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Heights Stories

May 21, 2021

Urban historian Kathy Kullberg will be hosting a presentation on the history of Architect Avenue via Zoom on Sat, May 22, at 1 pm. Registration is required to receive the Zoom login information. The presentation will also be broadcasted on Cable Channel 16. To register, click here.

Presentation Synopsis

The year was 1905, only five years into a new century and twelve years after the 1893 Columbian Exposition. The setting was the northeast corner of Hennepin County, the largest, most populous of the seven metro counties.

The concept was simple - a contest - in which the most talented architects of the upper Midwest submitted design plans for a quality home that could be built for $1,500 combining luxury, elegance, utility, and affordability.

The building sites were located on the same street and rolling escarpment. The culmination of the contest was a grand celebration and award ceremony on September 17, 1905. Free streetcar rides, tours, and giveaways attracted a large crowd who voted for their favorite residence. The cottages would then be auctioned to the highest bidder. Today, all six homes are extant in this nearly forgotten quiet corner of Hennepin County. Which architect won and house won?

The tour with urban historian, Kathy Kullberg, will focus on this historic little-known street tucked away a corner of Hennepin County, the six architects, house designs, and the last days of the competition.

Star_Tribune_Sun__Feb_19__1905_ (3)
(Above: Star Tribune article from Feb 19, 1905)

(Above: A Star Tribune article from March 18, 1906.)

May 7, 2021

A lot has changed over the past 100 years near 40th and Central Ave NE, but there a few things that still remain the same, including homes along Van Buren St NE. The top photo is from 1921, while the bottom photo is from 2021.

(Above: The intersection of 40th and Central Ave NE in 1921. Photo credit: The Minnesota Historical Society)

40th - 2021
(Above: The intersection of 40th and Central Ave NE in 2021)
April 30, 2021

The City of Columbia Heights and the Sister Cities planted a Linden Tree at ?omianki Park to celebrate 30 years of the Sister Cities in Columbia Heights.

(Above: Members of the Sister Cities at the tree planting ceremony)
April 23, 2021

Join the City of Columbia Heights and Sister Cities Committee of Columbia Heights at ?omianki Park for a tree-planting ceremony to celebrate 30 years. The event will take place on Arbor Day (April 30) at 2 pm.

(Above: Members of the Sister Cities at the 2018 Columbia Heights Jamboree Parade. Photo Credit: Gloria Bergstrom)


(Above: Members of the Sister Cities in ?omianki Poland. Photo Credit: Gloria Bergstrom)

April 16, 2021

A former longtime Columbia Heights resident has changed the lives of millions of people around the world, and will continue to do so each time someone reaches for their sobriety medallion. That man is the late William Westman. Read his story here.

William Westman_4

(Above: William Westman. Photo credit: Shelley Johnson)

William Westman_3
(Above: William Westman's 48-year sobriety medallion. Photo credit: Shelley Johnson)

April 9, 2021

Author Joe Bissen wrote about Hilltop Public Golf Links for his book "Fore! Gone. Minnesota's Lost Golf Courses, 1897-1999." You can read the chapter here.

Mikes map-101-small

(Above: Hilltop Public Golf Links, sketched by the late Mike Rak, former standout Hilltop golfer. Photo credit: Peter Wong)

(Above: Clifford and Maybeth Bjork on the Hilltop grounds - circa 1940 or 1941. Photo credit: Jim Bjork)
March 26, 2021

Gary Schwartz submitted this photo from his childhood.

Gary Schwartz

"That's me as a kid in the Mack fire truck that Columbia Heights still has! They now use it just for parades, etc. My grandfather was Fire Chief in Columbia Heights. We used to hang around the fire station when my grandfather was on duty, play pool on the second floor, and slide down the brass pole to the first floor."

March 12, 2021

March is Women’s History Month and throughout the month, we will highlight Columbia Heights women who have made a lasting impact on the community. This week, we highlight Harriet Blythe (1873-1953).
In 1928, the Silver Lake School Mothers' Club decided that the City of Columbia Heights needed a public library.

Headed by Blythe, the club met on November 17 and persuaded Margaret Thomas, a high school teacher, to head the first board. With less than $100 to purchase materials, the club members canvassed the neighborhoods on foot with children's wagons to solicit donations of books and magazines.

On December 3, the first library opened its doors at 3949 Central Avenue NE with Grace Sullivan as the only employee. By December 18, 178 library cards had been issued.

Today, the Columbia Heights Public Library has over 19,000 registered users.

(Harriet Blythe on the right.)


(The Columbia Heights Public Library, bottom right corner, at the Heights Theater in 1928.)
Library Exterior
(The Columbia Heights Public Library now at 3939 Central Ave NE.)

March 5, 2021

March is Women’s History Month and throughout the month, we will highlight Columbia Heights women who have made a lasting impact on the community.
This week, we highlight Ava Ostrander (1884-1971).

According to the Northeaster, "Ostrander was the first woman elected to serve on a city council in Minnesota. She served on the Columbia Heights City Council from 1924-28."

Ostrander Park, which bears her name, is a three-acre park located at 40th Ave and Polk St.

Today, three women (Mayor Márquez Simula, Councilmember Buesgens, and Councilmember Jacobs) serve on the Columbia Heights City Council.

Ava Ostrander
(Ava Ostrander on the right.)

February 5, 2021

Aaron Isaacs, of the Minnesota Streetcar Museum, hosted a Zoom presentation on the history of streetcars in Columbia Heights. Watch the presentation here.

431 37th-Central

3658 40th-Central872
(Photos courtesy of the Minnesota Streetcar Museum.)

January 29, 2021

In January 1939, the "Columbia Heights Field House" opened its doors. To honor John Murzyn, Sr., after 40 years of service, the Field House was renamed "John P. Murzyn Hall" in 1979.
Columbia Heights Field House Opening - 1939

(Above: Article from the Minneapolis Star from January 1939.)

Minneapolis Star Tribune - Bowling Lanes - 1979

(Above: Article from the Minneapolis Star from May 1979. Open the article above in a new tab to view full size.)

Northeaster -  Murzyn 1
Northeaster - Murzyn 2

(Article courtesy of Gail Olson, the Northeaster, and the Hennepin County Library - August 2002)

January 22, 2021

Kassler's served Columbia Heights shoppers from 1931 to 1970 at the corner of 41st and Central. (Photo, Paul Wychor)

Oakwood School Spring Concert and Kassler’s by Barbara (Smith) Rue.

In the spring of 1953, I was in third grade at Oakwood School. It was located at 41st and 4th St. N.E. Columbia Heights. There was going to be a spring music concert. I needed a dress for this event. The only dress I had I was growing out of and it was faded and needed to be repaired.

I lived at 3712 University Ave N.E. There was no one to take me to get a new dress. Mom (Effie) had to take care of our newborn brother Ricky and also my little brother Denny, age 3. My mother did not drive so I had to walk to Herman’s Department Store. Located on 40th Ave between 4th and 5th St. on the Northside of 40th.

I was given a $5 bill for this purchase. Herman’s did not have any dresses my size. On my own, I decided to walk to Kassler’s on 41st and Central Ave on the Eastside. It was a warm sunny spring day so I walked, skipped, and sang my way to Kassler’s. Going to Kassler’s was like going to the Mall of America for the first time. It was awesome! At that time, there was nothing like it anywhere in our part of town.

Upon entering I was sort of lost. I saw our neighbor Lucille Nyborg, who worked there. She helped me find a very beautiful yellow dress with music notes on it. Lucille said it was a perfect dress for a spring music concert. The dress cost $3.95. With the change of $1.00 and nickel and my new dress in a bag, I headed home. I ran most of the way home as I was so excited to show my mother the beautiful dress I bought.

When I got home, mom said she was starting to get worried about me taking such a long time. I told her my story and then showed her my new dress. She loved it!

The day of the concert I was so proud to wear my beautiful yellow dress. It was a perfect day thanks to Kassler’s and Lucille Nyborg. 

January 15, 2021

A press release for the annual Columbia Heights winter sports carnival. The carnival took place at City Park (now Huset Park) and featured figure skating contests and dogsled races.

This year, to celebrate the Columbia Heights centennial, we are hosting the Columbia Heights SnowBLAST on Jan 30 at Huset Park.

(Above - A press release for the Columbia Heights Winter Sports Carnival courtesy of the Star Tribune.)

January 8, 2021

Back in the day, Jackson Pond (formerly Bunning's Pond) was the place to be for ice skating in Columbia Heights. (Photo courtesy of Paul Wychor, 1955.)
According to the Bootstrap Book,
A chief site of entertainment in that neighborhood was Bunning's Pond, now Jackson Pond and businesses at 43rd and Central. It was the central skating rink. Dennis DeMars noted that "kids came from all over, sometimes bringing the neighbor's fence posts for bonfires because there were no warming houses."

Jackson Pond

December 18, 2020

Longtime resident Jane Kibler submitted photos of ice skating at Huset Park in the 1980s.

"Photos of old fashioned dressed skaters who would skate on Saturdays around the island under the bridge and on the pond. We had music and lights at night. Warming house with treats. Around 1987-88, etc."


December 11, 2020

Back in 2011, Gail Olson wrote about life in Columbia Heights in the 1950s. Olson, who lives in Columbia Heights, was a Northeaster Newspaper reporter for 30 years. (Article courtesy of the Northeaster and the Hennepin County Library.)

Gail Olson - Stables Story

December 3, 2020

Below is a photo of the Columbia Heights Public Library from 1953 and the building today at 838 40th Ave NE.


November 20, 2020

Back in 2006, Gail Olson wrote about life in Columbia Heights in the 1950s. Olson, who lives in Columbia Heights, was a Northeaster Newspaper reporter for 30 years. (Articles courtesy of the Northeaster and the Hennepin County Library.)

Northeaster - 1950s-1
Northeaster - 1950s-2
November 13, 2020

Below are a few photos of skiing taking place at "Columbia Heights Park" in the 1940s. It is not confirmed, but "Columbia Heights Park" is more than likely Keyes Park. (Photos courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.)

Skiing (1)

Skiing (4)

Skiing (3)

Skiing (2)

October 30, 2020

From the Anoka County Historical Society - 

A map of Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Columbia Heights showing the layout of the cemetery and the plots with their numbers. Black in on white linen, now gray. The minute detail of the lots within the Mount Pleasant Cemetery. The legal description of the property on the lower-left corner. Hand inked on linen. According to "Anoka County Cemeteries - Public, Private, and Abandoned" this cemetery operated between 1901 and 1915 and was re-developed for residences in 1937. There are no cemetery records nor records saying where any reinterments took place prior to the re-development. It was located between 45th and 46th Ave and 4th and 6th St NE.

(Above - Mount Pleasant Cemetery map courtesy of the Anoka County Historical Society.)

October 23, 2020

According to the Bootstrap Book, "Columbia and Oakwood Schools were the two polling places in the 1918 village elections."

Columbia School
(Above - Columbia School | Below - Oakwood School)


October 16, 2020

The northeast corner of 40th Ave and 5th St was once home to the Heights Dairy Store. The photograph of the Heights Dairy Store (dated 1964) was submitted by Jennifer Rosengren.

Dairy Store Photo_Website
October 9, 2020

The Columbia Heights football and volleyball teams are set to begin their 2020 season tonight, Oct. 9. Between the two programs, Columbia Heights has five state titles, which includes four titles in a five-year span from the volleyball team (1986, '87, 89, and '90). The football team won its first state title in 1979 with an 8-3 victory over Richfield.

Volleyball State Title Website
(Above - A Sun Focus article on the Hylanders' fourth state title in five years.)

Football Article Website
(Above - A photo from the Minneapolis Star Tribune from the Hylanders' 8-3 victory for the 1979 Class AA high school football title.)

September 25, 2020

According to the Bootstrap Book, "The first park, Huset, formerly called City Park, was the scene of much of Columbia Heights' earliest activities. Cows and horses were pastured there. Children swam in a stream which ran through it. The original fire department was located there. Elmer Huset, a minister at First Lutheran Church and the city manager for a time, went to the state legislature and got 60 acres from 37th Ave. to the alley below 40th Ave., and from Quincy to 5th St. for about $10,000. The ordinance creating Huset Park was passed in 1939. About 30 acres of the property eventually became industrial land."

Elmer Huset_Photo_Front
(Above - A photo of Elmer Huset. Below - Information on Elmer Huset on the back of the above photo).

Elmer Huset_Photo_Back

September 18, 2020

According to the Bootstrap Book, "McKenna Park at 47th and 7th St. is an 11-acre tract named for James McKenna, who was elected to the first Columbia Heights City Council in 1921. When the park was being developed in 1963, there was enough money in the department to clear and grade it, but not enough to get grass growing. At a public meeting, 79 residents rose up to demand grass because the sandy park was literally blowing away. Funds were found."

McKenna Park Plans
(Above - Columbia Heights Record article showing John P. Murzyn and his plans for the City parks. Below - Columbia Heights Record article showing the McKenna Park shelter being built.)

McKenna Park Shelter
September 4, 2020

With a new school year upon us, let's take a look at the Columbia School Building. (Photo courtesy of the Bootstrap Book.)

According to the Bootstrap Book, "The north end was built in 1894, the south portion was added in 1911. Razed in 1967." The school was located on the northwest corner of 41st and Central Ave.

Columbia School
A Minneapolis Morning Tribune article states that the Columbia School Building was voted on in Oct of 1895 (see article below). (Article courtesy of the Minneapolis Morning Tribune.)

August 28, 2020

As demolition of the old NE Bank Building begins, let's take a look back to 1982 when the building was being constructed. (Photos courtesy of Terry Nightingale.)

C.H. Business Center constr. 2 1982

C.H. Business Center constr. 3 1982

C.H. Business Center ramp construction 1982

August 21, 2020

A Columbia Heights couple recently found a hidden room in their home that is nearly 100 years old. You can watch the video below and read the article here. (Video courtesy KSTP-TV.)

August 14, 2020

Below is an aerial photo of southern Columbia Heights and Northeast Minneapolis from 1937. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Aerial Photographs Online.)

August 7, 2020

The Hilltop Drive-In Theater, built in 1948 by Edmund Sullivan, was located at 47th and Central. The theater opened its doors on Aug 5, 1949, with showings of  The Babe Ruth Story and remained at its site until 1972.

(Above - Newspaper Ad from the Minneapolis Morning Tribune - Aug 5, 1949.)

(Below - Newspaper story from the Columbia Heights Record - Aug 5, 1949.)

Columbia Heights Record - Drive-In 1949
July 24, 2020

Advertisement from 1892 in which the Minneapolis Improvement Company Northeast held a competition for the name of the new development in Northeast Minneapolis.

(Below - Newspaper ad from the Minneapolis Star Tribune - 1892.)