Brownout on Hennepin Avenue, February 1945

Block E is in the foreground with the Great Northern Market and the 620 [Hennepin] Club, which was known for it’s turkey dinners and it’s owner Max Winter.  Winter went on to be an owner of the Minnesota Vikings and was team president from 1965-1987.

Due to wartime coal shortages, brownouts and energy conservation were instituted in February 1945 in Minneapolis. The brownout provisions prohibited the use of outdoor electrical advertising, promotional lighting and decorative and display lighting.

Here is an editorial from the February 2, 1945 Minneapolis Tribune:

The loop isn’t going to be so bright for a time, at least until the coal shortage is eased, but our experience with the brownout to date give no suggestion that traffice will be seriously affected. Still there is no denying Nicollet and Hennepin will be darker and darkness does add to transportation hazards. Autoists and pedestrians alike must have a keener awareness of the possibilities that reduced vision entail.

How much coal the brownout will save is problematical. Window lighting and electrical advertising are however conspicuous examples of coal consumption that could be dispensed with, and if home dwellers and office workers were to be asked to make a sacrifice of temperature these manifest consumers of coal had to be curtailed.

The real coal savings will be in the homes, the office buildings and factories, where there is a large and continuous wastage. One need but to look out the window down town to note the evidences of unskillful firing as shown by the black thunder clouds of smoke pouring out of the chimneys in every direction. This is a serious waste of fuel in addition to being dirty, unhealthy and certainly unaesthetic.

Home dwellers are equally wasteful of fuel, and although their individual failures are small the aggregate loss is great. Their total fuel consumption draws heavily on the fuel storage. Better firing and maintaining temperatures at a comfortable, if not luxurious, level will save much more coal than extinguishing electric advertising devices and store windows.