Friday, October 21, 2016

Life Is Like a Box of Sausages

I've seen this one before, but wasn't sure whether it was still an operating business (it must not have been as at one point this was an Asian seafood business). But having read that this building is to be the future home of a brewery or distillery with a rooftop patio, this time I knew it's a ghost and thus qualifies for inclusion here.

The sign is on the side of the former sausage factory at 427 Harrison St. NE, right up against the train tracks (train-people tell me this particular configuration of tracks is called a wye). Street View gave me a bit of initial confusion as the sign was not visible when last Google went by in 2014. Upon closer inspection, it seems there used to be siding on the end of the building that has now been removed.

Obviously, I hope they decide to keep the sign as they renovate the building. Unfortunately, it's painted over with a generic mural of wheat in the rendering included with that Business Journal article. Here's hoping the brewer/distiller has more appreciation for the character a sign like this offers than the architect.

As for the sausages, Ambassador is still an existing brand of Scandinavian-style hot dogs that's been around since 1932. Today it's part of Wimmers Meats, which itself is a division of Land O'Frost (and here I'd only head of Land O'Lakes and Land-O-Nod). Before all of that, however, Ambassador was associated with a 2014 inductee into the Minnesota Women Business Owners Hall of Fame (I did not know there was such a thing, but sounds cool to me).

Ethel Arnold began working at what was then called the Sanitary Sausage Company (mmmm... sanitary) in the 1930s, later moving into the front office as a bookkeeper. After the drowning death of her first husband, Ethel got remarried, this time to the company's founder. Once he too passed on, Ethel inherited the company, but it was in bleak shape. She used her experience in all aspects of the business to turn the company around and work out of its debt. She also renamed it. Maybe she thought sausages would sell better if they sounded fancy rather than just clean.

Ethel sold the company in 1991, ending the last remaining independently owned sausage company in the Upper Midwest. She died in 2000.

The Hennepin County Library's tumblr (I did not know it had one, apparently there are a lot of things I do not know) has a post on Ethel, including some old images of the inside and outside of the factory. Here's another shot of the sign from flickr.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Foreign Lands: Where's the Beef?

I had occasion to act like a real American this week and spend several hours driving a car (on World Car Free Day no less) and visit Real 'Merica (heck yeah!) in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin (how's that for foreign, you guys? Would you like more parentheticals?).

One thing I love about visiting a new city is the opportunity to learn something, however small, about its history. Walking down Bridge Street in Chippewa Falls, you can see the boom that happened there around the turn of the 20th century. You can also see that lack of subsequent boom that's left those buildings in place, but a bit underused.

Which brings me to the sign above, which as you can see is nearly at the corner of Birch and Bridge streets (but for the convenient parking lot). At first I thought maybe it wasn't a "ghost" because, well, it's pretty darn clear, and there could still be a meat market there. But there isn't and I assumed that this one was touched up at some point as a bit of public art. There's a nearly identical, but far more faded, version on the other side of the building. Turns out, the one in our picture was recreated in 2002.

There's a thingie on the front of the building, up near the top (someone who knows something about architecture would probably know the word for that) that says "L. Bischel" and "1907." So it seems like a safe bet that the building was built in 1907 by a Bischel with the first initial "L" (Linus? Lionel? Leopold? Ludwig? Lucious? Lamont? Lucifer?).

Okay, it's actually Lorenz and it seems he moved to Chippewa Falls from Germany in 1863 and this building was actually the second location of his meat market on Bridge Street.

The power of Google informs us that that there were Brothers Bischel who were partners in a meat market here, but went their separate ways as reported in The National Provisioner on February 2, 1918, with John Bischel continuing in the business. I would have to guess that these brothers are Lorenz's sons.

The Wisconsin Historical Society has some older photos, perhaps from 1984, when the building housed Grothes Inc. electrical contracting. Today it houses Chippewa Falls Main Street, which seems to be an organization that tries to strengthen downtown Chippewa Falls. They also had a hand in getting this sign repainted, so they seem like they could be my kind of people.

So typically this blog is about hastily-researched and half-informed history (that's the bit you just read), but as I plan to cross post this on, let me also ramble a bit about land use-y type stuff. Having spent almost very nearly an entire hour there, I can now proudly claim to be the world's foremost expert on Chippewa Falls, therefore, please stand by for my erudite critique of its urban planning.

Okay, so I'm not qualified for that in any way shape or form, but I'm going to offer some thoughts anyway. There were some nice banners along the streets (I'd bet the Main Street people had a hand in that) that said "bike," among other things, but I didn't see anyone on a bike. In fact, I think the only bikes I saw were on display in the sporting goods store. Someone had taken the time to paint "No Bikes" on a sidewalk though, so maybe I just missed the typical bike volume.

Nor did I see a bike facility of any type, leaving me wondering where the banner-hangers wanted people to ride. Granted, even though it was a weekday, the traffic volume wasn't so bad. I probably would have been willing to bike around downtown Chippewa Falls, but then again I'm someone who bikes kind of a lot. A less confident rider might find the Bay Street and Rushman Drive/High Street one-ways a bit daunting. They sure seemed like they'd be more pleasant as two-ways.

Meanwhile, directly across Bridge Street from Bischel's, there's a newish-looking Holiday, complete with giant parking lot and car wash, not unlike the one proposed for Northeast Minneapolis. Essentially in the middle of downtown. Just down the street from another gas station. And a few blocks across town from the large grocery store whose parking lot breaks the street grid. So, yeah, none of that is what an urbanist would suggest you do to make a vibrant downtown.

But I don't want to be too pessimistic. There were several cool things going on downtown too. The Korger's decorating store at Bridge and Central abuts the sidewalk on both sides, has street-level windows and, to my unprofessional eye, speaks nicely to the historic buildings of downtown, even though it was built in 2003. The Shoe Factory Apartments look like an cool adaptive re-use, that apparently hadn't happened yet when the Google Streetview last went by.  I think this surface parking lot is now a hotel. They've also got a nice, newish roundabout at the bottom of Bridge Street. And, of course, I'm jealous of all of Wisconsin having 25 mph speed limits in town.

Anyway, I'm rambling toward a missing conclusion here, but perhaps the bottom line is that Chippewa Falls is totally worth an almost hour of your time. And probably more.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Foreign Lands: How Much for that Tomato?

I had a few minutes to spare in the general vicinity of downtown St. Paul, so I went on by to check out the Penfield. Because at the frequency at which I visit downtown St. Paul, it's still something "new" over across the river. At the risk of going a little fanboy (young people still say that, right?), it was great and if I had reason to live abroad in foreign lands, it would be a great place to live. There's a beautiful grocery store right in the building and craft beer and good pizza right across the street.

Even better, there's a nearby ghost sign!

This sign, which reads, "Produce Exchange Bank" and offers residential, auto and real estate loans, is on the side of the Produce Exchange Building. The building apparently dates to 1915 and presumably was the home of the bank. Its seems there used to be a large market next door, and the building was turned into lofts in 2004.

A newspaper called the Chicago Packer reported in December of 1927 that the bank was temporarily closed by state authorities investigating whether its funds were used by the bank's Executive Vice President to dispose of stolen bonds. The bank was involved in a 1942 Minnesota Supreme Court usury case, the facts of which sound a little interesting (there shouldn't be a question whether you borrowed money from the bank or it's president personally), so its seems that the Chicago Packer's concern for the hardship on the city's produce traders should the bank never reopen was premature.

Santo Speranza was the bank president in 1942, and it seems the Speranza family continued with the  bank for some time. Indeed, there's a scholarship at St. Kate's endowed by Mildred Speranza who was president of the bank from 1960-1980. According to the announcement for that stipend, it was a "family bank [that] helped Italian immigrants in the early 20th century secure funding to buy homes and start businesses" and she was one of the first women bank presidents.

Turns out there are interesting stories in the city's past. Who knew?

Here's another shot from flickr, Apparently you can live there. Here's the building sometime before 1920.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Cigars In The City

Since we moved from our downtown condo to South Minneapolis last fall, and the weather took a turn for the worse after the new year, I find myself commuting on the 14 bus, from which I found a new ghost sign. With today's warmth, I got a chance to bike on by and snap a photo.

Unfortunately, I can't really make out what it's for. The word "Cigars" is legible in yellow toward the middle of the top, but that's about all I've got. My guess is that there are actually multiple layers of sign here, with the very top starting with one of the older black and white sign that are fairly common (for example, the Cameron Transfer and Storage signs). The cigar ad looks like the next layer and then who knows who tried to paint over what after that.

One thing you realize when you blog about these things is that weather and light conditions can make a big difference in how legible they are. I'll keep on pondering it from the bus window.