Ramsey County History Magazine: Volume 45-2 Summer 2010

Ramsey County History magazine offers a wide variety of articles on the people, places and history of Ramsey County.

Volume 45

Volume 45, Number 2: Summer 2010

“He Had a Great Flair for the Colorful:” Louis W. Hill and Glacier Park

Authors: Biloine W. Young and Eileen R. McCormack
The article is an excerpt from two chapters of The Dutiful Son: Louis W. Hill; Life in the Shadow of the Empire Builder, James J. Hill, published by the Ramsey County Historical Society. Louis Hill was born in St. Paul in 1872 and after graduation from Yale in 1888 went to work for his father’s railroad. He was made the president of the Great Northern in 1907. But Louis was more than just a businessman. He was a romantic, a dreamer, a painter and an outdoorsman. One of his premier projects was the development of Glacier National Park. Working behind the scenes, Louis helped persuade the U.S. Congress to establish Glacier National Park in 1910. Because the Hill family’s Great Northern Railway tracks ran along the southern boundary of the park, Louis knew the railroad could increase passenger traffic if visitors could be encouraged to travel to the park. Louis hoped to entice Easterners to explore the grand vistas in Montana using the slogan “See America First.” Hill supervised almost all of the details of the tourist hotels he constructed. Since a section of the park was also in Canada, alcohol could be legally purchased at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton during Prohibition. As part of the development of Glacier Park, Hill bought some land from the Blackfoot Indian Reservation. Although he was at times patronizing about the Blackfoot, Hill seemed to get along well with the Native American population and gathered Indian artifacts. He hired prominent painters and authors to draw and describe Glacier Park.
PDF of Young & McCormack article

“A Rented House Is Not a Home:” Thomas Frankson: Real Estate Promoter and Unorthodox Politician

Author: Roger Bergerson
Thomas Frankson, a real estate developer, oil land speculator, and often successful politician is no longer well known. His house near the western entrance of Como Park with its two concrete lions is, however, easily recognized. Frankson was originally from southern Minnesota, where he was a successful real estate salesman and a member of the state’s House of Representatives. He moved to St. Paul in 1913 and plunged into real estate development, starting with a one hundred-twenty-acre tract on the western edge of Como Park. He coined the phrase “A rented house is not a home” and took out frequent ads in newspapers. At the same time, he began building a home of his own on Midway Parkway with a backyard that included buffalo and other exotic animals. A sidebar detailing the history of the house is included. Although Frankson was not officially a member of the Non-Partisan League, he shared many of its radical perspectives. He also renewed his political career and ran a successful campaign for Minnesota’s lieutenant governor. In 1920 he made a run for governor but failed badly and left politics. He platted out several other St. Paul neighborhoods before his death in 1939 from a suspected heart attack.
PDF of Bergerson article

A Saint Paul Chronicle: The Return of the “Black Maria”

Author: Maya J. Beecham
A short article based on an excerpt from a letter written by Bernard M. Schorn Jr. whose grandfather drove a “Black Maria.” This was a name given to the workforce vans that transported convicts from the courthouse to the city workhouse at Lake Como. The horse-drawn vehicle discussed here was purchased in 1897 and used until replaced by an automobile sometime between 1914 and 1920. It was sold to a local politician and then was transferred to a Florida museum in 1953. Two decades later an Ohio collector bought it at an auction. The article then details the efforts by various St. Paul police and others to buy it back. The original “Black Maria” returned to St. Paul on January 21, 1986, and is now housed at the city’s Western District police office on Hamline Avenue.
PDF of Beecham article

Book Review

Mary Lethert Wingerd, North Country: The Making of Minnesota (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010).
PDF of Book Review