by Liberty Finch
Thousands of us have stomped around the U of M’s West Bank, winding our way across campus, inevitably waiting for the light to change at the corner of Cedar and Riverside Avenues. But how many of us, I wonder, really know much about the history of this landmark intersection and the area surrounding it—an area once dubbed the Haight-Ashbury of the Midwest?
The Cedar-Riverside: Histories and Visions exhibit that recently opened
at the Hennepin History Museum may only fill one room of the museum, but it’s
chock full of memories from an area that was once the epicenter of a community
revolution. The show is a multimedia exhibition of neighborhood history projects
that were coordinated by 15 students at the U of M’s undergraduate public
history program, taught by professor Kevin Murphy. The students collaborated
with Cedar-Riverside residents and organizations, and their projects highlight
key areas of a neighborhood that continues to be one of the most diverse in
section entitled “The History of the Minneapolis Cooperative Movement”
is an amazing array of memorabilia from the height of the co-op movement that
thrived in the 1970s. Once a nesting place for Scandinavian immigrants, the
Cedar -Riverside area became home to a growing number of young people who identified
themselves as anarchists and revolutionaries. These were the days when “democracy”
was more than political rhetoric spewed from the mouths of elitist politicians.
The co-op movement gained momentum when the younger generation shifted its focus
from the Vietnam War to community involvement. Their aim was to protect neighborhoods
from greedy land developers and to create “people's industries”—egalitarian
and democratically run businesses that emphasized natural foods and locally
produced goods. These co-ops became more than just organic grocery stores; they
served as ad-hoc community centers and gathering places, functioning much like
an old town square.
This part of the exhibit includes an interesting array of paraphernalia from
the co-op movement. Along with a few old photographs, the display is comprised
of artistic hand-illustrated advertisements for the New Riverside Café;
newsletters, flyers and memos from North Country Co-op; a letter to the editor
of the Augsburg Echo; and clippings from both the Southside Pride and Pulse
A good chunk of this section is also devoted to North Country Co-op, the Twin
Cities first co-op, which opened in 1971. It brings awareness not only to the
co-op movement in general, but to North Country Co-op in particular, which currently
faces a severe financial crisis.
The exhibit also highlights the Cedar Theater (before it became a music and
arts venue), provides a comprehensive chronology of Dania Hall, and includes
an oral history lesson plan from the Cedar-Riverside Community School, a community
mapping project and information on the Brian Coyle Center.
The Cedar-Riverside neighborhood boasts a rich and progressive history in Minnesota,
and this exhibit gives us a taste of just how vibrant that history is. At a
time when consumer capitalism trumps all else in America, we might be well served
to re-examine the ideals of a youth movement that championed democratic ideals
just 30 years ago. ||
Cedar-Riverside: Histories and Visions runs through Mar. 20 at The Hennepin
History Museum, 2303 3rd Ave. S., Mpls. 612-870-1329. Gallery hours are Sun.
1–5 p.m.; Tue. 10 a.m.– 2 p.m.; Wed. 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Thu.
10 a.m.–8 p.m.; Fri.–Sat. 1–5 p.m. Closed Mondays.