MSP Reading Time: new book Downtown Minneapolis in the 1970s launched at the Mill City Museum

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Mill City Museum at night

[Cross post with my Reading Rainstorm blog segment, Land of 10,000 Pages where I discuss some of my favorite nonfiction books discussing the 1970s]

One of my favorite attractions to suggest to visitors to the Twin Cities is the Mill City Museum. A cool and innovative space nestled inside the stony, almost medieval looking ruins of the Washburn A. Mill, the museum informs and illustrates the history of Minneapolis unlike any other place in the city, I think. Back in the day, the mill district was processing more wheat than any other location in the world, feeding people across the globe and of course, making tons of money for the gilded age mill barons. If you are a local and haven’t been there, it’s one of those cool local places that should be a must see.

It also makes an atmospheric place for events and last Thursday I attended one such free gathering, the launch party of the new Minnesota Historical Society Press book, Downtown: Minneapolis in the 1970s. Photographer Mike Evangelist was a suburban kid working downtown during the 1970s, and used his time off to take photographs all over downtown Minneapolis, capturing this period in which the modern, corporate city we know today was emerging from the body of the older Minneapolis. The IDS Center sprung up, skyways began to arch over the busy city sidewalks, while areas such as the Gateway District had been flattened for parking lots in previous years.

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Crowd at the Mill City Museum entranced by presentation of Downtown Minneapolis in the 1970s- 1970s skyline compared to today

The Mill City Museum made a very appropriate and atmospheric locale for this discussion and gallery, as the mill district was all but dead at the time, the milling having left for other places and this area of downtown was all but abandoned, a victim of the changing of the times explored in these photographs. The launch party presentation was fascinating as Evangelist and his collaborator on the book, writer Andy Sturdevant, discussed the background by the photos and the world that they came out of, along with a gallery of the original photographs to examine. This seems to be a particularly interesting period of the city’s history and I’ve found myself quite curious about the 1970s myself. While I was not alive in any part of the 1970s, my parents certainly told some stories about the period and it was great to see what has changed and what has remained the same. In particular, the common appearance of bicycles in these photos illustrate the place they had in Minneapolis even forty years ago, the first year that bicycles outstripped the sale of cars in the 20th century. We even learned some rare and hidden information, such as the current, secret location of all of those classic Nicollet Mall streetlamps prominent in these photos. I am looking forward to reading this book in more detail soon. Available currently at local bookstores, and of course, the Hennepin County LibraryMay need to wait a little while for that one, after the discussion on MPR the other day, the number of requests have jumped!  

Make sure to follow the Old Minneapolis Facebook page, for those of you who are into that whole social media thing. I just checked it out and there are all sorts of intesresting vintage photos and stories posted very frequently. Great for something to look at on a lunch break downtown!

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