June 30, 2023

Linden Hills History Study Group
by JoEllen Haugo

For more than 26 years the Linden Hills History Study Group (LHHSG) has offered local history programs in Southwest Minneapolis. The organization was initiated by history-loving neighbors. Some were volunteers of the Minnesota Transportation Museum who, in the 1970s and 1980s, rebuilt and began operating a section of the Como-Harriet Streetcar Line and a streetcar station at Lake Harriet. Others helped steer the creation of 1986 pagoda-style Lake Harriet Bandshell. In the early 1990s, some Linden Hills volunteers recorded reminiscences from longtime residents. These oral histories eventually were transcribed and made available through the Hennepin County Library system. Volunteers researched and prepared a history exhibit that was installed in the lobby of the newly restored and repurposed Fire Station 28 located in the historic commercial node at 43rd Street and Upton Avenue South.

A 1994 Linden Hills Neighborhood Council survey, as part of a Neighborhood Revitalization Project (NRP), revealed still more residents’ interest in local history. In 1996, the history activists came together, adopted a name inspired by the 1903 Linden Hills Study Club, and began organizing history programs and walking tours. Early subjects included streetcars, Henry Thoreau’s 1861 Lake Calhoun visit, pioneer developers, Lake Harriet pavilions, Theodore Wirth and the Minneapolis Parks System, and the former Lake Harriet School. The presenters were often knowledgeable neighbors and LHHSG members, but over time the focus widened to include topics related to greater Minneapolis, St. Paul, and neighboring communities.

In 2001, an LHHSG core committee wrote and published a book elaborating on the fire station exhibit. Down at Lake, A Historical Portrait of Linden Hills and the Lake Harriet District, was initially financed by an NRP grant. It won several local awards and was reprinted three times. An updated version of the book is being prepared.

LHHSG programs continue to be offered six to eight times each year and are advertised to the community and members of LHHSG through neighborhood news vehicles, the LHHSG email list, and pictorial postcards mailed to members and posted throughout the community. In recent years the website lindenhillshistory.org has been useful to advertise programs, offer videos of past programs, and host downloadable self-guided walking tours of the area.
Over the course of time, we continue to increase our knowledge. We are able to better understand the history of the surrounding lands and the Dakota people who call this area home, the injustices and racism that affect local residents, the flora and fauna of the area, and changes that “settlement” has wrought. The digitizing of collections in libraries and archives and research on the local environment have opened many doors to broaden our understanding. These revelations keep history new!

JoEllen Haugo is devoted to local history. She worked for many years as a librarian at Minneapolis Central Library where she assisted researchers in Special Collections and organized history and genealogy presentations. JoEllen’s co-chaired the Linden Hills History Study Group since its 1997 inception, facilitating programs presented by local historians.

Down at the Lake is out of print, but available again soon. To find out more, or to join Linden Hills History Study Group’s e-mail list, visit lindenhillshistory.org or write to contact@lindenhillshistory.org.

Memberships ($20 per house-hold) include free admission to most events (typically $5), as well as announcement postcards in the mail. Learn more at lindenhillshistory.org.