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From the Vaults: The Building Blocks of Hopkins

Pieces of Hopkins past landmarks still remain.

Artifact: A handful of bricks on the top of a wooden case. The bricks have various markings and inscriptions on them.

Back-story: These bricks are the building blocks of Hopkins’ past. They are all that’s left from the buildings that served as landmarks for the city’s founders. Those buildings may be gone now, but the bricks still offer a hint of the stories their walls once contained.

 

Original City Hall: Hopkins had a city hall before Hopkins even existed. The community, then called West Minneapolis, built the joint City Hall and “fire barn” in 1912 near the intersection of Excelsior Avenue (now Mainstreet) and Eighth Avenue—near where is today. The community didn’t officially become Hopkins until 1928.

The old City Hall was a stalwart part of the community for 52 years. The building was demolished in 1965 after the city moved into the current City Hall.

Original Hopkins Senior High School: Hopkins had a handful of school buildings before the community got its own high school. The first school was built in 1862, with two more to follow. But the school didn’t get a high school curriculum until the mid 1890s, and there wasn’t a stand-alone Hopkins Senior High School until 1908.

That school sat on Excelsior Boulevard, now Mainstreet, where is today. The boys and girls were kept separate. Girls entered the school from the west, and boys entered the school from the east.

Classes initially focused on “book learning” to prepare students for college. But the school added manual training and sewing class in 1912, followed by cooking classes two years after than and a commercial department teaching shorthand and typing a few years later. By 1923, the school was partnering with the University of Minnesota to teach courses in agriculture.

The school became simply “The Annex” once the second Hopkins High School (now and ) opened on Highway 7 in 1956. The original Senior High was demolished in 1974.

Minneapolis Threshing Machine office: M.T.M. is a colossus in Hopkins’ history. The company began as a wagon and bob sleigh maker in Racine, WI, but built a factory in Hopkins in 1887 that allowed it to get into the rapidly expanding threshing machine industry. The company was a pioneer in the agriculture industry until 1929, when it merged with the Minneapolis Steel and Machinery Co. and the Moline Plow Co. of Moline, IL.

The company sucked up all the workers Hopkins could provide and was the major force in local politics during its era. Paul Swenson, who ran M.T.M., was president of what was then called West Minneapolis from 1901 until 1907, again in 1909, yet again from 1911 until 1913 and one final time from 1923 to 1926. An M.T.M superintendent was even the first fire chief.

“The factory was the life of the town, no question about it. It’s the reason that any other business in Hopkins existed. You either worked at M.T.M. or your business was set up for those who did,” a Sun-Sailor reporter wrote in 1984.

Minneapolis Moline survived the Depression and persevered under different ownership through 1985, when Allied Products Co. bought Minneapolis Moline’s owner and began demolishing the vacant Hopkins buildings. The original office fell to the wrecking ball in 1986.

Ninth Avenue Post Office: Hopkins has had no shortage of post offices. Until 1938, postmaster jobs were one of many jobs awarded for service to a political party. Consequently, the appointments—and often the post office locations—shifted as frequently as the political winds, according to the . To add to the confusion, major companies, such as M.T.M., sought to win approval for post office locations near their businesses.

In 1935, though, a more-permanent location at last opened on 18 Ninth Ave. S. A sign on the Historical Society’s brick states that the building was a Works Progress Administration project that cost $33,000.

As with other Depression-era public buildings, the government commissioned an artist to paint a mural for the post office. The mural, named Cultivation of Raspberries, hung in the post office until the building was demolished in 1972. The University of Minnesota’s Weisman Art Museum has one of the panels. Another panel is in the Smithsonian American Art Museum collection.

Carol Bungert February 13, 2011 at 07:31 PM
Love these stories on the history ofHopkins. --Carol Bungert

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