St. Louis Park Historical Society offers street signs for sale

Signs await purchase at the Historic Milwaukee Road Depot in St. Louis Park. (Submitted photo)
Signs await purchase at the Historic Milwaukee Road Depot in St. Louis Park. (Submitted photo)

St. Louis Park street signs are appearing on the walls of residents or past residents with the city’s approval.

St. Louis Park has been replacing signs throughout the city to meet a state law that requires all street signs to be reflective. In collaboration with the city, the St. Louis Park Historical Society is selling the signs for a donation of $25 per sign for nonmembers or $20 for society members.

St. Louis Park Historical Society organizers had the idea of using the signs for a fundraiser after learning that the Golden Valley Historical Society had been selling old signs.

Instead of recycling the signs, Golden Valley brings them to the Golden Valley Historical Society for sorting.

St. Louis Park crews replace 800-1,000 signs per year, depending on the time they have available, according to the St. Louis Park Historical Society. After stacking them on a pallet at the Municipal Service Center, the signs have been recycled.

Shorewood resident Thomas Seim hung Quentin Avenue and 41st Street signs up on his porch to remind him of good memories in St. Louis Park. (Submitted photo)
Shorewood resident Thomas Seim hung Quentin Avenue and 41st Street signs up on his porch to remind him of good memories in St. Louis Park. (Submitted photo)

After the St. Louis Park Historical Society brought the idea to city staff, Streets and Traffic Operations Manager Jeff Stevens obtained City Council approval to provide the signs to the society.

In May, the city delivered a pallet of about 560 signs to the society’s Historic Milwaukee Road Depot. The society made an inventory and listed available signs last month at slphistory.org/purchase-a-slp-street-sign.

Within a week, the society sold about 150 signs to about 100 people.

Toledo Avenue resident Richard Lang said he felt inspired to buy a sign from an experience 25 years ago after he moved into the neighborhood. While visiting a cabin in the far reaches of northern Minnesota, Lang said he noticed a pole at another cabin with signs for 28th Street and Toledo Avenue.

“One of my former neighbors had confiscated a street sign and brought it up to his cabin, and that was his marker,” Lang said. “I’ve thought about that ever since.”

He said he never did find out which neighbor of his had appropriated the signs, but he never forgot about seeing it.

Upon hearing about the society’s offer to obtain a Toledo Avenue sign through legitimate means, Lang said, “I thought what a great opportunity. I thought it really was a great spirit of community and life. I’m just really glad the historical society would be this intelligent in utilizing basically junk – stuff that would have been mashed up and tossed into a Dumpster. People are using them and seeing the benefit in them, and I think that’s wonderful. Brilliant idea.”

Since he previously lived on Edgewood Avenue, he said he may have to make more purchases.

“That just hit me,” Lang said. “Maybe I’d better get two of them, one for each of the kids.”

Edina resident Mary Raabe decided to snag a Kipling Avenue sign since she grew up on the street in the 1950s.

“The further I get away from the ‘50s, the more I realize that was a very idyllic childhood,” said Raabe, who noted she was an Anderson at the time. “It was a lovely street, elm-tree-lined and sidewalks and wide enough to play bounce out, kind of a softball game, after supper. It was just a very nice memory to be able to have that sign.”

Raabe said she planned to hang the sign over her fireplace.

“What a great way to recycle,” Raabe said of the idea. “Everybody’s happy. It just works for everyone. It works for the city, historical society, former residents of the street, and it’s a really fun thing to do.”

St. Louis Park signs like Kipling, Huntington and Lynn provide a sense of romance, she added.

Purchaser Marti Biegler said she had to decide between Sumpter Avenue and Texas Avenue.

“I chose Texas only because we’ve lived here longer,” Biegler explained.

She joked that her husband may have thought she had committed a theft when he first saw the sign she purchased.

“When I explained it to him, he thought it was a pretty cool idea, too,” Biegler said.

Her research with societies in New England has given her a desire to help the St. Louis Park Historical Society, Biegler said.

“I hope other people support it as well,” she said. “It’s a great cause and easy to do and kind of fun and unique.”

Shorewood resident Thomas Seim said he mounted the Quentin and 41st Street signs he bought on his porch “as a reminder of all the good memories associated with St. Louis Park.”

He also decided to join the St. Louis Park Historical Society.

“I really enjoy reading the articles with the history of the Park, so much of which I remember very well,” Seim said.

Instructions to order are available on the website, but reservations for signs may also be made by email at [email protected] or telephone at 952-583-9893 once a sign has been identified through the site. Reservations are taken on a first-come, first-served basis, the society notes.

Orders within St. Louis Park are hand-delivered to the extent possible or available for pickup by appointment at the depot, 6210 W. 37th St., or during historical society office hours 1-4 p.m. Saturdays at 3546 Dakota Ave., Suite C, in St. Louis Park. There is a fee of $8 per order to mail a sign.

The historical society plans to use donations from the fundraiser to pay its rent, which is set to increase substantially in coming years, and for operating funds with an ultimate goal of opening a destination St. Louis Park History Center, according to the organization.

“In addition to the obvious benefits of raising revenue, this project generates a great deal of goodwill between the City, the (historical society), and the thousands of people who fondly remember St. Louis Park as their home town,” a society statement reads. “Providing this kind of service is part of our mission, and fits in well with our goal of bringing a sense of history and community to the people who live in the Park and to those who grew up here but have moved away. The successes we have seen in communicating with present and past Parkites shows that this is a program that will remain popular.”

More information about the historical society is available at slphistory.org.

Contact Seth Rowe at [email protected]