Author Event: "A People's History of the Seward Neighborhood" - Dec. 19

December 19, 2018 - 6:30pm

We're biased, of course, but we think Seward is pretty special, and now the neighborhood has the book to prove it. Boneshaker is thrilled to host an event featuring many of the people who put together "A People's History of the Seward Neighborhood," on Wednesday, December 19, at 6:30 p.m. Here's the press release about the book:

A book with a title like "A people's history" creates some pretty big proletarian expectations.

The Holiday season release of a new book about Minneapolis’s past, A People’s History of the Seward Neighborhood, published by Nodin Press, ticks off a number of those boxes.

Seward, a South Minneapolis neighborhood just west of the Mississippi River and south of Interstate 94, is home to Milwaukee Avenue, two blocks on the National Register of Historic Places as representing the "common man’s architecture" popular in the later 19th century, earning Seward some Tom Joad architectural stripes. Seward ‘s buildings also can show off scars from the violent, 1935 Flour City labor strike that spread from the factory into its residential streets.

The book gives life to both those Steinbeckian topics in a well footnoted, and thoroughly researched neighborhood history of this not-so-typical neighborhood. Along the way, Seward has earned the title as one of the five best neighborhoods in the United States, awarded by the American Planners Association in 2017, and was cited by Minnesota author and healthy lifestyle explorer Dan Buettner in a speech at Westminster Town Hall forum in 2015 as a “Blue Zone success story right here in Minneapolis.”

The book itself has been in development for seven years by a dedicated committee of the Seward Neighborhood Group with the support of Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage grants through the Minnesota Historical Society.

Seward, with links to its Scandinavian tradition, has long been known for its working-class ethos, liberal politics, and community activism. It has been home to railroad porters and socialist agitators, a state governor and hippy bicycle mechanics, state-of-the-art recording studios and people’s co-ops.

This collection of essays, written by Seward residents and often based on oral histories, tells the stories of the men and women who followed native Dakota trails from Fort Snelling to the Falls of St. Anthony, attended the State Fair during the years it was held in Seward, worshipped at local churches of several faiths and denominations, worked in the local railyards or at Minneapolis Moline and swapped stories after work in the Hub of Hell’s notorious bars.

There are chapters devoted to parks and recreation, mom-and-pop stores, the changing architectural styles of the neighborhood, and the community efforts during the 1960s to defend its heritage against the onslaught of government-mandated urban renewal. The concluding chapters trace the arrival of East African immigrants to the neighborhood—echoing and advancing the activist and communitarian energies that have brought life to the neighborhood from the beginning.

The book is 320 pages, 8 1/2" x 9 1/2," and heavily-illustrated. It retells the history of a part of Minneapolis with many stories to tell. It also mirrors the growth and development of the City itself.

Its 19 chapters were written by Seward area writers and historians. Its extensive bibliography will aid any historian of Minneapolis, Minnesota and, in some cases, beyond.

Such an effort included many people who were contributors to the book, responsible for writing and research. They include: Wendy Adamson, Burt Berlowe, Linda Coffin, Patricia Cumbie, Madeline Edwards, Wendy Epstein, Robin Garwood, Robert Haddow, Bruce Johansen, Elaine Klaassen, Elina Kolstad , Marilyn Matheny, William Mathews, Richard Musser, Michael Pursell , Bernie Waibel, Laura Weber and Richard Westby.

Other people who have worked on the book: Dana Meade, David Norman, Laura Matanah and History Committee contributors: Nancy Meyer Sansone, Jean Johnstad, Betty Edlund, Clem Engen, Mary Cooper, and Gail Seifert.