From the category archives:

Minneapolis History

Luxury Grand Hotel Downtown Minneapolis

Luxury Grand Hotel

Looks like the Grand Hotel in downtown Minneapolis has sold for $33 million to Pebblebrook Hotel Trust. According to Business Wire, the new owner plans on investing $4.5 million into building renovations. The building will continue as a top luxury hotel for Minneapolis.

The building was originally opened in 1915 as the Minneapolis Athletic Club, built by Bertrand and Chamberlin. Its short stature of 12 stories can be attributed to a 1920’s height restriction.

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Lake Nokomis is located just southeast of downtown Minneapolis and has always been a desirable place to live in Minneapolis. It’s origins began from glacial activity in the area which created a shallow depression, forming a marshland after the glaciers receded. The current 210 acre lake was originally named Lake Amelia in 1819, with its current name of Nokomis being given in 1910. In 1907, the lake only measured a maximum depth of 5 feet, but after a century of dredging, the current lake can go anywhere from 15 -33 feet deep in spots.

Residents love the area not only for the great neighborhoods surrounding the lake, but also for the recreational features Lake Nokomis provides. With almost three miles of walking paths, two beaches, a community center, softball fields, canoeing and sail boating, there is plenty to do in the summer and winter. If you are a hockey fan, there is even pond hockey available once the ice is thick enough, and you can play to your hearts content during the winter. You might be nudged out for a week though when the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships take over the lake, but at least you can enjoy the sport not too far from home.

As for the real estate surrounding Lake Nokomis, homes range in value from $100,000 up to a $900,000+, though the luxury homes are rare and very, very few. Most of the homes were built 1930 or later, so anyone thinking about buying in the area will find out that brand new homes, for the most part, do not exist in this area. Occasionally a home is torn down and a new home is built on the spot, but some of the lots can be small so only a small home can be placed on the lot.
Another feature of many homes surrounding Lake Nokomis is the detached garage. Behind each row of homes is an alley with which one can access the garage and backyard, or you can park on the street. Street parking can become tricky in the winter, though, when it is time for the snow plows to come. There are no homes that “sit” on the lake, or have lake frontage as part of their lot. The lake has roads around the 195 acres of parkland, and homes across the street are few and very desirable. At least this way, everyone has access to the lake.
Interesting Lake Nokomis Links:


Today I spent Mother’s Day (after the celebration) talking a relaxing historic homes tour in Saint Paul. Little did we know that while walking to Summit Avenue, we would come upon an unconventional caravan.

There was a celebration for the 150 years that Minnesota has been on the map at the State Capital building in Saint Paul. The wagon caravan was parading down the street with different types of wagons used when we first became a state, not to mention the various breeds of horses pulling the antique vehicles.

This summer there are numerous events celebrating the last 150 years so make sure to visit some of the historic sites sprinkled across the state.


The gravity furnace is also commonly called the Octopus furnace because it has long ducts coming out of the central unit. It can be quite a sight to behold and even scares some buyers the first time they see it. These types of units were installed in homes built in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. There are still many homes in Minneapolis and Saint Paul which have this furnace as their heat source. Slowly, home owners are replacing them with more efficient HVAC units, as well as replacing the duct-work throughout the home.

The concept of the Octopus Furnace is that heat rises and cold air falls. Heated air rises through the heat ducts and then the cold air sinks, entering the return air ducts, where it is reheated again. The original fuel source for early models was coal, but many since then have been converted to natural gas or oil. The above diagram is a great example of how it works.

Reasons you might want to replace your Gravity Furnace:

  • energy efficiency – gravity fed furnaces are 50% less efficient than a conventional heating system
  • most gravity furnaces contain asbestos. Asbestos is not harmful if left untouched, but if you do plan on replacing your gravity furnace, a licensed abatement contractor will most likely seal off the basement and safely remove any hazardous material.
  • they take up an enormous amount of space in the basement
  • you cannot install a whole house air conditioning system with this type of furnace

I have shown homes to buyers with Gravity Furnaces and many are shocked to see one for the first time. Some even fear purchasing the home, but they are easy to get along with. If you plan on purchasing a home with a Gravity furnace, DO think about replacing one in the near future. It will save you money in the long run.


Approximately 10,000 years old, St. Anthony Falls must have been a wonder to see before any of us were here. The glacial River Warren helped to create the falls, with time and natural erosion moving the falls up river until it landed on a limestone base. It is estimated that the waterfall originally fell 180 feet into the river below.

In 1680, Father Louis Hennepin was the first white man to see the natural falls and decided on giving it the name St. Anthony. However he wasn’t the first to name the waterfalls. The local Indian population gave religious significance to the area, calling it MI-NI RORA (curling water) by the Dakota and Kakabikah (the severed rock) by the Ojibwa. At this time, Father Hennepin described the falls to be a height of 60 feet, about half the original perceived height. Below is the first known drawing of the falls by Jonathan Carver, as published in his book in 1778. He estimated the height of the falls was 30 feet and described the presence of six islands beside the waterfall.

By the 1800’s St. Anthony Falls was viewed both as a natural wonder and a power source. With industry now setting in, the falls dwindled down to a 16-20 foot limestone wall into the only gorge on the Mississippi River for the next 2500 miles. Wild rapids dotted the area, but sadly they can no longer be seen. Mills and flour plants were constructed along side the river, and the logging industry fished their timber down the river and over the falls. Of course all this use slowly eroded the natural landscape of the falls even further and caused a lot of damage.

In 1869, St. Anthony Falls was dealt another blow. When local business men acquired Nicollet Island, they began excavating a tunnel through the sandstone near the waterfall. Digging into the falls weakened it causing the falls to break through the limestone bed and into the tunnel. Despite attempts at repairing the damaged areas, St Anthony Falls continued to deteriorate.

It wasn’t until the late 1930’s that the Army Corp of Engineers came in and began repairing the area with stone aprons. St. Anthony Falls was the limit of upper Mississippi river navigation until the Corp began building a lock and dam system between 1948-1962. Now known as Upper St Anthony Falls (seen in aerial photo above) and Lower St Anthony Falls, the once natural wonder is a system of two hydro-electrical dams, with a “tiny” falls for our viewing pleasure. Below is a diagram of the recession of the falls between 1680-1887, as drawn by the US Army Crop of Engineers.

Without the rise of industry centered around St Anthony Falls and the Mississippi River, Minneapolis would not have grown into the city it is today. Because of the historical significance of the area, St. Anthony Falls was added to the National Registry of Historic Places and developed into the St. Anthony Falls Historic District in 1971. It is now a tourist attraction that can be seen well from Nicollet Island the the Stone Arch Bridge.
While it may not be as grand as it was before we arrived, at least now there is a historic conscious that keeps the falls alive for future generations to enjoy. Make sure to visit the area in the summer…it is a beautiful landscape set off downtown Minneapolis.

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