Gangster Era in St. Paul, 1900–1936

St. Paul in the late 1920s and early 1930s was known as a “‘crooks’ haven”—a place for gangsters, bank robbers, and bootleggers from all over the Midwest to run their operations or to hide from the FBI. The concentration of local organized crime activity prompted reformers and crime reporters to call for a “cleanup” of the city in the mid-1930s.

Black and white photograph of a street scene in the University District of Minneapolis, c.1920s.

Minneapolis street scene near the University of Minnesota

Street scene in the University District of Minneapolis, c.1920s.

Black and white photograph of Houses being moved, undated.

Houses being moved, probably at the University of Minnesota for campus expansion

Houses being moved, undated. The style and vintage of the homes indicate they were located in the University District.

Black and white aerial image of a fire in the University District in 1938.

Fire, Ninth Street Southeast, Milling District, Minneapolis

Aerial image of a fire in the University District,1938.

Color scan of a map of the downtown and university districts of Minneapolis, 1939.

Map of the downtown and university districts of Minneapolis

Map of the downtown and university districts of Minneapolis. Created for a meeting of the Geological Society of America held at the Nicollet Hotel in 1939.

University District, Minneapolis

For much of the twentieth century, a section of Southeast Minneapolis was called the University District. By the 1980s, parts of the same area were known as Marcy-Holmes and Dinkytown. The emergence and disappearance of the District as a place name occurred as the neighborhood’s relationships with the rest of the city and the nearby university changed.

Color scan of a note written from D. F. McDermott to James J. Hill on August 6, 1890, regarding supplies ordered by Mr. Ledwidge of Clontarf Township. Mr. Ledwidge trained Hill’s hunting dogs.

Note written from D. F. McDermott to James J. Hill on August 6, 1890

Note written from D. F. McDermott to James J. Hill on August 6, 1890, regarding supplies ordered by Mr. Ledwidge of Clontarf Township. Mr. Ledwidge trained Hill’s hunting dogs. Letter is from the Hill Family Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul.

Founding of Clontarf

Clontarf, a railroad town in Swift County, was established by Bishop John Ireland of St. Paul in 1877 as a Catholic colony on the prairie. Early arrivals named Clontarf for the site of the eleventh-century victory of the Irish king Brian Boru over Viking invaders.

Women on the World War I Home Front

After the United States entered World War I in 1917, Minnesota women, like Americans across the nation, were called to contribute to the war effort. Though some went to Europe and served as nurses, drivers, and aid workers on the battlefields, many more participated on the home front. They took on new jobs, conserved vital resources, and joined volunteer organizations. At the same time, they struggled to come to terms with conflicting ideals of patriotism, loyalty, and what it meant to be an American.

Black and white photograph of the intersection of Chicago Avenue and Lake Street, Minneapolis, 1956.

Intersection of Chicago Avenue and Lake Street, Minneapolis

This image shows the intersection of Lake Street and Chicago at the beginning of 1956. Note the Rialto Theater—which would later become a magnet for anti-pornography protesters—on the left. A photojournalist took this image soon after the city had rebuilt the street to better accommodate automobiles. Lake Street was repaved, widened, and illuminated with state-of-the art florescent fixtures in an effort to make it into what was known at the time as a "Great White Way." These efforts helped to make the street into the center for automobile culture in the region. Dotted by gas stations and drive-ins, the street boasted seventy-four automobile dealers. It also became a magnet for drag racers. These changes to the street's built environment made it inhospitable to pedestrians and weakened the social economy of the street. Businesses left the street en masse in the early 1960s, setting the stage for the Alexander brothers, who were able to profit from these plummeting property values. This photograph was taken on January 9, 1956, by the Minneapolis Star Journal.

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