Next weekend is the fourth anniversary of the Pleasant Street Art Walk. This year’s event, on Saturday, September 25, will feature local and regional artists including potters and sculptors, painters, carpenters, jewelry makers, metalworkers and more; some of the Pleasant Street area.
Everyone is welcome, and all works of art on display will be for sale. The Art Walk begins on the south side of downtown, near Plate on Main and the VFW. There will be live music and food trucks.
Pleasant Street is not a Summit or Grand Avenue, or Lowry Hill, or Edina’s Country Cub neighborhood. There are no grand homes from the Golden Age, nor on the National Register of Historic Places, but it is the oldest neighborhood in Prior Lake with homes dating back to the early 20th century. For those of us who live here, this is a special place; made more special because of what the neighborhood has done and continues to do to save and preserve itself.
Prior Lake started out as a small farming town with a scattering of family-friendly resorts spread around the lake. My father remembered that during Prohibition he had a reputation as a sweatshop and gambling den and told stories about driving on St. Paul’s Old Shakopee Road in a Model T with his pals to a certain resort. which had “real” beer and slot machines.
I grew up across the river in Bloomington. In the 1950s, dad and I used to go fishing. I remember he gave me a tour, which included a walk down Pleasant Street; then Route 13, the main road south of town to Waseca and Albert Lea. The first house on Pleasant Street was built in 1895. Then it was a dirt road between Main Avenue and the site of the original St. Michael’s Church in 1907.
Today you will find 25 houses in the block between Main and Duluth. The two oldest are at 4621, built in 1895, and at 4601, built in 1907. Others date from the early 1920s to the 1950s. Notables are 4612, a Dutch colonial, built for the veterinarian of the town and 4628, 1925, the childhood home of John Roach, who grew up to be Archbishop of the Diocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Two houses at the east end of the block, next to the florist, were erected in 1920. They are identical and are from the Sears catalog. It’s not well known, but between 1908 and 1940 Sears Roebuck and Company sold thousands of home kits from the pages of its catalog. There were dozens of different floor plans that could be ordered and shipped to a site in a boxcar. The two arrived and were unloaded from a siding next to the Prior Lake rail depot. This depot was located at what is now the corner of Highway 21 and the Main.
Highway 21 was the line of the Hastings and Dakota Railroad, later Milwaukee Road. The Hastings and Dakota built its namesake town west on the Mississippi River, arriving at what became Prior Lake in 1869. It was one of the state’s first railroads. Passenger service flourished in the early years, bringing visitors to the Grainwood Resort Hotel, but the resort burned down, automobiles arrived, and by the 1930s service was reduced to one round trip per day between Farmington and Cologne, where connections could be made with major line trains to Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Meanwhile, trucks eroded freight business and the number of shippers slowly declined. System-wide, the Milwaukee lost $ 100 million between 1973 and 1977 and filed for bankruptcy. Most of its track mileage, including the line through Prior Lake and its extension from the Pacific to Seattle, was scrapped and ultimately discontinued.
A few years ago, the City and County of Scott came up with a plan to redirect Highway 21 through the Pleasant Street neighborhood, which would eliminate most of the homes you’ll see on Art Walk. With the plan came a proposal to expand Arcadia through Pleasant and across the wetland to a connection with Franklin Trail – opening up the entire area to new development. It didn’t happen. The neighborhood rose to the challenge, organized itself, fought back and imposed itself.
Historic preservation is important, whether it’s a Summit Avenue mansion or a few humble homes and a small town neighborhood. The Art Walk is a celebration of Pleasant Street, the people who live there and their efforts to save it. There will be painting, pottery, crafts and history. Please join us for all of this – and a journey through time.
John Diers is a Prior Lake resident who worked for 40 years in the transit industry and is the author of “Twin Cities by Trolley: The Streetcar Era in Minneapolis and St. Paul” and “St. Paul” . Paul Union Depot. To submit questions or topics to community columnists, email [email protected]