The ladies of Linden Hills Boulevard

Sally and Ruth Crandall
Sally and Ruth Crandall with their father in 1915. Archival photo

Editor’s note: This article, written by Mary Balfour, was originally published in the Southwest Journal in April 1990 — inside the paper’s third ever issue. We’re reprinting it in full in honor of the Southwest Journal’s 30th anniversary. After reading this story, columnist Karen Cooper became curious about a passing reference to a large estate on Queen Avenue and discovered the story of how the nation’s first official guide dog belonged to a U.S. senator who lived in Linden Hills.

The potluck dinner held a few years ago was to welcome a couple into the Linden Hills neighborhood. Everybody wore a nametag that listed their respective “move-in” dates. Sally and Ruth Crandall wrote 1906 on theirs. I made it a point to talk to them and not lose all the wonderful information they knew from being such long neighborhood residents. For the most part, the story that follows is told in their own words.

Sally and Ruth Crandall were born in North Minneapolis. In 1905 their father rented a little yellow house on Thomas Avenue west of Lake Harriet. Ruth was 1 and Sally was 3 years old. A year later he bought a lot on the south end of Linden Hills Boulevard. The street was originally called Park Boulevard but was changed to Linden Hills Boulevard a few years later to keep it from being confused with Park Avenue. People were building year-round homes on Linden Hills Boulevard, unlike Cottage City, in which people built summer cabins.

Sally and Ruth said of their father, “He started building our house right away and we moved into it in 1906. There were only a couple of houses on the east side of the street and several on the west side of the street — I think it was because they had a better view of the lake. But there were several houses already built on the block north of us.

“The neighborhood really built up because of the streetcars and the lake,” they continued. “We used the streetcars for everything — going on dates, shopping downtown, getting to the university.”

“I remember I left the house at 7:40 and could be in class in Folwell Hall at 8:30,” said Sally. “They even had routes that went way out to Deephaven and Excelsior on Lake Minnetonka. We loved riding the streetcars. They went like lightning, especially from 36th Street and Lake Calhoun. It was surprising there weren’t more accidents — most of the time they went right on the streets with the cars. But we had the best service in the city.

“Lake Harriet was fantastic,” Sally continued. “There was a series of pavilions. The one we remember best blew down in 1926. The band played in the roof garden and the conductor always wore formal clothes. They had a woman soloist whom he led up the stairs. There was a restaurant on the main floor but we had too many kids to eat there. When you looked out on the lake all you could see was canoes. It looked like Venice with the women lounging on wonderful pillows.”

“I thought it was the most romantic thing I had ever seen,” Ruth said. 

“Everyone had canoes. There was a solid row of canoe racks along the shore from the Pavilion to 44th Street. It was a wonderful place to grow up and it seemed like the adults all had fun too,” said Sally.

“There were a couple big estates on Queen that had four lots — two on Queen and two on the boulevard — which made Linden Hills even more attractive. One had a red brick barn that burned down around Christmas in 1929. There weren’t any horses in it by then, but several nice carriages were lost.

“There were also three tennis courts within two blocks. The Chapin House at 40th & Queen had a tennis court on Linden Hills Boulevard. Another house a block down on Queen had a tennis court. Then there was another court on the corner where St. John’s Episcopal Church is now. It was owned by the church which was on the next lot. Dad loved to play tennis. 

“In the winter of 1914-1915, a big toboggan slide was erected by the Park Board just south of the bridge at the end of Linden Hills Boulevard. It was so large it spanned West Lake Harriet Boulevard below and went onto the ice on the lake. Cars went under the slide but there was little traffic in those days. At that time, many people built toboggans in their basements and had toboggan slides of their own. I know we had one in our backyard. Of course, it wasn’t big but it was fun. The Park Board slide was only open during certain hours and an attendant let you down. They only had it a couple of years because I think it was pretty dangerous. You just flew down there. We didn’t use it much because you had to be with an adult. We also tobogganed on the 44th Street hill and turned on the road next to the lake.

“There used to be an island in the middle of the street in front of 4260 Linden Hills Blvd. It had trees and we used to play with our dolls out there. It was like a separate, faraway place. 4260 Linden Hills Blvd. was a vacant lot that we walked over to get to the Commercial Club (2718-2720 W. 43rd St.). The library was on the first floor. The Masonic Lodge who owned the building owned the second floor. On the third floor Mrs. Noble and Miss Martin gave kids dancing classes. And that was where the famous Linden Hills Dancing Club first met. Everyone, including our parents, was a member of that group. It is still meeting but, of course, it doesn’t meet in the same place anymore. The firehouse was built next door to protect our area. It is one of the oldest in the city.” 

Ruth said she remembered large tents each summer to the south of the bridge on the boulevard. “The property was owned by a family. There were platforms there all year round and then in the summer tents were put up.

“As kids, we thought they might be gypsies,” said Sally, “but I’m sure they weren’t. They were people that just moved out to the lake for the summer.” 

After graduating from the University of Minnesota, Ruth lived in the house she grew up in. She was an officer in the trust department at Northwestern Bank in Minneapolis. Sally was the secretary to the president of Carleton College and lived in Northfield, Minnesota, but spent much time at the old house. 

After they retired they both returned home again to Linden Hills Boulevard. For years they could be seen every morning walking their little champagne-colored poodle, Cocoa, and talking to neighbors along the way. They were always interested in what the neighborhood kids were doing. (I can still see Sally and Ruth sitting on my sidewalk in assorted lawn chairs, swatting mosquitos and watching my daughter belt out “Annie.”)

They said smiling, “It wasn’t a fancy neighborhood — homey. We loved it.”

Four years ago Sally and Ruth Crandall moved to Becketwood on the Mississippi River. But some people still call Linden Hills Boulevard the Crandall Compound. Their nephew and his family live in the old house now, their brother and his wife live on the next block, and a niece and her husband live just across the street from the old house. 

The sisters come back for church every Sunday morning. Sally and Ruth Crandall will always be part of the neighborhood.