By Marie Hartmann

The following is a document we found in the files that gives the details regarding the start of the Society. 

One day, Mrs. Donald Skoro drove past the Milwaukee Railroad depot which at that time was located at 36th and Alabama Ave. So. in St. Louis Park.  She was taken aback by seeing the “St. Louis Park” sign lying on the railroad bed.  She went home and told her husband, Don, a graphic designer who had always admired the sign which was classified as a “Smaly” sign.  (The Smaly process for signs was used years ago, an elegant process for signs.  The Smaly process involves glass-like granules on the back of the sign.  This background material actually went around the letters which were of gold leaf.  The Smaly process is no longer used.)

Mrs. Skoro then called the City Manager’s office, speaking to Mr. Cherches, inquiring about the sign and telling what she had seen.  Mr. Cherches was interested and sent someone to pick it up, but when the person arrived, the sign was gone.  The Milwaukee Road was contacted and the sign was finally located at some railroad yard. A City employee was sent to retrieve the sign, and came up with the two signs reading “St. Louis Park.”

Thus the beginning of the Depot restoration project and the projected birth of the St. Louis Park Historical Society.

The Milwaukee Road offered to deed the building to the City, if they found persons interested in restoring the Depot.

Interested persons and concerned persons were located, so as not to destroy one of the few remaining evidences of the past.

Marie Hartmann contacted Joe Justad this particular Monday afternoon, asking what he knew about the Depot.  He told Marie to call City Hall; they in turn gave Marie Mrs. Skoro’s phone number.  Marie called Mrs. Skoro, who stated “There will be a meeting at 7:00 PM tonight, before the Council meeting, of interested persons in saving the Depot.”  Marie got on the phone with comment “You’ve got to come to City Hall with me tonight.  I don’t know just what it is all about, but it has something to do with the Milwaukee Depot.  I had a call this morning telling me that the Depot was going to be destroyed, and we can’t let that happen.”  Marie visited a Senior Citizens picnic which was held at the home of Mrs. Andy Nelson, telling them the same thing.

There were 13 interested persons at that meeting in addition to Mrs. Skoro and Robert Bloomquist, who was a representative from the city Council, as he was on the Citizens Advisory Commission.

This group of people presented themselves to the 8:00 PM Council meeting, Mrs. Skoro being the spokeswoman.  The Council agreed that there was enough interest shown that evening, so they advised the Milwaukee Road that St. Louis Park would accept the deed for the building.

Plans had already been drawn up as to where to place the building on the park property owned by the City at 37th and Brunswick.   A meeting was called for the next Tuesday evening to determine which of the four locations in the park would be accepted by the committee.  However, the next Tuesday morning they found the foundation spot dug up.  Marie received calls, “Did you know they are digging the foundation hole for the depot?”  No, she stated, so someone had made up the decision before the committee could act.

The Senior Citizens wanted the building for their meeting place, but it would not accommodate their needs, as it was too small.

Mrs. Skoro had been chosen as Secretary of the committee by the Council. Bob Bloomquist was chosen Chairman of the Council, since he was a representative of the C.A.C.

Through these interested persons, the “Save the Depot” committee was formed.  Thus blossomed the St. Louis Park Historical Society.

Robert Bloomquist, Allie Skoro, and Marie Hartmann, were signers for their petition to form the Historical Society in April.

Marie Hartmann was elected President of the Society; Allie Skoro, Secretary/Treasurer; John Billman, Virginia Dreyer and Robert Bloomquist the Board of Directors, with Robert Bloomquist, Chairman of the Board.

Thanks to the City Manager’s office, and the Assistant City Manager, Mr. Jim Miceli, we were able to receive HUD funds and a grant from the State of Minnesota.  This office was very instrumental in us receiving these grants.

The fact that we received monetary gifts from interested persons, paint for both the interior and exterior of the building, many gave time in renovation of the building, all added up to show the Government that we were really interested in preserving the history of the building, thus the Grants were issued.  HUD grant came to half of the total cost, the State grant was for a fourth of the total costs, and the Historical Society provided the balance.

The first year in existence found Marie writing letters to many of the railroad companies in the United States, for after all, this was a railroad depot and could use some railroading artifacts also.  The railroad companies were very gracious.  The Milwaukee Road was indeed very generous.

Private citizens have donated the artifacts that are in the depot, along with the railroads.  Only one thing so far has been purchased, and that is a coal scuttle.  Many person have donated pictures of past St. Louis Park, and some have written resumes of their remembrances of St. Louis Park.  The contributions are not coming in at a great pace, but hopefully will start to increase.

The year 1976 found us presenting mini-tours of the area around the Depot, as this was one of the first developed areas in St. Louis Park.  The tours were via the Bi-Centennial Minnesota Wagon, which was sponsored by the Bi-Centennial Commission.