“History in the wider sense is all that has happened. It includes everything that undergoes change; and as modern science has shown that there is nothing absolutely static, therefore the whole universe, and every part of it, has its history.”
— Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911
A story of progress
In the summer of 1822, Joseph Renshaw Brown, then a 17-year old drummer boy at Fort Snelling, set out to “explore the beauty” along the creek we know as Minnehaha Creek. His adventures took him all the way to “a body of water as big as Lake Champlain,” later named Lake Minnetonka. If legend is true, his footsteps carried him all the way across the width of Southwest Minneapolis.
Thirty-three years later on June 4,1855, three entrepreneurs, Philander Prescott, Willis G. Moffett and Eli Pettijohn purchased 12 acres of land at the crossing of Minnehaha Creek and Lyndale Avenue South. Together they built the first gristmill along Minnehaha Creek — “four runs of stone powered by a dam, with a capacity of producing 20 barrels of flour in ten hours.”
Seeing opportunity in the flourmill, other small business owners set up shop. Lyndale and 53rd quickly became home to a general store, meat market, blacksmith, grocery and dry goods store to provide goods and services to out of town farmers.
The mill at Minnehaha changed hands a number of times over the years until 1892 when it was demolished. With the need to connect businesses and residents with the growing downtown, the city of Minneapolis built the stone arch Lyndale Avenue Bridge over Minnehaha Creek the same year.
Fast forward to Jan. 17, 2012. The Lyndale Avenue Bridge comes down as part of a $7 million dollar Hennepin County project to replace the bridge and improve road conditions from Minnehaha Parkway to 56th Street. Traffic is rerouted. Convenience, ease and timesaving shortcuts that we took for granted disappear. A bridge crossed by many without knowing is now painfully absent.
So what does this mean to Southwest Minneapolis?
When the project is finished in October 2012, we will have wider bridge for those driving, biking or walking across its top and a larger framing arch for pedestrians and bicyclists traveling along the creek below. To its south will be a business community that has grown stronger by coming together to build connections that transcend the bridge.
Business owners have YOU, the customer in mind, first and foremost, as they develop their “construction strategy.” Now more than ever these local businesses need your patience, support and, mostly importantly, your business. They still have the same unique products, great service and personal touch you’ve come to expect. Don’t let a little inconvenience from the construction prevent you from continuing to make these businesses a part of your daily lives.
Building a better future
What is the best part of going through a construction project like this? One day everything will be finished. Barricades will be down, temporary signs removed, roads will be smooth, boulevards and medians will be planted with trees and the bridge will be open. We will once again be able to bike and walk under the bridge along the creek.
Better yet, we’ll celebrate what we’ve experienced together and how we’ve survived. And maybe, just maybe we’ll remember to celebrate the rich history we have that goes back to 1822 — a tradition of adventure, a sense of wonder, an entrepreneurial spirit and working together as a community.
Special thanks to Tom Balcom and the Minnesota Historical Society for their research of the history of Lyndale Avenue Bridge and the Tangletown neighborhood.
Matt Perry is a 20 year East Harriet resident with his wife Karen. A small business owner, Matt is also the president of the Nicollet-East Harriet Business Association, a past president of the neighborhood association and serves on several resident-based City of Minneapolis boards.