City planners considered Cedar Riverside “blighted” by the 1940s. While it escaped the wholesale demolition visited on the Gateway and the near North Side, this area would undergo a massive transformation in the 1950s thanks to declining immigration and an expanding University of Minnesota. The arrival of the modern freeway system sliced this enclave of immigrant businesses and bars into urban islands, cut off from downtown by fast-flowing rivers of cars.
In this transformed urban environment, buildings once central to community life were stripped of their earlier meanings. Houses of worship like the one pictured here–whether church or synagogue–were robbed of their earlier meaning as congregations dwindled and died. Once sacred walls broadcast new messages. Visit South Side Junk Yard. Dial R-A-W-B-E-E-F for home liquor delivery.
While churches became billboards, once-thriving neighborhood commercial establishments were transformed into new sites for worship.This neighborhood store at 6th and 16th Avenues advertised itself as an “Interdenominational Gospel Chapel” with daily services at 8pm.
Shoppers can still dial R-A.W-B-E-E-F (729-2333) for “fast and friendly service” at Skol Liquors, which remains in business at the corner of 27th Avenue South and East 25th Street, an area once known as the “Hub of Hell.”
Photos are from the city planning photo collection at the Tower Archives, Minneapolis City Hall. Thanks to data manager Bob McCune, Historyapolis intern Anna Romskog and citizen-researcher Rita Yeada for making these images accessible.
Minneapolitans love to reminisce about the counterculture years of the West Bank/Cedar Riverside neighborhood. But for most of the neighborhood’s history, small immigrant businesses like the Otanga grocery store–which was destroyed in yesterday’s fire–have dominated the commercial landscape. Here we have a photo from the 1890s that shows Charles Samuelson standing in front of his store in Seven Corners. The sign at the front reads: “Har Talas Svenska” (Swedish spoken here) and “Alla Slags Skadinaviska Tidningar Till Salu Har” (All types of Scandinavian Newspapers for sale here). Samuelson was obviously catering to the residents of the immigrant-dominated neighborhood. In addition to newspapers, he stocked tobacco, candy, fruit and sodas in his store at the corner of Cedar and Washington Avenues.
“Snusgatan” or Cedar Riverside was the commercial center of the Scandinavian immigrant community at the turn of the twentieth century. New arrivals settled in boarding houses in the neighborhood, patronizing stores like Samuelson’s, where they were not expected to have a mastery of English. The neighborhood stood in close proximity to the city’s industrial zone, making it easy for new immigrants to walk to jobs in the mills. And after work, new arrivals could socialize in the neighborhood’s myriad dance halls, saloons, theaters and meeting halls. “Att ga pa Cedar” (to walk on Cedar) became shorthand for “to get drunk.” As immigrants started families and became more established, they tried to move out of the neighborhood. Scandinavians usually aspired to move into South Minneapolis, where they built large neighborhoods of working-class homes.
I’m guessing that both Charles Samuelson and the owners of the popular Otanga Grocery would have been equally perplexed by the media antics of the Electric Fetus music store, which staged a “naked sale” in 1972.
Photo is from the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society.