Tag Archives: st. paul

Infinite hope kindles revival of St. Paul’s Rondo Neighborhood

 

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

These words of Dr. King ring true as preparations move into high gear for Rondo Days, the week of celebration that fills St. Paul’s Rondo Neighborhood with music, dance, great food, sports and, most of all, stories of a community that never lost infinite hope. One has to be “of an age” to remember the pain and “finite disappointment” wrought by flagrant racism that paved the way for Interstate 94. Since that 1960’s travesty that would have destroyed a lesser community I have never traveled that strip of concrete without feeling the pain.

“Back in the day, my high school rose to its sandstone glory on the fringe of Rondo – we took the bus and got to know the neighbor kids as we walked the last few blocks; we traipsed down to Hallie Q. for mandatory gym class. Though we may have thought of ourselves and our school as part of the friendly neighborhood, local residents must have viewed us as uniformed interlopers with no sense of style… Still, those high school years helped me know a neighborhood of which I was not a part but which I experienced as home to loving parents who went to work early, children who hopped, skipped and jumped with joy as they played sidewalk games, a neighborhood overflowing with clubs and playgrounds, schools, countless churches, hairdressers, tailors and corner groceries that met the daily needs of a vibrant and resilient neighborhood that happened to be, in the language of the day, “Negro.”

Then came the bullies and the bulldozers. Rondo was decimated. Homes were leveled, many residents were forced to move, social and commercial life paused….but only paused. Though the strong people of Rondo “accepted finite disappointment” they never lost “infinite hope.”

That was then, this is now. Today the Rondo community is gearing up for Rondo Days, a celebration of the triumph of “infinite hope!”   Rondo Days 2016, set for July 12-16, marks the thirty-third year that neighbors, former residents and Minnesotans who know very little about the history will gather for the celebration sponsored by Rondo Avenue Inc. to revel in the music, dance, food and camaraderie that reflect the triumph of hope. The event is just one of several initiatives fueled by the creativity, energy, and vision of community leaders. http://www.rondoavenueinc.org

Rondo Days visitors will enjoy the event more if you can appreciate the roots and reasons the for grand celebration!!! And if you can’t make it to Rondo Days, the virtual visit will inform you about the history Minnesotans share, but may not know. The story of Rondo challenges all of us to “accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

So many stories, so many resources – following are just a few learning options:

To get a geographic fix on the Rondo neighborhood, click on this City Pages link: http://www.citypages.com/news/st-paul-map-shows-how-i-94-cut-through-heart-of-citys-african-american-neighborhood-6541556

To get a “feel” for the original Rondo you might want to start here:

  • Read Evelyn Fairbanks’ Days of Rondo, published by the Minnesota Historical Society in 1990 — ebook and audio book versions are readily accessible
  • View the video of Evelyn Fairbanks strolling and sharing her memories of the neighborhood with historian Hy Berman – though both Fairbanks and Berman have died since the video was produced their lively discussion and keen memories bring Rondo to life! http://www.mnvideovault.org/mvvPlayer/customPlaylist2.php?id=16134&select_index=4&popup=yes — the Rondo piece is just 27 mins long but you’ll want to watch the entire River, Railroads and Rondo video, a delightful historic overview of highlights of the Capitol City.

 To dig deeper into the stories of Rondo explore some of the many options including, but definitely not limited, to these:

  • Walk the neighborhood with MHS staffers to discover the secrets of Rondo. Though a last minute post indicates that “Neighborhood Secrets Walking Tour” is sold out, you might want to check just in case – http://www.mnhs.org/event/1349
  • Keep up with the latest on Rondo Days 2016 by faithfully checking the official website – rondoavenueinc.org

Earlier this month the St Paul Pioneer Press posted an informative – and supportive – editorial reviewing the past and offering a glimpse into what’s next for Rondo. It’s a must read: http://www.twincities.com/2016/06/01/editorial-rebuilding-around-rondo-values/ The editorial, based on an interview with community leader Marvin Anderson, cites several ideas; some fall under the “infinite hope” categpru while others are works-in-progress. The design is on the boards and a July groundbreaking is set for a commemorative plaza at Concordia/Old Rondo Avenue and Fisk Street. http://rondoavenueinc.org — (scroll to “commemorative plaza). Co-founder of the Rondo renaissance, Anderson, who retired Minnesota State Law Librarian in 2002, is just one of the leaders and lifetime residents who waste no time on “finite disappointment.” Instead, they harness their collective strength to get up and do what needs to be as they share emulate MLK’s vision of “infinite hope” for their vibrant neighborhood and for the Capitol City.

* * * *

Personal note: Many of us who learned or taught in the Rondo community “back in the day” were painfully aware of what was happening to our neighbors. Though some of us may be post-peak for the revelry, we celebrate Rondo Days in our memories and in our hearts. We want to learn more about the Rondo neighborhood as it was – and as it will be.   We rejoice as character, health, knowledge and good judgment – fueled by infinite hope – honor the past and shape the new Rondo community! My sincere hope is that the spirit of the historic building at 355 Marshall will bolster the rebirth of Rondo. Though the school closed decades ago there’s residual gumption behind that stern façade.

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East Side Freedom Library Gives New Life to Carnegie Library & St. Paul Neighborhood

NOTE: Librarian has-been that I am, I regret to admit that I had not followed the creation of the East Side Freedom Library with the attention it richly deserves. Perennial information-sharer that I hope to remain, my intent here is to share some of the story of this community work-in-progress. ESFL thrives as a living legacy that breathes life into the stories of a neighborhood always in flux and of the people who have long shaped — and continue to enhance — this vibrant community.

Browsing a Friends of the Library book sale a few years ago, I picked up a copy of Twelve Branches: A collection of stories gathered from the dozen branches of the St. Paul Public Library published several years ago Friends of SPPL. I was reminded of that little tome when I learned recently of the reincarnation of the Arlington Hills Library on St. Paul’s East Side. It made me think about the subtle presence – the stories, experiences, spirit of a neighborhood that lingers within a library building. The stories survive, even when the bricks and mortar structure that once thrived as a public library is deemed a Digital Age Dinosaur.

The venerable Arlington Hills Branch was a Carnegie Library, constructed in 1918, located to serve the ever-changing flow of immigrant workers who continue to settle – and stay – on St. Paul’s East Side. Library patrons have always been new Americans.   Once they were-Post World War I immigrants from Europe, the immigrants who built the churches and schools, worked on the railroad, and labored in the industries that thrived on the East Side “back in the day. Today’s residents are a mix of immigrant newcomers from Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Central America, poor people seeking jobs and a place to rear their families. (http://eastsidefreedomlibrary.org/building/st-pauls-east-side/)

Once abandoned, the stately Arlington Hills Library building has risen Phoenix-like to preserve and share the stories of the neighbors and the neighborhood – stories that echo in the once-lonely structure while they reflect the ever-evolving vitality of the community.

The Carnegie building now houses the East Side Freedom Library, once a dream, now a reality. ESFL reflects the vision of labor historian Peter Rachleff, his wife theater artist Beth Cleary, and a host of determined colleagues including Macalester and East Side residents.

Readily evident in the library’s fledgling collection are the stories of organized labor, much culled from the personal collection of founder Rachleff. There’s more, however, including selection by and about African American History, especially works by and about W.E.B. DuBois, co-founder of the NAACP, and a mix of fiction and non-fiction that capture the lives of working people, stories of the East Side community. Soon to find their place on ESFL shelves are the Hmong Archives (http://hmongarchives.org), a collection of books and materials that capture the history and lives of the East Side’s more recent residents.

The ESFL also boasts a robust agenda of public programming that draws neighbors to the emerging community gathering place. Rachleff estimates that ESFL hosts public events six days a week. Neighbors gather to explore ideas ranging from this week’s discussion of the papal encyclicals of Pope Francis (http://eastsidefreedomlibrary.org/event/conversation-on-the-papal-encyclical-on-climate-crisis-july-29/) to next week’s documentary on Minnesota’s best known architectural feature (http://eastsidefreedomlibrary.org/event/who-built-our-capitol/)

The impressive story of the resurrection and evolution of the library building is told by those far better informed and more articulate than this blogger. My intent is to highlight – and link to – the stories that others have recorded, just in case the reader has somehow missed (as I did) this bit of history unfolding in our own time.

  • The first link is to the East Side Free Library’s impressive website which shares the stories of the library’s evolution and of the East Side community itself.   (http://eastsidefreedomlibrary.org

 

 

Celebrate American Archives Month!

The very term “archives” conjures images of dust and decay accompanied by acrid aromas and tended by bespectacled history geeks.  All wrong.  And anyone who has ever explored family or house history, faced a legal dilemma, or wondered about local lore has had a brush with paper, digital or other archives.

 

October is American Archives Month, a season to be celebrated by the most tempero-centric – a time to think for a minute that those preserved photos, clippings, stories, public records and more didn’t just happen but have been collected, organized, preserved and made accessible through the deliberate and committed work of individuals and the commitment of institutions. 

 

At the time of the Minnesota Sesquicentennial I skimmed the state’s archival surface to compile a random list of irresistible lures to the world of archives.  Over the years I’ve tweaked it a bit – and was amazed to find it posted (sans attribution) on the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information website.  I have not checked to see if the original was edited by that group.

 

For some time I have wanted to share this listing and concluded that American Archives Month 2011 might be a propitious opportunity to resurface the whimsical list, slightly pruned and otherwise modified – not significantly updated because the month is just too short for a serious revision.

 

Many of the materials and descriptions here are accessible online; the print listings suggest a link to digital options. Because the digital resources offer an absolute minimum of the preserved record, we need and always will need multiple access options. Though digitization is growing at an exponential rate, its main contribution is to lure the armchair searcher into a passion to know more and to make the minimal effort to learn more.

 

This random list is absolutely arbitrary and whim-biased  with links to minute bits of Minnesota history.  Each of these guides, descriptions, stories was prepared by a Minnesotan, an organization or a state agency that cared enough about the state’s stories to collect, preserve, organize or otherwise help create the legacy.  Not everything is digitized or on the web – websites are just the most accessible right now.  These sites exemplify the ways in which Minnesotans have used the public records to plumb the depths of their particular interest or passion or legal encounter. 

 

Tending to the record of Minnesota is a collective responsibility and a public trust.  It takes personal conviction, time, talent and public support.  Without these and hundreds of thousands of other records, carefully organized and preserved, the Sesquicentennial would signify the passage of time rather than the values, the experience, the public record, and the recognition that access to information is at the very core of the democracy we share.  The challenge of today is to embrace that principle so that 21st technology enhances access to the building blocks and expands the embrace of this diverse, informed and sharing culture.

 

The disorganization is absolutely arbitrary – draw no conclusions. The omissions are legion.  Though a comprehensive and authoritative list would be a wonderful tool, the universe of possibilities is well nigh infinite and digitization is having a daily and profound impact on the possibilities. 

 

Pick a topic, probe a bit, and pause to think a bit about why and how we  preserve the data and the stories of our state.  Some places to start, bearing in mind that each of these tools reflects the commitment and labor, past and continuing, of an archivist and, in many cases, an institution:

 

Minnesota Archives, Minnesota Historical Society – MHS, along with several state agencies, is taking a lead at the national level in preserving the state’s own information digital resources.  It’s a monumental undertaking that does Minnesotans proud!  The depth of resources and the collaborative efforts of state agencies deserve an American Archives Month commendation. 

 

Minnesota Reflections, an overwhelming and growing collection of documents, photographs, maps, letters and more that tell the state’s story – a great starting point for any age.

 

James K. Hosmer Special Collections, Hennepin County Library – actually a collection of collections on topics ranging from Minneapolis history to club files to World War II and Abolition.  Much is digitized but, as always, that is but the tip of the iceberg – a tip worth checking out however.

 

Minnesota Place Names; a geographical encyclopedia, by Warren Upham.  A classic, originally published in 1920 and now available on line through the Minnesota Historical Society.   Overflowing with wonderful stories. 

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West Bank Boogie.  If you were around in the 60’s and 70’s you’ll be reminded – if not, see what you missed!  Cyn Collins is the collector and storyteller.

 

Holland, Maurice, Architects of Aviation, 1951.  William Bushnell Stout 1880-1956.  One man’s determination to record the stories of our aviation history.

 

A knack for knowing things: Stories from St. Paul neighborhoods and beyond, by Don Boxmeyer.  BiblioVault.

 

The Cuyuna iron range – Geology and Minerology, by Peter McSwiggen and Jane Cleland.

 

Ron Edwards, The Minneapolis Story Through My Eyes: A Renaissance Black Man in a White Man’s World. Continued by a bi-weekly column from The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder  and a TV show on Channel 17.

 

Center for International Education (The CIE) – a self-proclaimed “media arts micro-organization” the goal of which is to “make poetic media with people of all ages from all over the world.”  Videos including interviews with Robert Bly, Tom McGrath, Jim Northrup, Frederick Manfred and documentaries on Eugene McCarthy, Paul Wellstone, Robert Bly, and much more. The world of Media Mike Hazard.

 

Alexander G. Huggins Diary and Huggins Family Photographs, Collections Up Close.  This is just one of numerous podcasts and blogs describing in depth the individual collections of the Minnesota Historical Society.  Re-live the day-to-day travels of this mission family in Minnesota 1830-1860.  Just a sample of the podcast/blogs from MHS.

 

Minnesota Tobacco Document Depository – built as part of the settlement with Philip Morris, Inc. et al.  26 million pages of documents.

 

Frances Densmore  Prolific writer and chronicler of the cultures of the Dakota and Ojibwe and other Native American Tribes.  Densmore also recorded over 2,000 wax cylinders of Native music.

 

The Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies, University of Minnesota Libraries.

Ramseyer-Northern Bible Society Collection.  The largest non-seminary Bible collection in the Upper Midwest.  Donald J. Pearce, Curator.

Rhoda Gilman, historian extraordinaire,  The Story of Minnesota’s Past, just one of several books by Gilman.   “The Dakota War and the State Sesquicentennial” is a more current blog representing her ongoing contributions to preserve and elucidate Minnesota’s story.  Google Rhoda Gilman for more glimpses of her writings over the past several decades.

 

Evans, Rachel.  Tribal College Librarians Build Map Database, Library of Congress Info Bulletin, Oct. 2002

The Archie Givens, Sr. Collection of African American Literature, University of Minnesota Libraries.

Perfect Porridge.  A good compilation of the TC’s Electropunk scene and lots of information about what’s happening on the broadly-defined media scene.

 

Saint Paul Police Historical Society, Saint Paul Police Oral History Project.  One man’s (Timothy Robert Bradley’s)  passion shared with the public.

 

William Watts Folwell,  Though  Folwell was best known as the first President of the University of Minnesota from 1868-1884 he moved on from that post to serve as professor of political science and continued as University Library until 1907.  The Folwell family papers, 1898-1944, can be found in the U of M Archives.

 

This Sister Rocks!  Thirty years ago Joan Kain, CSJ wrote a small book Rocky Roots: Three Geology Walking Tours of Downtown St. Paul.  The book, which  resurfaced during the 2006 International Rock Symposium, is now being edited for reissue by the Ramsey County Historical Society.

 

Lowertown, a project of the St. Paul Neighborhood Network, interviews artists who live, work and exhibit in Lowertown St. Paul.  The website also provides links to the websites of the individual arts.  A rich celebration and close-up view of this area’s art community.

 

Park Genealogical Books are this community’s specialists in genealogy and local history for Minnesota and the surrounding area.  Their list of publication includes how-to’s on genealogy, research hints and unique assists for anyone working on Minnesota genealogy, records and archives.  The life’s work of Mary Bakeman.

 

Fort Snelling Upper Post is a labor of love on the part of Todd Hintz.  Todd offers an historical timeline, a description of the current situation, wonderful photos by Mark Gustafson and an intro to related resources.  Great for anyone who cares of preservation of Fort Snelling.

 

Minnesota Historical Society, Oral History Collection.  Pioneers of the Medical Device Industry in Minnesota.  A sample of the rich oral history collection of the MHS.

 

Scott County Historical Society, Stans Museum.  Minnesota Greatest Generation Scott County Oral History Project.

 

Haunted Places in Minnesota.  Scores of deliciously spooky sites you’ve probably visited – but never will again – without trepidation.

 

Minnesota Museum of the Mississippi. Postcards and lots of memorabilia that tell the story of the river.

 

Special Libraries Association.  MN SLA: Early Chapter History (1943-1957)

 

Land Management Information Center – zillions of maps and mountains of data, plus people to help.

 

Minnesota Legislature, Geographic Information Services – maps of legislative and congressional districts, election results, school districts and much more.

 

Minnesota State University, Moorhead, Library.  Maps and Atlases – great guide to government produced maps and atlases

 

Minnesota Public Records Directory.  A commercial listing of Minnesota’s public records sources.

 

Minnesota Senate Media Coverage – live and archive coverage of Senate floor sessions, committee hearings, press conferences and special events.

 

Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes – statutes, indexes, rules, drafting manuals and more.

 

Minnesota State Law Library, Minnesota Legal Periodical Index.  A practical guide prepared by the state’s law librarians.

 

Minnesota Historical Society Press, Minnesota History.  Quarterly publication featuring original researched articles, illustrations, photographs and other treasures from the MHS.

 

The Civil War Archive – more than you ever needed to know about the Union Regiment in Minnesota.

George, Erin.  Delving deeper: Resources in U’s Borchert Map Library, Continuum 2007-08. description of the massive resources of the U of M’s Borchert Library.

Shapiro, Linda.  Art History Goes Digital..   Description of the digitizing initiatives of the University of Minnesota’s collections.

 

Drawing: Seven Curatorial Responses.  Katherine E. Nash Gallery.  Curators’ perspectives on the challenge of organizing and make accessible this one art format.

 

The Minnesota Alliance of Local History Museums.  A forum for peer assistance among over fifty county, city and other local historical societies.

 

Minnesota Historical Society Collections Up Close.  Beautifully illustrated podcasts about what’s new at the MHS.  Regularly updated.

 

The Tell G. Dahllof Collection of Swedish Americans, University of Minnesota Libraries.  The collection encompasses American history seen from a Swedish perspective, the history of Swedish emigration to America, Swedish culture in America, and general descriptions by Swedish travelers to America.

 

University of Minnesota Media History Project, promoting media history “from petroglyphs to pixels.”

Ten Years of Sculpture and Monument Conservation on the Minnesota State Capitol Mall, compiled by Paul S. Storch, Daniels Objects Conservation Laboratory, Minnesota Historical Society.  Just one of dozens of similar conservation studies you’ll find at this site.

Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records.  Live access to federal land conveyance records for the public land states.  Image access to more than three million federal land title records for Eastern public land states issued between 1820 and 1908.  Much more!

Minnesota History Topics, a list of Minnesota-related topics to get you thinking about exploring Minnesota history.

 

Minnesota Government, an excellent guide to state government information sources compiled by the Saint Paul Public Library.

 

Minnesota History Quarterly.  Publication of the Minnesota Historical Society Press.  Available as subscription or with membership.  This one sample will give you the flavor, but there are lots more where this came from!

 

Revisor’s Office Duties – publications duties.  The Office of the Revisor of States covers many bases, particularly during the legislative session.  This list of publications offers a good overview of the Revisor’s domain.

 

New!!  Library Search, now in beta test phase.  A web interface for locating print (including articles), databases, indexes, electronic, and media items. Try it out and offer your unique feedback!

 

Geographic Information Services, State of Minnesota.  Includes scores of interactive maps of population, election results, school districts, legislative districts and more.

 

Children’s Literature Research Collections (Kerlan Collection), University of Minnesota Libraries, Special Collection.  A unique and inspiring collection of books, illustrations, manuscripts, notes and other records of children’s writers and illustrators.  The Kerlan also offers a robust series of presentations by children’s authors, writers and critics. 

 

Family History Centers in Minnesota.  One small component of the massive resources of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints.

 

Historic Museums in Minnesota.  Prepared by the Victorian Preservation of Santa Clara Valley.  An amazing resource with tons of information and in incredible wealth of links.  They offer this self-deprecating introduction:  “This is all pretty high tech for a bunch of people living in the past, but then you probably know our valley by its other name, Silicon Valley.”

 

Minnesota History Along the Highways, compiled by Sara P. Rubinstein.  Published by the Minnesota Historical Society.  Locations and texts of 254 historic markers, 60 geologic markers, and 29 historic monuments in all corners of the state.

 

Ramsey County Historical Society, the officially-recognized historical society of Ramsey County.  The Society’s two primary programs are the Gibbs Museum of Pioneer and Dakotah Life and the quarterly magazine on Ramsey County history and St. Paul.

 

The Regional Alliance for Preservation, formerly the Upper Midwest Conservation Center at the Minneapolis Art Institute.

 

Minnesota HYPERLINK “http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind/index.html” Lakefinder, sponsored by the DNR, provides in-depth information about 4500 lakes and rivers in the state – surveys, maps, water quality data and more, including a new mobile app for the water or ice-based fisher.

 

North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries and Oral History, a database including 2,162 authors and approximately 100,000 pages of information re. immigration to America and Canada, 1800-1850.  Produced in collaboration with the University of Chicago by Alexander Street Press.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Finding Aids to Collections Organized by Topic in the Archive of Folk Culture, compiled by Ross. S. Gerson. Minnesota Collections in the Archive of Folk Culture.  Library of Congress.   Sound recording in various formats.  You won’t believe the recordings they have preserved. The American Folklife Center

 

Minnesota Spoken Word Association, formed to create an alliance among spoken word artists and a resource center. Emphasis on youth.

Hmongtown Marketplace – This Shopper’s Perspective

The plan was to share my Hmongtown Marketplace with my friend Suzanne.  The result was a half-day of Poking Around in one of the community’s treasures.  Though for Hmong Americans and Frogtown residents the Marketplace is a second home and sole source provider of known commodities, it’s a drive-by location for those who whiz by the former lumber yard on Como near the State Capitol.

Pull in the parking lot ( like every street in the Twin Cities, it does need repair) and plunge into another world – a world in which English is definitely not the first language, where wondrous fruits require a how-to lesson from the vendor, where the delicate aroma of Hmong sausage, egg rolls, stick rice and a zillion other taste treats prove irresistible.

Most of all, it’s world where the awkward native Twin Citian is embraced, literally, by the owners (Toua Xiong and Nou Vang and their family) and by the scores of vendors.

Suzanne and I poked into every nook and cranny, paying  rapt attention as Nou graciously escorted, introduced, and explained the vendors and their wares.

At one point Nou asked if I were looking for anything specific.  Doting grandma that I am I targeted my one and only grandson Will Birmingham, age 19 months.  We sped to the top-of-the-line shop for boys’ togs where Nou introduced us, then surreptitiously purchased a Hmong suit for Will.  The result captures the splendor of the suit and the unbounded delight of an Irish American boy from Northeast Minneapolis who may never again settle for Carter’s

Original post from Twin Cities Daily Planet.    http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/news/2010/06/28/mn-voices-toua-xiong-immigrant-year