Letter from the Women’s Club of Minnetonka to Gratia Countryman, Oct. 26, 1921
On October 15, 1921, the Women’s Club purchased the White House Hotel for $15,000. A large room was made ready for a public library to be dedicated in honor of Alice Pierce Bardwell.
The only problem was the Women’s Club, “just hardly [knew] how to proceed” with creating a library. They wrote the head of Minneapolis Public Library (and founder of Hennepin County Library), Gratia Countryman for assistance.
On February 7, 1922 the Hennepin County Free Library moved books, cupboards, tables, chairs and other library essentials without charge from Minneapolis to the former hotel. It was named the Excelsior Branch of the Hennepin County Free Library. Excelsior Library was one of the first branches of the new system. The library remained at 1 Water Street until 1928 when the library was moved to the Masonic Temple Building.
Excelsior Library has returned to Water Street and opens tomorrow at 9 a.m. Join us for the opening at 337 Water Street and share your favorite features of the new building on social media with #ExcelsiorLibrary or #BackToWaterSt
In honor of the big Replacements show on Saturday, my friend Pat Ganley and I whipped up this map of the Mats’ beginnings in Minneapolis in the early 1980s. Click to read the high-res version.
Excelsior Library Returns to Water Street
Above is a photo of Excelsior Library in 1938. The Women’s Club of Lake Minnetonka formed the first free public library in Excelsior in 1922. With assistance from the newly formed Hennepin County Library, they converted the former White House Hotel into the Excelsior Branch of Hennepin County Library.
Isabel Wells Bladen was the first librarian and was replaced by Mary Kayhill Bardwell later in 1922. In 1928 the library moved to the third floor of the Masonic Temple on Water Street. The 3 flight hike to the library wasn’t popular so the library moved again in 1932 to a room in the Charles Sampson block on the southwest corner of Second and Water Streets. The new location featured, “…bright new linoleum rugs, several reading tables, added shelf room and lighting fixtures. The room is comfortably heated…The windows are daintily curtained and growing plants give the room a homey appearance. Mrs. Bardwell takes pride in making her library patrons feel at home.”(Excelsior Record, September 9, 1932).
Mrs. Bardwell was succeeded by Margaret Cutler in 1934. Lelia T. Bitting was the librarian from 1943-1963. In 1946 the library was moved to the Village Hall, which stood in the same location as its most recent building, which it occupied from February 1966-August 2014.
Other Excelsior Librarians:
Fern Michael 1963-1968
David Waldemar 1965-1969
Roger Burg 1969-1972
Kay Nowak 1972-1973
Rita Strand 1973-1975
Fred Neighbors 1976
Cathy Dahl Fischer 1976-1986
Virginia Hastings 1986-1990
Paul Turgeon 1990-1995
Peggy Bauer 1993-present
Now a new chapter starts for Excelsior Library. It returns to Water Street with a grand opening this Saturday, September 13, 2014, at 9 a.m. Please join us for the celebration.
If you stop and and visit, please share your favorite things on social media about the new Excelsior Library with one of these hashtags: #BackToWaterSt or #ExcelsiorLibrary
Audubon’s Passenger Pigeons
September 1, 2014 marked the 100 year anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, pictured here in the Minneapolis Athenaeum’s copy of volume one of John James Audubon’s Birds of America. Once the world’s most abundant bird, flocks of 1 million would cluster like dark clouds in the sky.
In 1899, the Minneapolis Tribune wrote:
"[The Smithsonian Institution] caused an item to work its way into circulation and to be spread broadcast throughout the country to the effect that the ordinary passenger pigeon of birdology was, for some inexplicable reason or other, dying out so rapidly that the Smithsonian Institution desired a number of specimens for the same for stuffing and mounting purposes. Now, passenger pigeons are not so numerous as English sparrows, of course, but all the same, there are so many of them extant that they stand an excellent chance of enduring as a species as long as the human race inhabits this globe."
"Humor in Science" May 20, 1899
Due to their abundance, passenger pigeons were easily hunted, a cheap source of protein. The surge in hunting, combined with rapid deforestation of the land lead to the extinction of the species in just a few decades. The last surviving passenger pigeon was Martha, who died a century ago at the Cincinnati Zoo.
Now, a group of scientists is working to revive the species using a process called germline transmission. When the bird died out 100 years ago, scientists kept lots of specimens, tissue samples, and detailed records of the species (as joked about in the Minneapolis Tribune article above). Using these tools, scientists today are extracting DNA to decipher the full genetic code. They will then reprogram sperm and eggs in one species to produce a different species. You can follow along with the group’s progress on their website.
Visit Special Collections to view volume two of Audubon’s Birds of America, on view now through October. A new bird is featured weekly.
Andy Sturdevant’s latest Stroll on minnpost is about a great historic image collection by a local photographer and he gives us a nice shout out as well.
(via Accessing historic images — like those of John Vachon — is much easier now, thanks to Yale Photogrammar | MinnPost)