A quick drive through St. Anthony could lead one to believe that the city—or the village, as it’s known —sprang up overnight sometime in the 1950s. Block after block of tidy, suburban ramblers, with a few bungalows thrown in, seem to scream, “Post-war housing boom!”
For most of my 30 years at the Northeaster, I’ve relied on Gail Olson to get to the bottom of assumptions that might or might not be true. And, while neither the newspaper nor I was involved in assigning her to research the history of St. Anthony—that came from the St. Anthony Village Historical Society —I can assure you that, as usual, she did not disappoint.
Her new book, A Village in the City, documents a history that goes back to a township in the 1860s, with incorporation as a village in November 1945, done not to increase the area’s urbanization but to fend off developers who wanted to annex 60 acres to Minneapolis. It was a contentious process, involving three elections and a lawsuit that went all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
And the modern-looking school buildings hardly suggest that the history of formal public education in the Village dates back to a two-room schoolhouse that opened in 1918.
And the Village can boast of celebrity, including 1968’s Miss Minnesota, who started out as Miss St. Anthony and went on to compete in the Miss America pageant.
Olson divided the book into two sections. The first is a decade-by-decade compilation of the fascinating facts and events that have shaped life in the village, including two tragic plane crashes, flooding and two tornadoes. The second is a historical look at dozens of community organizations, institutions and landmarks.
The nearly-300-page, hardcover, coffee-table-style book features both current and historic photographs, many from the personal collections of longtime Villagers. Olson said she started her research in May, 2009, interviewing the “oldest residents first.” Those interviews, she said, were among the most enjoyable activities of the history project, especially “learning about the hog farms.”
One of the toughest parts, she said, was “putting it all together” once the bulk of the research was done. She had a severe “writer’s block” that was broken with a three-day stay at ARC Ecumenical Retreat Community in Stanchfield, Minn., where she was able to concentrate and write without the distractions of everyday life. Once that “block” was gone, she said, the project went smoothly.
The book is available only at St. Anthony City Hall at 33rd Avenue NE and Silver Lake Road, for $25 ($26.82 including tax). The first printing produced 1,000 copies.
The St. Anthony Village Historical Society Board of Trustees includes Sue Bailey, Mary Ann Baker, Carol Jensen, Florence Marks, George Marks, Candice Quinn, Joyce Rosene, Bill Sauer and Barry Tedlund.
Carol Jensen and Jennifer Simonson provided photography; Tom Heller and Soulo Communications provided publishing and design services.
Donations for the project came from Sue Bailey, Crystal Clift, Jerry and Diane Faust, George and Florence Marks, Jim and Evelyn McNulty, Kathleen and Bill McReavy, Robert and Joyce Rosene, St. Anthony Kiwanis and William and Donna Tedlund.