anoka county history

One of the joys of writing this column for the Anoka County UnionHerald on behalf of the Anoka County Historical Society are the occasional calls I get from readers telling me they have a story of historical interest to share. One such call came from an Anoka resident, Ardy Hoogestraat, whose family had owned and lived in the Sandy Beach Hotel on Lake George. Before meeting with Ardy I consulted Roe Giddings Chase’s “little booklet” written in 1906 describing the cabins and resorts on that lake in Oak Grove.

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Probably the last remaining testament to St. Francis’s importance as a milling town was the starch factory located on the east bank of the Rum River and the south side of Bridge Street, where the Anoka County Highway Maintenance Building now stands. By the late thirties and early forties it was no longer in the business of converting potatoes into starch.

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“Slop the pigs.” That’s an old saying you don’t hear anymore. Right by the old sink there was always the old slop pail where the potato peelings and other kitchen scraps were tossed. Each day, after supper, someone had to take it out to the pig pen or chicken coop and toss it over the fence. Many folks who were into gardening would bury it between the rows in the garden. I suppose we could call that the original recycling.

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Have you seen that TV ad that says, “People don’t have to think about where electricity comes from, they just flip the switch and the light comes on.” That made me think a lot about when the city Anoka first got electricity, which was about 1889. That was when a company in Minneapolis called Sykes and Company contracted with Anoka to install a water system of close to 5 miles and 50 water hydrants for fire protection. Along with that came fourteen arc lights for downtown. They were to be 2,000 candle power and would be on until 1 a.m. Compare that with what we have today.

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It is a big deal for fishermen when the ice goes out on Lake Minnetonka and all the other popular fishing lakes. It is so important to the resort owners that make their living off of the anglers as well. To have the ice out by the fishing opener is of great importance to the fisherman and the businesses that rely on them.

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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.

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If you look though old issues of the Blaine newspaper, around 1972, you’ll find that grass and peat fires kept the fire department hopping. Starting in May and continuing through the summer, almost every week’s issue lists at least one or two incidents. Oftentimes children were suspected of being the instigators. Before the northern suburbs filled in, there were lots of open spaces and low-lying bogs that provided tinder for these nuisance conflagrations. One such fire-prone area was a peaty expanse on the east side of University Avenue north of 109th Avenue. Today it’s the site of Park of the Four Seasons mobile home community, but prior to 1973 when Four Seasons opened, it was a good place for fires to start.

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