anoka county history

Upon entering the lower level community room at Anoka City Hall you see before you on the far wall a collage of black and white photos. There are 91 in all, not including a model of early Anoka. Best of all, the photos are numbered and each one can be identified by a key located front and center of the collage.

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The timeline running the length of the east wall in the community room at the Anoka City Hall tells of many events occurring in the city of Anoka, happy and otherwise. For instance, we learn that in 1853 Orin W. Rice built the first bridge across the Rum River and that winter saw the opening of the first Anoka Post Office. During the school year of 1853-54 school was held in the Old Company Boarding House with Miss Julia Woodman instructing the children, and the first religious organization was a Methodist class organized in December, 1854. The first school house, the “Third Avenue School,” was built on Third Avenue South in 1955. The same year the first ferry was launched across the Mississippi at Anoka.

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On the lower level of Anoka City Hall, to the left of the staircase is a large community room, used for public gatherings. I first made its acquaintance when Anoka County Historical Society held one of its annual meetings there. As you enter, you see the windowed wall to the right overlooking a stretch of the Rum River that is bookended by the Rum River Dam to your right and the Main Street Bridge to your left. Running the length of the opposite wall is a timeline dating from 1682—long before Anoka was a city and Minnesota a state; when France lay claim to the vast territory west of the Mississippi that was formerly a possession of Spain, giving up its claim to England in 1763. England held it for the next 120 years or until the American Revolution when the Crown lost claim to all of its possessions in what had now become the United States of America. By 1783 this vast expanse of land had become known as “the Northwest Territory.”

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Inscribed on the wall behind the receptionist’s desk at city hall are the words, “Anoka City Hall: A Gift to the City of Anoka from the Federal Cartridge Corporation. 1955.” On the landing of the stairwell as you walk from the first floor to the second is a bigger-than-life portrait of a handsome and distinguished looking man. Wearing a gray suit with vest, red tie, and matching carnation in his lapel, the commanding presence of this slightly balding man is accentuated by his waxed mustache.

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From May through Halloween my fellow docents from the Anoka County Historical Society and I guide brave and curious souls through the darkened streets of Anoka relating the history of the homes and places of business we encounter during our 1 mile walk — and speculating about some of the unexplained phenomenon that has occurred within those premises.

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Throughout history there have been times when social custom or law allowed people to hate. I’ve lived long enough to see African-Americans, women, gays, and Muslims have to fight for the rights that should automatically be theirs as Americans. Hate usually goes hand-in-hand with fear, and throughout history it has been difficult to determine if hate is the cause or the effect of war.

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I cleaned out a storeroom last month and found a box of letters that my husband had sent to me while he was in the army in Viet Nam. The thin paper envelopes held the hopes and dreams of our youth, scrawled in cursive handwriting on pale blue stationary. I wrote him every single day of his one year tour, just to let him know that he was on my mind. He often told me how very much those letters meant to him when home seemed so far away.

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Some years ago, we had a coupon book that offered, among other things, two meals for the price of one at the Ramblers Inn. I’d never heard of the place, and, according to the map, it appeared to be in a neighborhood where you wouldn’t expect to find businesses. In fact, I hadn’t known there was a neighborhood there at all, off Lexington Avenue, north of the Carlos Avery turnoff, nestled against the south shore of Coon Lake. Every time I’d been on Coon Lake, I’d gone in on the north side, at the public access off of Highway 22.

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