Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Snapshot in Time: 32nd and Fremont in 1930

Do you ever walk down Uptown’s streets and wonder what it was like to live here back when it was “new”? Uptown didn’t develop overnight, of course, but most of it dates to the first three decades of the twentieth century. Most blocks are filled with houses and apartments all dating to the brief time span. The experience must have been drastically different, say, in the 1920s; while walking your dog or strolling with the family you’d likely pass busy construction sites, walk across roads still being laid, and witness new businesses opening up constantly. The relatively new, thriving neighborhood was well-served by streetcar, and residents could buy practically anything they wanted right in the neighborhood, as well as go to the theater, attend church or synagogue, go to school, and generally meet most needs in life.

So who were these residents? The short answer: it varied greatly. Uptown has always had a mix of residents of different economic levels. It was a primarily white place, but then so was Minneapolis as a whole. Uptown was actually pretty diverse, with residents from all over the world. Also, unlike many Minneapolis neighborhoods, Jews could rent and buy Uptown homes and apartments. It was never a “Jewish” neighborhood in the traditiona sense, but with two synagogues in the neighborhood it had more religious diversity (plenty of Catholics and Lutherans in the ‘hood, too, of course) than many Minneapolis neighborhoods.

Out of pure curiosity I decided to take a look at some sample 1930 census data from the 32nd block of Fremont. I’ve always liked that block for its mix of grand old apartment buildings, duplexes, and single-family homes. As an added bonus, it’s also the current home to Ward 10 Council Member Ralph Remington. So who lived here in 1930? Here’s a snapshot from the time, featuring the representative residents of one big apartment building, one mid-sized multiple family building, and one single-family house:

3240 Fremont
According to current city data, the building is now home to 26 units: 25 one-bedroom apartments and one two-bedroom apartment. It was built in 1924. Rents ranged from $38 to $65 per month, with the average hovering around $55.

In 1930, it was home to 39 adults (ages 16+); all but three of them were born in the United States. 54 percent were born in Minnesota, with the other Americans coming from a total of 15 states, mostly in the Midwest or on the East Coast. The foreign-born adults were born in Canada and Russia. The majority of American-born residents were the first generation to be born in this country; most of them had at least one parent from another country. Germany, Norway, Sweden, Mexico, Russia, and Ireland all appeared multiple times, with other parental nationalities including Denmark, England, and Canada also listed.

The bulk of the building’s apartments seemed to be either couples or families with one or two young children, but some units packed in several generations or included roommates. The Malchow family, for example, consisted of mother Louise and her two daughters, Flora and Charlotte, as well as a young boarder. The girls were all in their young 20s and worked in office jobs. The Fosters, a couple in their 30s, lived with Mr. Foster’s mother. The biggest family was the Shortalls, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Shortall, Mr. Foster’s mother, and two Foster children.

The residents of 3240 Fremont held a broad array of jobs. In addition to the office workers listed above, other occupations included, among other things, a barber, a flour mill employee, a silk hose salesman, a paper boy, a filling station attendant, a candy salesman, several teachers, a bookstore clerk, a motion picture machine salesman, several engineers for the street railway, and a “credit man” for an underwear manufacturer. The vast majority of the women, regardless of age, were not officially employed outside of the home.

3216 Fremont
3216 Fremont was smaller and more upscale than nearby 3240. The 1923 four-plex still stands, and was one of the local buildings to “go” condo. Four families lived in the building in 1930. The owners, Max and Sarah Kohn, lived on-site; they had paid $15,000 for the building. Max Kohn was originally from Czechoslovakia, Sarah was from Austria, and their adult son, still living at home, was born in Minnesota. Max worked at a clothing manufacturing company and son Samson was a clerk at a cigar store. The Reade family consisted of Harry and his wife Mildred, along with their three-year-old son Noel Jack. Harry managed a jewelry store. While both adults were born in Minnesota, Harry’s parents came from Germany. Also living in the home was 20-year-old servant Celeste Schumacher, a Minnesota native with parents from Norway. The Reade’s young son probably played with three-year-old Charlene Morse; Charlene’s parents, Henry and Blanche, were born in Minnesota, although Henry’s parents were originally from Romania. The Morses also had a live-in servant; 19-year-old Natalie Pirrami was born in Minnesota, but had parents from Italy. Henry was the buyer for a radio store. The final family in the building was the Blat family; Charles was a barber and Leah was a beauty operator. They also had a six-year-old son, Robert. Charles was born in Russia and spoke "Jewish Russian" as his first language; Blanche was born in Minnesota to Russian parents.

3232 Fremont
One of the block’s single-family homes, 3232 Fremont was home to the Wallburg family. Herman and Elise Wallburg and their two young sons, Herman and Walter, paid $35 a month in rent. Herman Wallburg worked as a milkman. Both adults were born in the United States – Herman in Minnesota, Elise in Iowa – but Herman’s parents came from Germany and Elise’s from Norway. Elise, a 27-year-old mother with a 2 year old and a 3 ½ year old, was one of many mothers on the block; the houses and apartments - including both 3216 and 3240 - were filled with children.


  1. "As an added bonus, it’s also the current home to Ward 10 Council Member Ralph Remington."

    I like your blog, but one point on usage and one Q if I may:

    1. A bonus is, by definition, "added."

    2. Do you think Remington did a good job? If so, why?

  2. "Bonus" was perhaps the wrong, or at least not the best, word to use in this context. I wasn't referring to Remington's politics or job in office; I simply thought that it added an extra level of interest that this block, picked rather randomly because I liked the blend of housing types, happens to be where the current Ward 10 Council Member lives. It brings things full circle up to the present, although I decided not to focus on the former residents of his house in the interest of preserving his privacy. Not that people don't know where he lives - the information is readily available online - but I figured I'd just mention that he's living on the block currently and leave it at that.

    I think Remington has done some things well, although I disagree with his opinions and approaches on some issues. It's a good question, and I think I'll tackle it closer to the end of his term. I'll have to give it some in-depth thought.

  3. Oops, I see what you were getting at about "added bonus." I'll try to root that potentially very irritating phrase out of my written and spoken vocabulary. I hate the word "irregardless" for similar reasons, so I suppose I should be consistent!

  4. Very cool post.

    Ive never used census data at the individual property level. Is this easy to find?

  5. Thanks! I think the census data gets kind of addictive, though, so be warned...

    I accessed this online, through (you can get a free temporary membership), which is very easy to use; otherwise you can find it on microfilm at places like the University of Minnesota (I'm lazy now and like to do my searching online while wearing my slippers, but I think you can find it all at Wilson). Some years and locations are available online and free, but I haven't had luck finding that with Hennepin County. The toughest part is reading the handwriting - sometimes it can be hard to decipher.

    I'm looking forward to the release of the 1940 census; that should provide a lot of interesting interesting information.