, moved to Seattle to live with his son. The duplex was rented for years but ultimately was sold in 1966 for $22,000. Having planned for the future as he studied and preserved the past, of course Adams made sure that the stucco was a prominent selling point.

Hennepin History Museum owns many of Arthur Adams’ early photographs.  These are online at the Minnesota Reflections Digital Library: tinyurl.com/Digital-HHM.

(Due to an editing error, a web link to the Hennepin History Museum’s collection of real estate photographs was left out of last issue’s edition of Moments in Minneapolis. To search for images of your Minneapolis home, go to tinyurl.com/hhm-houses.)

Karen Cooper is a researcher at Hennepin History Museum and a collector of old Minneapolis photographs. Her favorite of the Adams photographs are the ones of Castle Rock because another branch of her Minnesota ancestors farmed near there.

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