There are many resources that one can use to research topics in the history of St. Louis Park. Your topic will dictate which resource is right for you.
KINDS OF INFORMATION
The definitive history of St. Louis Park is a 300-page manuscript written in 1952 by Norman Thomas called St. Louis Park: A Story of a Village. The project was initiated and financed by S. Earl Ainsworth. He had asked Barney Gross, editor of the Dispatch, for help hiring a writer, and Gross found Thomas, a graduate student at the U of M. Ainsworth assembled groups of longtime Park residents to contribute their memories to the project. Thomas had access to a tremendous number of documents that have since been lost or destroyed. Although there were plans to add pictures and publish the book, only a few copies of the document were produced – and those with carbon paper.
Something in the Water is a self-published book of memoirs and vignettes edited by Don Swenson. Topics run the gamut of St. Louis Park history, focusing on the era before World War II. This volume is available for purchase for $20 by sending a check to the St. Louis Park Historical Society, 3700 Monterey Drive, St. Louis Park, MN 55416.
Depending on the topic, the St. Louis Park Historical Society may have other books that are useful references. They are located at our office and available during office hours.
The Historical Society has St. Louis Park directories, which began publication by Lydia Rogers in 1933. These are extremely useful research tools. Our collection is available for reference at our office, which is open on Saturdays from 1 to 4 pm.
In 2015 the St. Louis Park Historical Society obtained a digital microfilm reader through a Minnesota Legacy grant. In 2016 the Society also obtained 37 rolls of microfilm containing several of our city’s historic newspapers. For a list of our newspapers through the years and inventories of the Society’s holdings, please click Here.
The Society also has many copies of the St. Louis Park High School newspaper, The Echo. There is a link to the inventory at the bottom of our Echo web page. The High School Media Center has bound volumes from 1946 or 1947 on, and many of the issues from 1940 through 1945 or 1946, plus a few issued in 1939. Unfortunately, they do not have the issues from 1929 through 1939.
The St. Louis Park Historical Society has a complete set of SLP High School yearbooks (except for 2005). The High School Media Center has almost a complete set as well. See our Echowan web page for more information. Information about video yearbooks produced in the 1980s are on that page as well. Echowans are kept at our office, and can be viewed during office hours and by appointment.
Click here for a pdf file listing the videos available about the history of St. Louis Park.
HISTORICAL SOCIETY DOCUMENTS AND PHOTOS
The Historical Society keeps historical documents on file at our office. These files contain information on people, businesses, civic enterprises such as police and fire, and many more. The Historical Society also has a collection of pictures, also organized by businesses, people, etc. These files are available during office hours and by appointment.
PLAT MAPS AND AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHS
The Historical Society has a variety of plat maps and aerial photographs on file at our office. Many of these documents were donated in 2015 by the City of St. Louis Park.
Much historical research can be done over the Internet. Sometimes you can get the actual information you’re looking for from websites, and sometimes the websites can be used to identify materials ahead of time so that when you go to a library you can go right to them. The following is a list of some basic websites and other resources that can be helpful when doing research on houses, people, etc.
This website contains public information from the county tax records. Enter an address and it will give you the date the house was built, the name(s) of the taxpayer and owner, the legal description and dimensions of the lot, etc. It will also indicate the name of the subdivision – with that you can enter the name of the subdivision and block number to get a list of all of the houses on the block. For example, if you want to know the ages of all the houses on your street, look up your own address to find out the subdivision name and block number, then enter that information to get a list of each house in that block. Click on each house on your street to get the year built. There is also a very helpful mapping feature.
Although this site requires a subscription, it can provide invaluable information about families. Census data is available up to 1940. Marriages, birth records, social security death info, military info – the list goes on and on.
Founded by the original settlers of western Hennepin County and operated now by their descendants, WHCPA has collected community and family related artifacts and information for 100 years. Located in Long Lake, Minnesota, they are a genealogical repository and historical landmark of interest not only to local communities, but to descendants of local families now living across the nation. Their mission is to preserve and promote heritage.
BLOGS AND FACEBOOK PAGES
These are popping up all the time. One of the most fun and informative Facebook page is “Flashbacks of St. Louis Park,” which started in June 2012 and has upwards of 6,000 members. Thousands of photos have been posted with countless comments.
The following are some blogs; most relate to Minneapolis but can contain some St. Louis Park content:
Minnesota Historical Society 345 Kellogg Blvd. West, St. Paul 651-296-6126 800-657-3773
There are many ways of finding information on line and at the library. See the library’s home page for links.
John R. Borchert Map Library Wilson Library, University of Minnesota 309 – 19th Avenue South 612-624-4549
This collection contains, among other things, aerial photographs taken at different years of specific parts of the city. There are also atlases and maps. (Note: the newspaper section of the Wilson Library does not have any local papers.)
Northwest Architectural Archives Andersen Library, U of M 222 – 21st Avenue, Suite 213 612-625-3550 (call first)
This collection holds 130 years of records from architects, builders, interior designers, and engineers. If you know who “commissioned” a particular house, (usually the first owner), you might be able to obtain information on building inspections and permits, the name of the architect, and architectural drawings. Whether it includes houses in St. Louis Park is unclear.
Hennepin History Museum 2303 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis 612-870-1329
This library includes historical atlases of maps from the 1880s and onward, a file of miscellaneous documents and clippings, and a card catalog of manuscripts and other documents. It also has a collection of the histories of other local cities and suburbs.
Hennepin County Public Library, Downtown Minneapolis Branch 300 Nicollet Mall 952-847-8000
Microfilms of newspapers are available here, but not to the extent of the Minnesota Historical Society (no St. Louis Park papers). From their website you can search for various books and newspapers, renew a book online, etc. The History section has some St. Louis Park Directories, which start in 1933. Special Collections has a variety of materials, by topic. There are fascinating clipping files that go back to the 1930s.
Hennepin County Library, Southdale Branch 7001 York Avenue So., Edina 952-847-5900
This library has the St. Louis Park Dispatch, Sun, Sailor, and Sun-Sailor newspapers on microfilm. There are four microfilm machines that make copies for 25 cents. There is also a digital microfilm reader that allows users to make prints for 10 cents or copy pages to a flash drive for free.