A History of 928 Raymond Avenue

—by Anne Holzman

Built in 1902, the building now owned by Hampden Park Co-op, 928–930 Raymond Avenue, stands as a remnant of St. Anthony Park’s foundation. Only the fire station across the street can claim to have seen so much of the past century.

One constant has been, until recently, the ownership or presence of the International Organization of Odd Fellows. The IOOF Wildey Lodge was the building’s original owner; the building permit shows the cost of construction estimated at $12,000. The architect was Charles R. Aldrich.

The permit history, kept in the Ramsey County Historical Society’s research room, shows a steady investment in the building over the years by Wildey, Midway, and other Odd Fellows entities, including a $25,000 addition in 1979, around the time it became the IOOF state headquarters.

In recent decades, the IOOF Minnesota executive board managed the building and held its meetings there. Bob Amiot, current Grand Secretary for Minnesota’s IOOF, said a “continual” decline in membership in the second half of the 20th century meant that the Odd Fellows’ use of the building shifted from frequent meetings and activities to executive board meetings of the statewide organization.

He noted that the building had also stored a lot of history, recently cleared out when the Odd Fellows sold the building to Hampden Park Co-op and packed up their files, which are still in boxes in their new headquarters at Hutchinson, Minn.

Usually there’s been a grocery store in the building, starting with Allen Bros., established by brothers who immigrated from Sweden. The building permits show the last Allen Bros. improvement in 1947, but neighborhood memories have the Allen store running for at least another decade.

Judy Allen Lowe, a granddaughter of the Allen Bros. founders, now lives in California but said she has fond memories of growing up in St. Anthony Park. She said her grandfather, Adolf Allen, and his brother, Charlie, started the store; Judy’s dad took over when the brothers retired.

Like many neighborhood teenagers, Judy worked in the store. “It only had two registers,” she said. “It was small.” Nevertheless, “It was a full market. It had everything we wanted.” She said a meat business operated out of the store, and family members developed specialties. “My uncle Reuben was the vegetable person,” she said. “My dad was the manager. He was real gregarious.”

Lowe said she graduated from Murray High School and left the neighborhood soon afterwards, in about 1962, the year her father died. She thinks he had retired and sold the business by then.

Anna Morlock Skovholt grew up at Carter and Chelmsford and still lives in the neighborhood. She said she remembered her father returning from his job at Donaldson Co. on Snelling Avenue and stopping at Allen Bros. on the way. “It was on my father’s direct route home from work,” she said.

Nearly everything a family needed could be had there, she said, adding, “They dealt a lot in damaged goods.” She, too, recalled a meat market sharing the space.

Allen Bros. was followed by Green Grass Grocery, which in 1979 was acquired by St. Anthony Park Foods, a co-op near the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota, and named SAP Too. Then the two consolidated at the southern location, and SAP Too became Hampden Park Co-op, reorganized in 1993, still renting from the IOOF but destined eventually to become the building’s owner.

The building has also hosted either a drugstore or a café for most of its history. A plat map of the area drawn in 1927 and modified until sometime in the 1950s (also on file at RCHS) shows a drugstore in the northern half of the building, the side along Hampden Avenue.

Judy Allen Lowe thinks the pharmacy was named Orf during her childhood. Bricked-in windows on the north side of the building suggest that it would have fronted on Hampden Avenue.

By the 1950s, it was Harms Pharmacy, with signs painted by Don Eckman, father of longtime co-op member Karlyn Eckman. Karlyn wrote in the June/July 2009 HPC newsletter that her father would have painted the signs sometime after returning from service in World War II, possibly while still learning the art of sign painting. She placed the dates of the signs between 1947 and 1951.

Harms was followed — and its signs obscured for decades — by the Parkview Café, most recently owned and operated by Denny Bure and Lisa Murphy. As the café closed in spring 2008, Bure told the Park Bugle newspaper that the Café had occupied that space since about 1955.

Upstairs is the Odd Fellows’ old meeting hall. Since the days of waning membership, a dance program has used the hall; a photography studio was also on the second floor until the co-op bought the building in 2009 and moved some of its offices upstairs.

District 12 Community Council had its office in the building for awhile. Ray Bryan was on both District Council and Green Grass Co-op boards in the late 1970s. He said he remembers two fires — one at the vacated sheet-metal shop next door, in the late '70s, for which “everyone had to vacate the co-op, except I stayed to prevent trouble.” A second fire in the co-op’s office area, which he called “very suspicious,” prompted the District Council to move to South St. Anthony Recreation Center in the early 1980s.

Where there is now a parking lot, the building once had a next-door neighbor, the roofline of which is still visible above the built-on co-op entrance. Architecture critic Larry Millett’s Twin Cities Then and Now shows Olson & Co. Hardware in what is now the co-op parking lot, with a barber shop next to that. An 1892 plat map places a tin shop to the south of 928.

Across Hampden, Millett’s photo shows a row of storefronts, which met the wrecking ball in 1971 according to the building permits.

Building permit records and plat maps show a store owned by W. H. Norris; another store that was, as of 1937, Crowley’s Café; and a storage building or factory, all built around 1890, ranging northward along Raymond. Just past that was Raymond Pioneer Fuel Co. Other early industry in the area included Wholesale Mill Supplies across the alley (where there is now housing).

Since buying the building, HPC has drawn up a master plan for improved accessibility and better work flow, planned in two phases.

“The building is beginning to show its age,” the master plan states, noting that it is now almost 110 years old. “While it is fundamentally sound, much work needs to be done to keep the building healthy for the foreseeable future.”

Editor’s note: a rough draft of the building master plan is available at the co-op; the final draft is forthcoming.

[Anne Holzman is a freelance writer whose house, across the tracks from the co-op, is now a century old.]