Anoka County History: Front row seats at the Walker

Those of us who live at the Walker Plaza in downtown Anoka had front row seats for a big, historic event in March and April. All four floors on the Monroe Street side watched the old Goodrich Pharmacy and RiverWay Clinic being demolished and hauled away.

We got to see the Sauter boys, Tom and Greg, and company, meticulously demolish and haul away a piece of history in downtown Anoka.

The Sauter Company has many projects to be proud of throughout the area, like the historic Anoka High School stadium on Fifth Avenue South. I also think of the Sauter boys every time I cross over University Avenue on old Highway 10. That is where they hauled a huge piece of East Bethel and Ham Lake land to build that overpass.

Now, back to the new RiverWay Clinic site which the city of Anoka acquired in a property swap for Castle Field – which sat at the intersection of West Main Street and Highway 10. A beautiful new clinic has been built on the former site of Castle Field and it is the new home to the Goodrich Pharmacy.

While all of Walker residents were watching the big show, we had the usual self anointed civil engineers with all of the usual questions: “Why are the starting in the middle? They should have done it this way. They should have recycled everything (they did).” You know the old story about the crowd that always gathers to watch a fire. There are always 10 or more fire chiefs in the crowd who know more than the fire chief in the department.

There is a lot of history on that location. In 1905 my grandfather, William Ward, sold his farm in Ramsey and bought a home on Van Buren Street for his family of 14. He also purchased the livery stable where the Walker now stands, and a big, old duplex at the corner of Second and Monroe – where the Goodrich Pharmacy was just taken down. Later, Dr. Frank Mork and his nephew, Dr. Harold Mork, built the first small part of the Mork Clinic on that corner in the 1950s.

The duplex has some family history also. My parents, Frank and Lucretia, lived there when they first married. My uncle Dan and aunt Stella Ward lived there at the same time. Later Florence Ward and her family lived there and started the Florence Ward Dancing School. Ade and Betty Ward also lived there.

As the clinic building started to expand they needed more property so they acquired the Wayne Ridge home on the south end and expanded even more. That is where our own Merrywayne Elvig was born along with her older brothers, Will and Louie and sister Gertrude.

Now we are in the new phase of history making. What will go there now? The rumors have started, and none of them are true (yet). But history moves on.

Tom Ward is a member of the Anoka County Historical Society board of directors.

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