St. Louis Park was but four years old when a conjunction of forces occurred which were to make for a veritable revolution in her life. It was during the period 1890-1893 that the village became a major industrial center on the western outskirts of Minneapolis. Under the sponsorship of T. B. Walker, vast sums of money were expended to make this heretofore quiet rural hamlet a humming manufacturing center. Most of the forces were generated far from the village and the strength of them gave a complexion to village life that was to last for a quarter of a century.
One of the factors which contributed to the development of St. Louis Park was the long standing rivalry between Minneapolis and St. Paul. The conflict dated back almost to the inception of the cities. James M. Goodhue, editor of the St. Paul Pioneer tended to poke fun at the two struggling villages of St. Anthony and Minneapolis (he asked what that place called itself. All Saints, Hennepin, or what?) Minneapolis did not lack for a sharp pen with which to retaliate and found it in the columns of the Minneapolis Tribune, which was edited by Colonel William Smith King. St. Paul, in general, had the best argument. In that it had the railroad terminal, the warehouses and the wholesale trade, if not most of the banking business. On the other hand, by 1870, Minneapolis was rapidly becoming an important center, especially after the milling business was established, which led to the railroads becoming interested in extending their lines to serve the wheat farmer-miller needs. Under the goading of the two editors the Twin Cities came to eye each other with increasing hostility. There were, of course, little incidents which tended to increase the acrimony, among which I was the location of the site of the state agricultural fair which had been held in the Minneapolis area in earlier times. In the early 1880’s this site was located on the outskirts of St. Paul which tended to anger the residents of the other city. In retaliation the Minneapolitans organized an Industrial Exposition which they founded in 1886 and which they promoted by building a $250,000 building. Within six years it was drawing a half million visitors and was the scene of the Republican national Convention. Among its promoters were W. D. Washburn, E. S. Corser, C. S. Gale, C. B. Heffelfinger, Thomas Lowry and William Smith King. Another irksome action was the establishment of a transfer railroad in 1881 in what today is the Midway District which was to aid in shifting goods from one city to the other. The two hundred acre site acquired by the railroads which established the midway yards was also to provide a place for the establishment of warehouses. Minneapolis railroad men had helped in the establishment of the midway yards and site. Otherwise the midway area was but a farming area with but two or three little clusters of houses around Merriam Park, Hamline and St. Anthony Park. There were perhaps no more than three or four hundred people living in the area between Minneapolis city limits and that of St. Paul.
Minneapolis men were interested in seeing this area of potential industrial expansion annexed to their city, and in 1884 and 1885 there was some talk about inducing the legislature to move the Hennepin County line eastward to Snelling Avenue and perhaps even to Lexington thus allowing Minneapolis to annex the area. The county line had to be moved because a city cannot cover more than one county. But St. Paul men were not caught napping and in March 4, 1885 induced the legislature to move the city limits of St. Paul westward to its present limits – which would include the Midway District of St. Paul and thereby increasing the area of St. Paul by 15.28 square miles. The Minneapolis capitalists who had let their hopes become words too readily were now deprived of the potential expansion area, and, what was worse, had seen some of their capital used to build up the industry of the rival city. Two years later Minneapolis annexed the eighteen square mile area which lay in Hennepin County between the Minneapolis city limits and the Hennepin County line. Thus Minneapolis and St. Paul were contiguous neighbors with little friendship for each other.
In addition to the war of words which had been waged by the editors for nearly a generation, and to which the public gave an eager audition, the bookwriters entered the field. One can read of the industrial and commercial inferiority of St. Paul in the booklet published in 1890 by Charles W. Johnson entitled Another Tale of Two Cities. Partisans were trying hard to prove that his city was really bigger and better, as befits the typical America.
A great to-do was made in 1889 and 1890 when it was necessary for the decennial census of the united States to be taken. Each city was anxious to prove that it was more populous than its neighbor and some ludicrous events took place about the enumeration. Minneapolis established a Bureau of Information for the purpose of finding everyone who ought to have been counted while St. Paul secured the services of a compiler of directories to hunt down every vagrant name to swell her population. Unconscionable cheating was done by both parties. The Minneapolis Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press had field days of recriminations over the known miscounting. When the St. Paulites induced the federal marshal to arrest the Minneapolis enumerators, the climax was nearing. After an appeal to the Secretary of Interior, through the congressmen, a recount was ordered in which it was found that Minneapolis had overenumerated by about 18,000 while St. Paul had overcounted by about 9,000. Mythical and oversized families were found to be enumerated upon census rolls and numerous residents were found to be living in saloons, museums, depots, manufacturing concerns and other curious places. The trial of the Minneapolis enumerators was found guilty but a subscription was taken among the business men and their fines were paid.
Besides the public and the newspapers, Minneapolis businessmen and capitalists were irked over the treatment. The constant goading of the St. Paul paper, the removal of the state fair, the loss of the Midway District, and now the affair of the census, was enough to stir citizens to further action and retaliation. [It is understood that one of the historians of the staff of the Minnesota Historical Society is making a definitive study of the rivalry between the two cities. Documentary proof that these events contributed to the development of St. Louis Park is difficult to find but the facts seem to fit into the pattern.]
The group in Minneapolis which was formed to redress the grievances was named the Businessman’s Union and was organized with about three hundred members on March 31, 1890. Prominent among the group, and first president of it was T. B. Walker. He had had a recent affront from a St. Paul group of financiers who managed to induce the Morrison (Minneapolis) Harvester Works to move to St. Paul during the period when Walker and others had gone east with the intention of getting the Woods Harvester Works to move Minneapolis and merge with the Morrison Company. He and a number of his capitalist friends, among them Thomas Lowry and Judge Koons, were determined that no more money would be spent which might aid St. Paul financiers. They decided that a new industrial site should be provided near Minneapolis on which new industries could be induced to locate. There was a division of opinion about the location of the new industrial area, but it could not be what is today southeast Minneapolis, an area which in some way might aid in the development of St. Paul’s industry. Thomas Lowry favored northeast Minneapolis and hoped that Columbia Heights would be the site, while others preferred south Minneapolis. Andrew Robbins wanted an area chosen which was to become Robbinsdale. Walker favored the infant village of St. Louis Park, probably because it had railroads which would aid the development of industry. He convinced his capitalist and realtor friends of the wisdom of his choice and plans were made to develop the village as an industrial area.
It was at this juncture that the Minneapolis Land and Investment Company was formed by a group of Minneapolis capitalists. Its incorporators were T. B. Walker, C. G. Goodrich, L. F. Menage, Thomas Lowry, R.C. Haywood, H.F. Brown, Charles A. Pillsbury, George H. Christian, G. G. Boshart, and A.M. Allen. Walker, it will be remembered, was a penniless man when he arrived in Minneapolis a generation earlier to take a job as a deputy surveyor of pine lands in the north. Noting where the good timber stood and its accessibility to water transport, he later secured this land and laid the basis for a fortune. L.F. Menage was an important Minneapolis real estate promoter. Thomas Lowry had founded the streetcar system and Goodrich was connected with the enterprise. [Goodrich was a member of the St. Louis Park Land and improvement Company, while Brown, a relative of 0. K. Earle was a large landholder in the southeastern part of the Village.] Brown was a wealthy man having dealt in lumber, while Pillsbury and Christian were well-to-do flour millers. Most of the incorporators were realtors or owners of much property, while A. M. Alien was Walker’s right-hand-man and secretary. The corporation was to begin life on September 27, 1890 was to exist for thirty years. Fifteen thousand shares were to be issued at one hundred dollars each which would mean that the corporation was capitalized at one and one half million dollars. Walker was president; Menage, first vice-president; Henry F. Brown was second vice-president; A. M. Alien, secretary and C. G. Goodrich was treasurer. Walker publicly stated that the enterprise had no philanthropic objectives and was established to make profit for the investors. The exact amount of paid up capital is not known, though one reliable informant said that only about half of the incorporated sum was contributed. The company was limited by its articles of incorporation to a debt of $200,000 but a couple of years later the debt limitation was doubled, and in 1895 it was raised to $600,000. Walker is supposed to have invested some of his own money, in addition to that which he had in the Minneapolis Land and Investment firm. Thus the capital which was expended in St. Louis Park in the 1890’s probably was in excess of a million dollars.
Walker, who was the moving spirit in the St. Louis Park enterprise, had a dream of making the village a self-sufficient industrial suburb. He was a friend of George M. Pullman, manufacturer of the Pullman Palace Car, who in 1880 had established a model town in Illinois giving it the name Pullman. Pullman owned the homes, stores, schools, etc., providing all the necessary things for his laborers and mechanics. Though the model town often had run-down back streets, and other unsavory characteristics, among which was a tyrannical paternalism, Walker visited the place at least twice, and was impressed by the establishment. However, there was one major difference. Pullman was primarily an industrialist who owned his factories and built his town around the plants, while Walker was primarily a lumberman who owned no factories except lumber mills and was passing himself largely as a capitalist rather than an operating manufacturer. Thus Walker had to provide land, factories, houses and all the necessary equipment before he could build the model village.
In order to secure land Walker employed an old schoolmate who was experienced in real estate, Lewis R. Gorham, who proceeded to buy and take options upon land in St. Louis Park. The older plats, St. Louis Park, St. Louis Park Suburbs, St.. Louis Park Center, St. Louis Park North and other areas were purchased but the prices paid for them are not known. One rumor has it that one of the stockholders in the St. Louis Park Land and Improvement Company sold his shares for $80,000 with the provision that he would build houses and other buildings in the new platting. Because the original plats did not provide for the three zoning regulations required by a self- sufficient industrial suburb – industrial, commercial and residential – a replatting was planned for the area. Charles F. Chapman, a surveyor who had laid out other earlier plats was employed to supervise the work of rearranging the older plats. He began work in 1890 and worked for two years before completing the work. The Rearrangement was filed with the Register of Deeds on June 4, 1892 and comprised twenty pages, sized 36 by 18 inches, the compiled plat books. It is undoubtedly the largest plat ever filed in the Register of Deeds office. [*E.H. Shursen, a realtor who later handled some of the Walker properties has a large map showing the whole area and has remarked that it is one of the most accurate survey maps he has ever seen.] An interesting aspect of the filed plat was a provision incorporated into the deeding of the streets, roads, parks etc. to the village, specifying that the Minneapolis Land and Investment Company reserved to itself the rights to lay gas, water and underground conduits and mains, plus rights to lay tracks either single or double on which to operate a street railway drawn either by horses, electricity, cable or by other means. All together there were about twelve thousand lots comprising about 1,700 acres. Options were secured on contiguous lands on which more lots could be platted, but Walker found no need for the additional land and let the options expire. The Council of the Village of St. Louis Park approved the plat the day before it was filed with the Register of Deeds.
The overall plan for the Rearrangement was ingeniously platted. An industrial area was provided where the great swamp is and it was planned that M&StL and Milwaukee Railroad sidetracks would be built which would encircle the area to give outlet for heavy Industry. A sidetrack was to connect the circle with the Great Northern Railroad on the north but was never built. There were to be no residences in this area though a few did creep in at a later date. East of the circle, was an area set aside for commercial activities, an area which today would find the high school standing roughly in the center. The remaining part of the area was to be a residential zone with streets which led radially from the commercial zone. A new residential zone was established west of the Industrial circle which today Is known as Oak Hill, and other residential areas were opened which extended as far north as Minnetonka Road. Most of the lots were only twenty-two or twenty-five feet wide, Walker hoping that each builder would buy two, one for a house and one for a garden. Of course, many street names had to be found, although the names of Earle, Hamilton, Chestley, Mound. Goodrich and others were retained. Dan J. Falvey, who had graded roads for the county, township, and earlier townsite promoters, was hired, and began grading and making ditches. The whole scheme was a grandiose plan which provided work for local laborers, money for those whose farms would be subdivided and area for industrial expansion.
With thousands of lots on his hands, Walker had to find industry to lay the basis for his industrial suburb. About the time he was laying out the new village, The Monitor Works, manufacturers of grain seeders, moved to St. Louis Park. The history of this concern is largely that of Spencer Edmund Davis who was born at Cazenovia, New York on March 30, 1841. Before he enlisted as a soldier in the Union Army in 1863, he had been a farmer, woodsman, hotel clerk, cattle buyer and worker in a melodeon factory. After serving in the army, first as a soldier and then as a wound dresser, he returned. to New Woodstock, New York where he operated a grocery store. Becoming tired of his surroundings he took a position as a baggageman with the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway and came west to Horicon, Wisconsin. For a time he worked for Van Brunt and Barber, manufacturers of grain drills but left the firm to become a lumber buyer, and in 1870 was Superintendent of the Northwestern Furnace Company, producers of pig iron at Mayville, Wisconsin. The next year he and Willard Van Brunt organized a company to manufacture the New Van Brunt grain drill, in competition with his former employer. In 1878 the partners formed a corporation Brunt and Davis Company with a capital stock of $75,000 and two years later increased their capital to $100,000. After changing the name of their product to Monitor in honor of the famous Civil War ship, it was widely retailed throughout the midwest, selling for about $75 in 1882. Besides his manufacturing activities he was a prominent Republican, being a delegate to several G.O.P. conventions in Wisconsin. Thrice he was mayor of Horicon and when he ran for a fourth term he was defeated by an opponent he intensely disliked, he decided to leave the city. By buying out some small stockholders, Davis secured control of the corporation after which he sought a new location, perhaps as much to be near the great wheat fields where seeders were in demand as to assuage his injured political feelings. On November 9, 1891, articles of Incorporation were filed for Monitor Manufacturing Company of St. Louis Park. Its life was to be for thirty years and it was capitalized at $400,000 with 2,000 shares at $100 each. The debt limitation was to be $200,000. The incorporators were Spencer E. Davis, Adelbert Carpenter, Sr., Charles L. Butterfield, Alice M. Davis, Herbert G. Freeman, J. Hugar Perry, all of Minneapolis, plus D. K. Yorgey of St. Louis Park, and Ancil and Martin Rich of Horicon. Wisconsin, plus Gilbert W. Davis of Fargo, North Dakota. S.E. Davis, Carpenter, Perry and Ancil J. Rich were the first board of directors while the officers were S. E. Davis as president and treasurer; Ancil J. Rich. vice-president; and Charles L. Butterfield, secretary. Carpenter was one of the first superintendents of the works. Alice M. Davis was the wife of the president, Herbert G. Freeman was later an officer in the company as was D.K. Yorgey. Gilbert W. Davis was a brother of the president. Walker is supposed to have given or leased the site for the factory to the firm but never had significant, if any, amount of stock in the company. Carpenter came to St. Louis Park and laid out the grounds for the works and supervised the building of the plant. Then followed about one hundred employees, by any means available to them, a few “bumming” rides on freights.
Other factories were shortly established in The Park, but most of them were creations of the Walker Interests. One George B. Schoepf of Minneapolis had invented a new kind of a spring for buggies and wagons and was interested in producing it commercially. Appealing to T. B. Walker, he found the capitalists interested in manufacturing it and also the carriages which would use the new spring. Thus on July 27, 1891 the Minneapolis Jarless Spring Carriage Company was incorporated for thirty years to manufacture wagons,, buggies and vehicles. Locating in St. Louis Park it was capitalized at $50,000 with five hundred shares of stock worth one hundred dollars each. Debt limitation was set at $25,000. The founders were George B. Schoepf, S. G. Cook, John T. Rogers, A. M. Allen, Gilbert M. Walker, and O.H. Hoffman. Walker. Schoepf, and Allen were directors and officers of the company. Gilbert Walker was one of the sons of T. B. Walker, and Allen was secretary of the Minneapolis Land and Investment Company and a Walker aide. Four years after incorporation the company amended its articles to limit the function of the company to manufacturing endeavors only. Furthermore the capital was increased to $100,000 and the debt limitation was raised to $75,000. Walker continued as president but F.P. Wallis was now secretary of the company, replacing A.M. Allen. The site for this plant was provided by the development company and a three story rectangular building was built. Within a few months the company was manufacturing and selling its product.
A third company which established itself in St. Louis Park was the Thompson Wagon Company which was incorporated twice in two months, the second time to let the Walker interests invest in the enterprise. In June 1891 it was incorporated for $50,000 by J. T. Rogers, George F. Thompson, S.G. Cook, A.M. Allen and H. W. Hermann of Minneapolis, with Rogers as president, Thompson as vice-president and Allen as secretary. On July 27, 1891, the same date as the incorporation of the Jarless Company, the Thompson firm was reincorporated for thirty years with Gilbert M. Walker as president. Thompson was vice-president and general manager, and Allen as secretary and treasurer. O.H. Hoffman replaced Hermann as an incorporator. The officers constituted the board of directors. Sixteen months later an amendment to the articles of incorporation raised the capitalization figure to $100,000 and the debt limitation to the same figure. In 1895 the company again raised their capitalized figure, this time redoubling it but provided for $75,000 worth of common stock and $125,000 worth of preferred. Gilbert Walker remained as president and F.P. Wallis was secretary. It will be recalled that Wallis was secretary of the Jarless Company in 1895 in addition to holding or having held that office in the Thompson firm. As was the case with the Jarless Company, the Walker interests provided the site and factory for this enterprise. The two story factory was L shaped and located inside the industrial circle on the east side and was neighbor to the Jarless Company.
A third Walker enterprise to locate in The Park in 1891 was the Minneapolis Malleable Iron Company which began corporate life on the same day as the two carriage firms. Organized to operate for thirty years, it was capitalized at $50.000 with five hundred $100 shares. Incorporators were George T. Leitch, R. C. Haywood, A. M. Allen, Gilbert Walker, O.H. Hoffman and H. W. Hermann. Again Walker was president. Leitch was vice-president and general manager, and Allen was secretary and treasurer. Organized to manufacture and fabricate malleable iron products, the company doubled its capitalized figure two years later, setting a debt limit of $75,000. The site for the factory was provided by the Walkers. The building was pictured as an L shaped building and was located inside the industrial circle on the west side.
By the end of 1891, the Minneapolis Land and Investment Company plus T. B. Walker had made a creditable beginning in industrializing the village. Four plants were there, owned either in part or wholly by the Walker interests. Potentially the four firms could employ 675 men if plans went according to schedule. This influx of workers would give a potential market for lots on which homes could be built, plus a need for stores, banks, and other ancillary endeavors which would also increase demand for lots and homes, the two things that the Investment Company were able to provide and which by providing would stand to make a profit.
The year 1892 promised to be a good year for the investors in St. Louis Park, and it was not possible but became an actuality that more industries would be provided. An important addition was the Shaft-Pierce Shoe Company which was incorporated April 12, 1892 for $50,000 and was to exist for thirty years. W. S. Shaft of St. Louis Park, Charles S. Pierce of St. Paul and A.M. Allen of Minneapolis made up the directorate and became the officers of the company. Though there was to be $50,000 invested in the company according to the capitalization figure, the actual amount was not more than one-fifth of that amount according to the certificate filed with the Register of Deeds about six weeks after the articles of incorporation were filed. This certificate shows that W.S. Shaft owned fifty shares worth $100 each, Charles S. Pierce owned forty-nine shares, and A. M. Allen owned but one share. The total capital stock issued was but $10,000. This was the factory which Walker had hoped would employ about fifty men for which he built a two and one-half story building in the industrial circle on the east side.
Perhaps the most promising Industry that was brought into The Park in 1892 was the Minneapolis Esterly Harvester Company.. While wagon and shoe companies and other light industries could come and go and in general had a high mortality rate, it seemed to many that the heavier industries, particularly the agricultural implement companies would be solid and stable, and perhaps even grow to great size because of the opening of the great wheat fields of the west. The history of the Esterly concern, like that of Monitor, was largely the story of a family. George W. Esterly Sr. (1837-1895) had moved from Ulster County, New York in 1836, to Wisconsin where he bought a 1,120 acre farm in Walworth County which was planted mostly to wheat and grain. Seven years later he saw three hundred acres lost during the fall because he could not get enough laborers to harvest the crop. That winter he invented the header, a device which cuts the heads from the grain and carries them on a canvas belt upward to a wagon box which is hauled to a stack or thresher. The machine was successful and Esterly began the manufacture of it for others. After winning a gold medal for his device at a Chicago Exposition in 1848 he abandoned the model and began to manufacture a hand rake reaper; a mower with a platform on which a person rakes the cut grain into bundles which are dropped on the ground in the stubble. In 1857 he moved to Whitewater where he added a seeder, cultivator and other implements to his line and, in addition, began to make a self-rake reaper. After John Appleby invented the knotter with which a reaper could make bundles of grain tied with twine, Esterly secured a license from the inventor to manufacture the machine and called it the Esterly Self-Tying Twine Binder.
Young George Esterly, who was born in 1842, became a partner with his father in 1872. The firm had expanded operation until in 1875 they employed six hundred men and shipped their binders to all parts of the union. In 1884 the Esterly Harvester Company of Whitewater was incorporated with a capital of $400,000, with George W. Esterly, Jr. as vice-president. That year the company made over one thousand binders. During the following years the centers of wheat and grain production of the United States shifted westward and Minneapolis became the great milling center of the country. The Esterly plant was getting farther and farther from the places where its product would be needed. Furthermore, great and efficient machinery companies were being formed with large amounts of capital while the Esterly plant needed modernization. At this juncture the Esterlys sought a new site and a new and more modern plant, all of which required substantial capital. At the same time T. B. Walker and a group from the Businessmen’s Union heard of their plight and induced them to move to this area promising them financial aid and a site for the factory.
On April 18, 1892 the Minneapolis Esterly Harvester Company filed articles of incorporation, listing as their capital the sum of one and a quarter million dollars. Preferred shares were to be issued to the extent of $950,000 while the remainder was to be in common stock. The articles specified that the company was not to start operations until $700,000 was paid in and the debt limitation was not to exceed one million dollars. The directors were to be elected annually at the stockholders meeting to be held on the third Wednesday in September. Incorporators were George Esterly, George W. Esterly, Jr., T. B. Walker, I.C. Seeley, W.A. Barnes, S.C. Gale, Allan Haines, J. B, Bushnell, C.P Lovell, H.F. Brown, C.G. Goodrich, B. Cooper, Elwood S. Corser, W.S. Benton and O.H. Hoffman. The officers were to be George W. Esterly, T. B. Walker, O.H. Hoffman, Allan Haines; president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer, respectively. Seeley was a lawyer, while Barnes, Lovell, Corser and Gale were realtors. Bushnell had been one of the incorporators of Minneapolis Threshing Machine Company. Goodrich was an officer in the transit company. Brown was a wealthy lumberman. The other incorporators were capitalists. Though the location given in the articles of incorporation was Minneapolis, an amendment in 1894 relocated the offices of the company in Louis Park. The Esterly Company of Whitewater with its patents, rights and tools was purchased and within a short |time the company was moved and was operating.
Two of the companies which located in The Park, Esterly and Monitor, did what was wanted of them in the line of increasing population. From Horicon, the Monitor Company brought about one hundred men to work in their newly established factory. Many of the men were single but no small number moved with their families. The Esterly Company provided jobs for a rather large number who came from Whitewater, among them being the Hinkles, Wemers and others.
Other families moved into St. Louis Park from Minneapolis and St. Paul in order to be near their places of employment. This immigration fitted neatly into the plans of the Minneapolis Land and Investment Company which had thousands of lots to sell. But whether the employees were unable to raise money to buy lots and build houses as expected or whatever the reason, the Land Company found it necessary to build houses for them to rent. Walker and his interests supposedly built about sixty houses, most of them west of the industrial circle in Oak Hill. Joseph Hamilton, who had retired from farming and retailing to follow the real estate business, built a dozen and a half houses, both south of the tracks and north of the commercial zone. Monitor built about a dozen houses on their property close by the railroad. It is quite likely that homes were provided for about a hundred families who might find work in the village.
Of course, with the growing population there would be greater need for other establishments, especially retail stores. Joseph Hamilton proceeded in 1892 to erect a building on a site on the west edge of the commercial zone. This building stands today and is one of two which remains of the “brick block.” The other building Walker built across the street from the Hamilton building. Both are of brick and are two stories high. Not only were store buildings provided by Walker and others, but three hotels served the public in 1892. The largest was the Northern Hotel, which had twenty-five or thirty rooms and served meals in addition. Patronized largely by workmen from the manufacturing companies, it was run first by a Mr. Peterson but later by a Mr. Duff. The Hotel was also one of the Walker projects. The St. Louis Park Hotel was somewhat smaller but operated on the same plan. It had eight or ten rooms. South of the tracks was the Cummins Hotel which, like the Northern, was rather large. It too served meals and was a workingmen’s hotel. The Milwaukee Railroad had built a depot in the meantime locating it near where the Commander Larabee elevators are today.
A grandiose plan of T. B. Walker’s was the building of the street railroad which connected Minneapolis with the infant village. It will be recalled that in the replatting of the village the Minneapolis Land and Investment had reserved to itself the right to build a streetcar line on all streets to be drawn by any power except steam. C. G. Goodrich and A. M. Allen of the land company appeared before the village council on February 6, 1891 and asked for a franchise to build and operate a street railway. The council was unprepared to grant the franchise on such short notice and asked for time in which to consider the request. In May the council met and granted the franchise which gave the Minneapolis Land and Investment Company the right to build and operate the railway. The franchise specified that the line must be built within two years and was to use no steam for locomotion. Furthermore, it was to haul no freight trains and was o charge only five cents per ride for fares and free transfers were to be provided. After dark the trolley was to carry lights and was not to travel faster than twenty-five miles per hour. In addition, it was to run a sufficient number of cars to take care of passengers. Shortly afterward Walker and Allen notified the council of their acceptance of the ordinance.
Walker appointed one of his aides, Edward M. Conant, to build and operate the line. The St. Louis Park Electric Line was to connect with the Minneapolis system and provide service into the city. The line was built from 29th Street and followed Lake Calhoun shore, went down Minnetonka Boulevard and thence followed Lake Street until it reached the brick block. The company had hoped to run their cars down Hennepin Avenue but due to some legal difficulty concerning the possibility of an accident on the rails of the Minneapolis line, the arrangement could not be made. Thus a transfer system had to be established. The power to operate the trolley was purchased from the Minneapolis lines. Two cars were bought at a cost of $5,500 each. From the brick block Walker hoped to extend the line to Hopkins but discovered that the M&StL would not allow the cars to cross their tracks in Hopkins because they feared that at sometime a railroad train might strike the trolley and injure or kill many passengers which would bring numerous damage suits. To obviate this objection a twelve passenger horse drawn conveyance was put on for a time to make a shuttle run between the end of the SLP Line at the brick block and Hopkins. Extensions were planned within St. Louis Park which would serve both the south and west parts of the village. The south line was to have connected with the Lake Street line where Main Street (Dakota today) intersected and was to take a route straight south across the tracks to Fourth Street (no street corresponds with that name today, which would be an east-west street three blocks south of Goodrich) where the line would turn eastward until it reached Jackson (Alabama). The Oak Hill extension was to take a route straight west from a point about where Lake Street and Kenwood crosses today, until it reached the diagonal rearrangement blocks where it was directed southwest for a bit, when it turned west until it reached the central north-south line in Oak Hill. From that point it went straight south to Lake Street where it turned westward for a few blocks. Certainly St. Louis Park would be generously supplied with trolley service, if all of the plans had matured. Conant recalls that the total cost of what was constructed was about $60,000. The line opened for operation in the spring of 1892 and a young schoolgirl, Delia Miller, remembers standing at the school window and seeing the expectant crowd wait for the car. The system tried to maintain a half hour schedule to Minneapolis. Many workmen rode the six o’clock run in the morning and evening, the car often carrying as many as eighty persons, only forty of whom sometimes paid fare because the conductor could not reach the other half. St. Louis Park now had stores, hotels, factories, population and a streetcar line. Perhaps the streetcar line was the greatest mistake made in the formation of the industrial suburb, because if the village were to be self-sufficient, there ought not to have been any means by which workers could live in Minneapolis and commute.
St. Louis Park was well on the way to becoming a prosperous little industrial village within three years after the Minneapolis Land and Investment Company began operations. The files of the company were still full of plans for the future and if conditions remained as they were, would soon be complete. But national events were to give some troubles in the next seven years, although the gains probably were greater than the losses.
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