COMMUNITY VOICES | Dinkytown should be a protected historic district


Thirty years ago, in the fall of 1983, I left Richmond, Virginia where I had lived all my life, to attend U of MN-Minneapolis. I wanted to know my grandparents better and felt moving to Minnesota would enable me to see them more often before they died. They were from Alexandria, MN. I lived on campus in Comstock Dorm when it was still an all female dorm, and the school and Dinkytown were intertwined, they still are. 

Dinkytown and the uniqueness of it, have continued on to this day. They are intertwined with the fabric of that part of MInneapolis and that edge of U of MN. I am sure the U of MN has many reasons also why Dinkytown should be preserved as it is and their history department as well as their various departments which benefit both the students and the University as a whole. I venture to say that the ambience and eclectic, artistic environment of Dinkytown have really touched the great majority of students at U of MN in a way that brings back many memories long after they graduate.

For myself, I have hundreds of only happy memories of walking the streets of Dinkytown, shopping the stores, getting my haircut and eating in its restaurants. Futhermore, the Book House in Dinkytown has impacted three generations in my family in a huge way. To change any aspect of Dinkytown in any way other than a natural change due to usual selling/buying/renting of property would be devastating to the landscape we see there as well as the profound memories that go back generations for thousands upon thousands of people. It would also be shortsighted and negate the benefits Dinkytown brings to Minnesota Tourism and Historical Society of Minnesota.

I have lived in Virginia (18 years), Minnesota (12 years), North Carolina (9 years) and now Texas (10 years). I have had the honor to travel to forty of the United States of America. Our family loves bookstores, quaint villages, unique restaurants and fun shops. DInkytown has it all. It is hard to find this type of a unique, historical village setting and states should and must preserve them. What’s more it has important history and a meaningful heritage…..I was concerned when the dorm or apt complex was built to the north of Annie’s Parlour, but am glad that it was not too encroaching on Dinkytown or overly blocking the view of Minneapolis when all was completed. However, to destroy the Book House and House of Hanson which goes back to 1932 is absolutely unthinkable and should be abhorent to anyone who has any roots at all in the Minneapolis area. These are cornerstones and hold a legacy of not just Dinkytown but of Minneapolis and the whole of Minnesota!!

Everytime our family members (my husband and I have three children between the ages of 21 and 16) come to MN, which is about once a year or so, we go to Dinkytown without fail, even though there is no family there, even though no one attends U of MN anymore. The memories are a part of the fabric of our family legacy and I am sure they are of many other families as well. With the love our whole family has of learning and books, I can assure you we have been to used books stores in nearly every state we have travelled to. While there are some good bookstores across the USA, NONE COMPARE TO ‘THE BOOK HOUSE’ in DINKYTOWN!! This is a foundational store with unique character and history and should not ever be moved or changed in any way. To change this part of Dinkytown or DInkytown as a whole, would be criminal and negligent of recognizing what should be named a Minnesota Historical Building right along with the House of Hanson and Annie’s Parlour. 

Nearly every date I ever went on with my boyfriend in college starting in January 1984, we would go to Annie’s Parlour in Dinkytown. We got the same thing everytime and it was a consistent and happy experience for four years. We were married and would return to Dinkytown regularly from Rochester, MN for dates as often as we could in order to continue the tradition. Years later, when we moved to North Carolina, after a visit to MN, I brought home the placemats from Annie’s Parlour which had their menu on them and had them laminated. I still have them and we still use them on anniversaries or Valentine’s Day.

Now 25 years after we were married, we still bring our children “home” to Dinkytown to enjoy Annie’s Parlour for cheeseburgers and malts and fries, talk about great memories and relive our wonderful experiences when we were at U of MN. This and going to the Book House afterwards are highlights of our trips to MN right up there along with seeing family and friends. We have photos of our children from young ages until now in front of the Book House. We take them into Hanson’s to get a snack before we drive to the airport to fly home. Just as when we return to Virginia to see family, we must go to the Outer Banks in NC to see “our ocean” and also to Williamsburg to enjoy great tradition and important American history, when we return to MN, we must go to Dinkytown to see our beloved shops and this critical part of Minnesota history. 

Please recognize the historical significance of these shops and this amazing and unique village of Dinkytown and do not take away our memories, our heritage and the legacy we continue to pass on. This part of Minnesota should be considered HISTORICAL MONUMENT AREA and never altered just like Historic Williamsburg in Virginia, to do so would be absurd and short sighted and a real tragedy.

I am writing to you with a heart that could speak volumes on the importance not only to individuals around the world who have been touched by Dinkytown, but also to the Minnesota Travel and Tourism bureau, The Minnesota Historical Society, etc. To neglect to recognize the great value of this village, would be something that forever would change Minnesota from holding a diamond in the midst of its fair city to essentially throwing the diamond into a swift moving river in a storm and saying goodbye to something that could never be replaced or duplicated elsewhere.

I have not spoken with the owners of these shops. They most likely do not even know me, though I greet them warmly when I return every year or two for a short visit from Texas. However, I pray their wonderful establishments and the village of Dinkytown will forever remain a tradition and a place my grandchildren and great grandchildren, etc. can return to, just like we do with Williamsburg when we head back to Virginia to visit our family there.

I just heard about this concern today on facebook. I do not know how far along the process is and if there is any chance to still stop the plans. I do not know which legistators to contact, so am giving my permission for this to letter to be sent to anyone who could use it to help reverse these plans. I stopped in the middle of all I am doing to write to you. I do not know all the ins and outs of what is happening in regard to the legal aspects or progression of this matter. I do not know whom I should write to in order to have my voice heard. Therefore I am copying everyone I could think of to send this letter to so that the voices across America of those who would very much care about this, but are unaware of the matter might be better served and heard. I am very happy to talk with anyone in this regard if I can be of service to save Dinkytown from changing in any way. Dinkytown is like Virginia’s Williamsburg, Aluquerque’s Old Town, St. Louis’ Old Town Bay and Richmond, VA’s Fan District and Carytown. Do not lose sight of the great treasure you have there. It would be a tragedy to so.

Also read Bill Huntzicker’s series Development in Dinkytown.

Coverage of issues and events affecting Central Corridor communities is funded in part by a grant from the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.