The Lithium Corp. of America was on Edgewood Ave. south of Cedar Lake Road (2401 Edgewood). The 5.8 acre site was formerly the location of the Minnesota Tile and Brick manufacturing company, which had produced bricks for buildings like the Downtown Post Office in the 1930s and early ‘40s.
The Lithium Corp. began in 1941 as the Metalloy Corp. From 1943 to 1960 the site was used to manufacture lithium chloride from spodumene ore. An ad from 1956 says that lithium chloride “served to whisk aloft the aerial for the famous ‘Gibson Girl’ radio transmitter, a part of every flier’s air-sea rescue kit.” [There were suspicions, however, that the plant was one of only two locations in the U.S. that made a particular but necessary ingredient for an atomic bomb.] At that time the Lithium Corporation of America was headquartered in the Rand Tower in downtown Minneapolis. It had another chemical plant in Bessemer, NC; mines in South Dakota and North Carolina; ore reserves in Canada; and branch sales offices in New York, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. Lithium was hailed as the wonder metal, used for anything from bathtubs to vitamin pills. In 1956 Herbert W. Rogers was president and the firm employed 400 people. A picture of the St. Louis Park plant is in the May 9, 1957, issue of the Dispatch.
Al Hartman sent us this photo:
Back in the Winter of 1956 or 57 at 28th and Colorado Ave S there were far fewer trees. From my front yard you could see me on left with friend Jay on right in the picture. North of us, way in the background on the far left past 2700 Colorado, is the Lithium Plant. Between 27th and Colorado and the Lithium Plant were just railroad tracks, swamp and grassy field but now is all redone to be softball fields and walking paths on the East side of Peter Hobart School. Kids used to skate and play hockey in the swamp when it froze up during Winter until Birchwood Park opened and had a rink. It sure was tough skating in a frozen swamp navigating around the tall grass spots and the frozen over air bubbles.
At some time I heard the old Lithium Plant was or became a food canning or processing plant. It was always a mysterious building with other rumors floating around. I know scientists tried using a combo of Lithium and Flourine in rocket fuel at one time but it never worked out. I remember later on in the 1960s after the Lithium Company moved out seeing that the facility had its own gas tank and pump for fueling trucks.
The company moved out of state in 1960. Lithium, fuel oil, and other metals had contaminated the soil and groundwater around the plant.
In 1960 the site was purchased by Food Producers, which made toppings for Dairy Queen. Food Producers became a subsidiary of ConAgra Foods, which produced fruit toppings at the site.
ConAgra tried to sell the property in 1998, but the contamination caused by the previous Lithium plant made it a tough sell. It sat empty for two years. TwinCities Business reported that “drug addicts used the site for a meth lab, vandals shattered windows, and the building became a convas for graffiti.”
Finally, in 2003, ConAgra was able to sell the property to Real Estate Recycling, a Minneapolis company that specialized in cleaning up contaminated properties. The plant was demolished in the fall of 2003, replaced by a 79,000 square foot office building called the Edgewood Business Center.