St. Louis Park Historical Society moves forward on plans for a history center

Learning about the past St. Louis Park Historical Society volunteer Doug Johnson gives a presentation on the city’s railroad history Aug. 30 at the Historical Milwaukee Road Depot in Jorvig Park. The society shared stories about the history and impact of railroads on St. Louis Park – including the city’s name. (Submitted photo)
St. Louis Park Historical Society volunteer Doug Johnson gives a presentation on the city’s railroad history in 2015 at the Historical Milwaukee Road Depot in Jorvig Park. The society shared stories about the history and impact of railroads on St. Louis Park – including the city’s name. (File photo)

The St. Louis Park Historical Society is continuing to seek a permanent home for a museum and a research office for the organization.

Details will be discussed at the society’s annual meeting, set 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, at the St. Louis Park Recreation Center’s Banquet Room, 3700 Monterey Drive.

The society announced that is “quickly moving forward” on a history center in a statement.

“For 45 years the St. Louis Park Historical Society has been quietly carrying out its mission to collect, preserve, and share artifacts and information about the City’s unique history,” the statement reads.

However, activities picked up last year as the society moved from a hallway at Lenox Community Center to an office at 3546 Dakota Ave. S., Suite C, in St. Louis Park.

The move allowed the society to better share its resources with the public, including newspapers, yearbooks, telephone directories and plat maps. The society has also begun sponsoring events, such as a lesson on St. Louis Park’s historic drinking establishments at Steel Toe Brewing and information about the city’s railroad history at a depot the society operates.

“Now the time has come for the Society to find a permanent home – one with enough space to display the artifacts that have been collected and stored at the Historic Milwaukee Road Depot for years,” the society’s statement reads. “And while the present office contains an impressive number of resources, a larger, permanent space would enable the Society to provide better service to the citizens of the Park, to the City, and to the greater community.”

For example, the society possesses files from the tax assessor’s office about individual St. Louis Park homes, including photos. With a center, members of the public could more easily trace the history of their homes, according to the society.

The society is seeking a new building for the center. According to its statement, the Minnesota Historical Society “strongly recommends that a building for this purpose be of new construction rather than an older building that is retrofitted, due to special requirements such as humidity control, fire suppression, etc.”

The St. Louis Park Historical Society hopes to find board members who have experience in planning, marketing, grant writing, law, fundraising and museum administration, the statement notes.

“People with the time, skills, and energy to oversee the development of a destination, first-class History Center are encouraged to contact the Society,” the statement reads.

A building committee consisting of an architect, engineer, city representative and construction expert will create a plan for the history center.

The statement notes that members of the society’s board and building committee would not be eligible to perform the construction of the center.

The St. Louis Park Historical Society statement acknowledges that a building of the size envisioned for the center “will have a significant price tag.”

It states, “Once the Building Committee produces a conceptual design and provides the dollar amount needed, fundraising will begin in earnest.”

The Minnesota Historical Society will provide the St. Louis Park Historical Society with advice about raising funds.

“The Society is confident that there are enough successful businesses, foundations, and citizens – past and present – who will support this effort and donate the amount needed to build the facility,” the St. Louis Park statement says.

As an example of interest in St. Louis Park’s history, the society notes that more than 7,000 people are following the Flashbacks of St. Louis Park Facebook page, which is not associated with the society.

“There are many avenues to be explored,” the statement says.

Becoming a member of the St. Louis Park Historical Society costs $25 per year and demonstrates support, the statement adds.

The society is also seeking volunteers for its day-to-day tasks, including conducting interviews, researching the city’s history, writing, assisting customers in the office, filing and preserving photographs.

Additionally, St. Louis Park Historical Society would like to hear from people about what services it should provide.

“A City has a rich, varied history that the Society works hard to document and preserve, and a History Center would not only teach current Park citizens about the past, but engage people in conversations about how the past impacts the present and the future,” the statement summarizes of the effort.

To learn more about the St. Louis Park Historical Society, contact Jeanne Andersen at 612-396-6292 or jeanneandersen@comcast.net.

The society’s website is slphistory.org.

Contact Seth Rowe at seth.rowe@ecm-inc.com