Liz Vandam only moved to Tangletown four years ago, but drawn to its doors, she wound up writing its history
"When I moved here, I had never lived in the Midwest, never lived in a neighborhood like this," said Liz Vandam, author of the book "The Doors of Tangletown" (Sponte Valere Books).
She moved to Tangletown four years ago after having lived in Washington, Maryland, Rhode Island and Florida. Vandam moved with her children and husband, a former Navy aviator, when he became a pilot for Northwest Airlines. Little did she know at the time that she would embark on Tangletown-inspired research that would eventually lead to her first book.
"I’d never been anywhere that had this type of architecture," Vandam said. "I think people that lived here for a long time kind of don’t pay attention to it."
She found herself marveling at the houses in Tangletown when she went on walks with her dog.
"I was drawn to the doors. Some people really make a big deal with their colors and flowers, and you can just tell the pride they have in their homes when they make their entry look very welcoming, very pretty."
Vandam, a self-described amateur photographer, took pictures of the doors of homes in her neighborhood. After assembling the photographs, Vandam sought out the history of the neighborhood to introduce the doors.
"Then I got caught up in the history," Vandam said.
She sent surveys throughout Tangletown’s winding streets, asking people what stories they knew about their homes. With a 10 percent response and leads from the 75th Washburn High School reunion, Vandam had enough stories for a book.
"The Doors of Tangletown" includes Tangletown’s architectural evolution, memoirs of some of the first families who lived there (beginning in 1886 when Sen. William Drew Washburn and 22 investors purchased 200 acres of land) and pictures of Tangletown’s doors.
"It started with, ‘I’m going to take photography’ to ‘I’m going to need a little history’ to meeting the people who had lived here from the very beginning," Vandam said.
One of Vandam’s subjects, Meg Buckbee Alexander (now a Bloomington resident), said she would add Vandam’s book — with its account of Alexander’s wedding to husband Gordon Alexander in the Buckbee living room — to her collection of family history.
"I think it’s very well done," said Alexander.
But "The Doors of Tangletown" memoirs include anecdotes more worthy of early 1900s gossip than a simple wedding. Jean Thayer Allison recounted how her father, a family friend of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, was visited by Wright and his mistress, Olgivanna. Wright was sent to the Hennepin County jail during that visit for illegally crossing state lines with a woman to whom he was not married.
Black-and-white and sepia-tinted photographs show Prohibition-era kegs on front lawns (the Robbs), a Marshall Fields model (Frances Thayer) and a media personality who was famous during the 1940s, (Rolf Hertsgaard).
The history of the neighborhood’s winding ("tangly") roads and how they were preserved are recounted, including information on Harry Jones, who designed the Washuburn Water Tower, among many other buildings in Minneapolis.
Virginia Martin, the editor of "The Doors of Tangletown," said the book was fun to work on.
"I think there is a big interest in it. I went to her publishing party and there were a lot of people there. Just because it’s one single neighborhood doesn’t mean people outside of it wouldn’t be interested. There are traits and characteristics that are common in many neighborhoods," Martin said.
Since the book’s publication, more Tangletown residents have come to Vandam with stories, which is exactly what Vandam enjoys.
"More than anything, listening to people’s stories — I just love it," Vandam said.
Vandam’s book is available at the following stores: Patina, 5001 Bryant Ave. S.; Blue Moon Trading Co., 910 W. 46th St.; Garden Sampler, 4301 Upton Ave. S.; and FrameStyles, 4250 Upton Ave. S.